How Long Does a Settlement for a Car Accident Take?By Stewart J. Guss on March 22nd, 2020
Driving can be nerve-wracking, even for the most experienced and cautious of motorists.
Bad accidents happen to good people all the time, due to the unpredictability of the people we share the road with.
Every year, millions of car accidents across the United States lead to serious injury or death. In one year alone, American roads saw 36,560 motor vehicle fatalities. Numbers like that are frightening enough to make you want to ride a cow to work instead of buckling into your car (and hey, those two are about equal when it comes to emissions).
Still, most of us choose to stick with our cars and trucks out of convenience. That’s not going to change any time soon. This means many of us will get into accidents that aren’t our fault, but will still leave us injured and suffering.
But what happens after the accident? Specifically, how long will it take for you to get the money you deserve for the injuries you sustained?
You want to get paid fast, but several factors can affect the timeline and success of your settlement. (Pro tip: The best way to expedite your receipt of the maximum payout is to hire a car accident lawyer to handle your claim. We’ll clue you in on why below.)
How Many Parties Were in the Accident?
When two people argue over money, things get complicated quickly. Now add another person, and another, and another – none of them want to pay, and all of them want to pin the blame on someone else. Resolving a dispute like this can seem impossible.
You may wonder: why would a car accident claim involve multiple parties? Because more than one party might be at fault for causing it, or may have legal responsibility for the actions of someone who did. (A driver, the driver’s employer, the manufacturer of brake pads that failed, a construction crew on the road… the possibilities are endless, and unique to each case.)
A skilled car accident lawyer knows that you stand to gain more when multiple parties are liable. The more people or entities who owe an injured accident victim money, the better the chances are of that victim getting paid the maximum damages the law allows. So while having more liable parties can make your claim take longer to resolve, it can also strengthen your case.
How Severe Are Your Injuries?
You would think that the more severe your injury is, the more an insurance company would realize how badly you need money and support… but that’s rarely how it works. Insurance companies want to protect their interests, and that means being notoriously stingy with even the most severely injured victims. In fact, the more money at stake because of the severity of an injury, the longer it generally takes for insurance companies to make you a reasonable offer. They will often dismiss, invalidate, and manipulate you as they try to convince you you’ll be “back to normal” in no time.
Sometimes, it pays to wait. You may discover how an injury interferes with your quality of life in different ways, or how your physical or psychological traumas may worsen as months go by. This can lead to larger settlement amounts.
Any Special Circumstances to Consider?
Not many car accidents come with straightforward, clear pictures of liability and damages. Car accident claims take time to resolve, especially when the drivers involved have different recollections of what happened. Add in criminal behavior or other escalating circumstances, and the whole situation can drag out even longer.
- Drunk driving: Every year, more than 10,000 people die in alcohol-related crashes. Drinking impairs a driver’s decision-making ability and reaction time. If the accident results in serious injury or death, the driver may face criminal charges, and the victims’ damages claims may benefit from waiting until those charges have been resolved.
- Claims against a government entity: Sometimes, a government entity’s actions cause a car accident. For example, a municipal bus could crash into a passenger car. A construction crew could fail to warn drivers about a dangerous road condition. A government engineer could design an intersection with hazardous sightlines. Whatever the circumstance, a potential claim against a government entity can muddle the timeline of a car accident case.
- Hit and run: The ultimate goal of a personal injury case is to recover damages from the at-fault party. But what if the at-fault party flees the scene? Your attorney might suggest making a claim against your uninsured motorist coverage (if you carry it), but convincing your carrier that you cannot locate the other driver might take time.
These are just some examples. The point is, dealing with a car accident is never easy, and you never know what kind of bizarre situation could interfere with the progress of a car accident claim. That’s why it is so important to hire an attorney who has enough experience to roll with the punches and to keep your case on track.
Does Anyone Dispute Fault?
The concept of “fault” plays a huge role in a car accident case. In the simplest sense, identifying who was “at fault” determines who has legal liability for damages—but fault also means someone’s insurance premiums are about to rise. Naturally, people are desperate to avoid this consequence even if they carelessly caused a crash.
Arguing about who is at fault can drag out the timeline of a car accident settlement. After all, an insurance company won’t even begin considering how much it has to pay to an injured party until it knows for sure that it has an obligation to do so.
To help a case move past fault disputes, we encourage anyone who gets into a car crash to gather as much evidence at the scene as possible. This includes:
- Pictures of the vehicles: Take pictures of both cars – and their damage – from a distance and up close.
- Pictures of the other driver’s license plate: You wouldn’t believe how many people claim they didn’t even get into an accident. But if you have a picture of their license plate, their story won’t hold up in court.
- Evidence of property damage: Was a street sign or fence knocked over by the accident? You want to gather enough evidence to recreate the scene if necessary.
- Witness information: If other people saw your accident happen, don’t just let them drive off! Ask for their contact information. Witnesses can help explain any discrepancies in the drivers’ stories.
Strong evidence like this can help you speed through the timeline of resolving your claim for damages. If you were too injured or frazzled to do this, however, ask a car accident lawyer to investigate as soon as you can, and write down everything you can remember before your memories begin to fade.
How Much of a Hurry Are You in to Settle the Case?
Another important part of how long your case takes to settle depends on the willingness of the parties to negotiate… and that includes you.
Decide what is more important to you: a quick resolution or a larger settlement?
A settlement offer may start low and rise over time, thanks to the hard work of your car accident lawyer. The less time they have to work their magic and negotiate with insurance companies for you, the lower the chances of achieving a maximum settlement payout.
The timeline also depends on how willing the insurance company is to come to the table. Everybody has their own negotiating style. Some insurers want to make a deal. Others just want to battle it out for a few rounds. Even though you can’t control who ends up on the other side of your car accident claim, unfortunately, that can affect how much time it takes to get to a fair and reasonable settlement.
What About the Statute of Limitations?
The statute of limitations refers to how long a person has to file a lawsuit for damages.
In other words, the statute of limitations regulates how much time you have to take legal action for compensation. It has nothing to do how long that process will take once started. Keep in mind that it takes time to investigate and collect evidence—much of which could disappear if you don’t act quickly. The sooner you connect with a car accident lawyer, the better.
This law varies from state to state. For example, in Texas, accident victims have two years to file a car accident injury suit, but in Louisiana, they only have one year to file a case. A car accident lawyer can help you determine your state’s statute of limitations and the best course of action.
Ignoring the statute of limitations could mean you will never get a settlement. If a statute of limitations period expires before you take legal action, you generally lose your legal rights to damages altogether. To make sure that doesn’t happen, seek the help of an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Do You Have an Experienced Car Accident Attorney?
When you’re dealing with the aftermath of a crash, an experienced car accident attorney can mean the difference between devastation or celebration. You might not know what you’re owed, but it’s their job to!
A car accident injury attorney knows how to work with insurance companies to get you the maximum compensation you deserve, quickly and efficiently. Do not simply call the first lawyer you find on Google. Choose an attorney who has years of experience representing car accident clients.
Other Factors That May Affect the Length of Your Case
The goal of a personal injury case is to get you your money as quickly as possible. But sometimes, circumstances arise that can completely derail the timeline. This may include:
- Pre-existing injuries: Pre-existing injuries do not prevent you from filing a personal injury suit. In fact, it is possible to get a reasonable settlement with pre-existing injuries. However, prior injuries provide something for the insurance company to argue about. The insurance company is looking for ways to pay you less, and they view pre-existing conditions as the golden ticket. If you have a pre-existing condition, count on the insurance company to use it against you.
- Fraud: Sometimes people flee the scene, hide evidence, or lie about how an accident happened. They didn’t dodge you, but now they’re trying to dodge liability. This could interfere with the timely resolution of your case.
- Availability of witnesses: In some cases, your attorney may want to use the testimony of an expert witness to prove your case. Often, these individuals have busy schedules and may schedule months out – but their expertise can be worth the wait.
The best way to handle these unexpected complications that can drag out a timeline is—you guessed it—consulting an experienced car accident injury attorney near you.
How Much Will My Final Settlement Be?
If only we could whip out our crystal ball and tell you how much your case is worth. Unfortunately there is no way to predict how much you will receive from a car accident suit without first having a legal professional dig into the details of unique case, such as:
- The size of your medical bills; including doctor visits, hospital stays, rehabilitation, medication, and surgeries.
- Your lost wages: for any time missed from work as a direct result of the accident.
- How much pain and suffering you’ve endured; including physical pain and mental anguish.
- Loss of life enjoyment the accident has caused; when your injuries keep you from doing the activities you enjoyed before the accident.
- Damage to personal relationships; when physical or mental injuries severely interfere with your ability to carry on a normal relationship with people close to you.
Don’t Wait to Get the Help You Deserve
Obviously, the sooner you get started on a claim for damages after a car accident, the sooner you can get a settlement. There are very few certainties surrounding the outcome of a car accident case, but we can guarantee that nothing will happen until you act. So what are you waiting for? Get the help you need by contacting an experienced car accident injury attorney for a free case evaluation.
Stewart J. Guss
12777 Jones Rd Suite 297