After a traffic accident, claims can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months or years to settle. Each accident case is unique, and there are several factors that influence the timeline of a car accident claim. A car accident attorney can help victims streamline the settlement process while maximizing their settlements and streamlining the claims process.
The Car Accident Settlement Process
Car accidents are stressful and often painful. Most car accident victims are focused on taking care of themselves and treating their injuries. They are unlikely to know how to settle with the driver that caused the accident. The victims’ insurance company can help them with the process. However, insurance companies deal with thousands of claims and have little interest in maximizing each of their client’s claims. Further, the insurance company for the driver that caused the accident actively works to settle the claim for the smallest amount they can.
Accident victims who recently suffered injuries should not have to deal with stressful phone calls with insurance companies. They also should not have to deal with the stress of trying to convince people they deserve compensation for their damages. Victims can make sure they have someone on their side by finding a car accident lawyer. The lawyer can file the claim for them and help them through the entire process.
After the attorney files the claim, the attorney and the victims must go through several steps before settlement. Before victims receive a settlement check, they must:
- Get medical treatment. Victims must complete medical treatment or reach maximum medical improvement before the insurance company can calculate how much they are willing to pay for a settlement. Depending on the victims’ injuries, reaching maximum medical improvement could take days to several years.
- Compile all medical records, bills, and records of lost wages. Victims must be able to prove all of the expenses they incurred due to the accident and reasonably prove their future lost wages and medical bills. Again, depending on the severity of the victims’ injuries, the timeline for gathering all these documents can vary greatly.
- Present a demand package to the insurance company. Victims and their attorneys can ask the insurance company for a fair amount once victims have completed their medical treatment and compiled their evidence.
- Wait to receive a response to the demand package. Victims and their attorneys usually have to wait between fifteen and ninety days before the insurance company responds. They can either accept the demand or provide a counter offer. If the insurance company sends a counteroffer, victims have to wait for their attorney and the insurance company to complete negotiations before receiving a settlement check. If the victims and the insurance company cannot reach a settlement, the claim will likely go to trial, which can take years to complete.
What is the Average Time for a Car Accident Settlement?
Car accident victims usually want to settle their accident claims as fast as possible. They need money to pay their medical bills, replace their vehicles, and take care of themselves and their families. Of course, they want to know how long it will take to settle their claim. They want to know how long they will have to live with the uncertainty of their accident claim.
Unfortunately, there is not an average time for a car accident claim to settle because each case is unique. Claims can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months or years to settle. When victims suffer severe injuries or extensive property damage, the settlement process takes longer. However, accident lawyers and insurance companies are the most likely to settle at three different points in the claims process.
The first possible settlement point is right after the lawyer files the claim. When victims’ claims are clear, the insurance company knows it will likely have to pay damages. They understand it is in their best interest to settle quickly and save the expense of a long investigation and trial. The second period is at the pre-trial conference after the discovery phase of litigation is over. In some cases, the victims and insurance companies might meet in a private mediation instead. At that point, both sides know all of the information that they will present at trial and can make an informed decision about settlement amounts. The final time parties are most likely to settle is right before the start of a trial. Trials are long and expensive and both sides may decide it is in their best interest to settle rather than go to trial and leave the decision to a jury.
Accident victims and insurance companies can settle the claim at any point after the victims and their attorneys make their claim. However, to determine the time the average claim might take to settle, these three times periods are helpful.
Factors that Dictate How Long it Takes to Get a Car Accident Settlement
Accident victims can use the three probable points for settlement as a guidepost for when to expect to receive compensation for their damages. However, they should understand that several factors make a settlement stretch out, delaying payments. Accident victims should understand these factors, so they are not surprised if their claim takes longer to settle. Factors affecting the time it takes to settle an accident claim include:
Questions of Liability
Victims and their attorneys have difficulty establishing liability and proving negligence in some cases. Not all car accidents are clear-cut. In some cases, both drivers may share a portion of the fault. In states that use comparative negligence, the law bases the amount the accident victim may recover on the percentage of negligence that an investigation determines can be attributed to them. For example, when the evidence shows that a victim’s negligence was twenty percent responsible for the accident, they can recover eighty percent of their total damages. In states that use contributory negligence, car accident victims cannot recover any damages if they were responsible for any part of the accident. The accident claim settlement process will likely take much longer when the insurance company has questions about driver liability or apportioning negligence.
When there are several eyewitnesses to an accident, the car accident claim settlement may take longer. When accident victims exchange information with a lot of witnesses, their lawyers will likely have to interview all of them and collect statements. The interview process may be difficult to coordinate and take several months. However, witness statements can be valuable in maximizing victims’ claims.
Recovery Time for Injuries
Accident victims who suffered severe injuries in their crashes will likely have long recovery times. Victims must determine the total amount of their medical bills and any lasting impairment from the accident before they can determine how much to request in a settlement. A car accident lawyer will advise accident victims to fully recover or reach maximum medical improvement before sending a settlement demand. Maximum medical improvement is when victims have recovered as much as possible, even if they still have impairments from their injuries. Accident lawyers understand that determining victims’ medical bills and future expenses are a key factor in evaluating a settlement offer from an insurance company.
Slow Insurance Companies
Insurance companies will take longer to settle a claim in a more serious accident. They will investigate the case and try to find any small piece of information they can use to devalue claims. They may also delay making an offer to settle claims to make the victims more eager to settle. Victims with accident attorneys are more likely to avoid insurance company delay tactics. Accident attorneys work with insurance companies regularly and are familiar with the way they operate. They can handle all communication with the insurance company and maintain productivity.
How to Speed Up the Settlement Process
One of the best ways accident victims can speed up the settlement process is by finding the right accident lawyer. Victims can work alone or with their insurance company to settle a claim. However, victims rarely understand how to navigate the negotiation process quickly. Victims’ insurance companies will work to recover a settlement for them. However, they do not have a vested interest in speeding up the settlement process or getting the largest possible settlement for the victims. Accident lawyers only recover when their clients recover. It is better for them when accident victims’ claims settle quickly and for a large amount. Accident victims should also understand how a car accident lawyer can maximize a settlement.
Find the Right Accident Lawyer
Accident victims have to find the right accident lawyer to actually get help. An experienced lawyer can stand up to insurance companies and fight for fair compensation. However, accident lawyers cannot do anything about the time it takes for victims to reach maximum medical improvement. No lawyers will advise accident victims to attempt to settle their claim before they know the total amount of their medical bills or their lasting injuries. Victims need to know how long they will be out of work and if their injuries will affect their ability to earn a living in the future. The longer victims take to recover, the longer the settlement process will take.
Focus on the Negotiation Process
The negotiation process is where a good car accident lawyer can speed up the claim settlement. Negotiation involves a lot of back and forth between parties and pushing for the best deal. Lawyers can efficiently communicate with insurance companies and know when to push and when to compromise. They have the knowledge and a skill set that make them more able than accident victims to move negotiations forward quickly and maximize settlement for the victims. Additionally, insurance companies are less likely to play games or make lowball offers when victims have an accident lawyer. When accident lawyers realize that negotiations are not going to be favorable, they can also advise victims that their best option is to move forward with litigation.
Whether victims have experienced a minor accident or a life-changing car crash, an accident lawyer is the best option to speed the accident claims settlement process. To learn more about car accidents, check out our car accident resource center.