How long does a car accident settlement take? The time it takes to settle a car accident claim varies from case to case. In some instances, these claims settle in a few short weeks or months. At other times, they drag on for years. Factors that influence the length of time for settlement include the severity of the accident victim’s claimed injuries and the insurance company with whom the accident victim’s lawyer is dealing. For more information, reach out to a car accident lawyer.
To obtain an efficient resolution of your car accident claim, you need experienced legal representation in your corner as early on in the process as possible. A lawyer can help streamline the process by submitting a settlement demand package on your behalf and negotiating with the at-fault driver’s insurance company early and often. If the insurance company does not settle your case favourably, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in court for you.
Ways that Car Accidents Happen
While some limited exceptions exist, car accidents usually occur because of driver negligence. In the car accident context, negligence can take the form of reckless driving, intoxicated driving, or aggressive driving. Negligence also occurs when a driver violates a road rule and an accident and injuries occur. Some common causes of car crashes include:
Distracted driving – There are many reasons why drivers might ignore the road. The driver might have their head turned towards the backseat or be looking down at a cell phone or tablet. Loud music in a vehicle can also prove distracting or small children misbehaving in the backseat. Even a one or two-second distraction is enough time for a driver to miss an approaching vehicle or pedestrian in the vicinity and cause a collision.
Intoxicated driving – Alcohol can significantly impair a driver. It might cause the driver to experience physical symptoms—like blurry vision—or slow down their reaction time, preventing them from stopping their vehicle in time to avoid a crash. A driver who has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher is per se intoxicated. However, a drunken driver might still suffer the symptoms of alcohol impairment with a lower BAC.
Road rule violations – Following the rules of the road keeps motor vehicle drivers and passengers safe. When drivers violate these rules, such as by speeding or failing to yield the right-of-way at the appropriate times, they significantly increase their chances of causing a crash.
Aggressive driving and road rage – Many drivers are in a hurry to get to their final destination and will do whatever is necessary to get there as soon as possible. Often, these individuals resort to aggressive driving tactics, such as weaving in and out of traffic or tailgating other vehicles. When drivers engage in these risky maneuvers, they make the possibility of a crash far more likely.
If you have suffered injuries in a car accident that resulted from driver negligence, your lawyer can begin investigating the circumstances of your accident right away. They can also file a claim on your behalf and do everything possible to expedite the settlement process.
What Do I Need to Prove to Recover Damages in a Car Accident Settlement?
To recover damages via settlement in a car accident case, the accident victim has the legal burden of proof. Therefore, they must establish all of the elements of their case. First, the accident victim must demonstrate that the at-fault driver behaved unreasonably under the circumstances. In severe accident cases where the fault is apparent, such as in a drunk driving accident, the victim will not typically need to establish this element.
In addition, the accident victim must show that the at-fault driver’s negligence caused the accident, that they suffered an injury in the accident, and that the injury directly resulted from the accident. An accident victim may need to retain a medical expert to prove the causation element. To a reasonable degree of medical probability, the expert must state that the accident was the cause of their injuries.
When a car accident victim proves these legal elements, they might be entitled to recover various damages through settlement. A car accident lawyer near you can help you establish these legal elements, making you eligible to recover the money damages you deserve.
Car Accident Injuries That Lead to Settlements
A car accident settlement aims to compensate accident victims not only for their injuries but also for the consequences of those injuries—including their physical pain, suffering, and inconvenience. The injuries a car accident victim suffers will depend upon how the accident occurs, the force of the impact, and how their body moves in the vehicle at the time of impact.
The type of accident can also determine the injuries that an individual suffers. For example, in a rear-end collision, where the driver or passenger’s body moves forward and backward abruptly, soft tissue injuries—such as whiplash—are common.
Moreover, a part of the accident victim’s body might strike something in the vehicle, causing them to suffer an injury. If the accident victim’s head hits the headrest, steering wheel, or window in a collision, they might sustain a traumatic brain or head injury.
Other common car accident injuries include fractures, internal injuries, bruises, cuts and abrasions, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and death.
To maximize settlement compensation, always seek treatment as soon as possible after your accident—and preferably on the same day. When you are in the emergency room, the doctor on duty can order X-rays, MRIs, and other tests, to ascertain the full extent of your injuries.
In addition, if you need emergency medical treatment such as surgery, your doctor can provide that treatment while you are at the hospital. Finally, your doctor can make recommendations for future care, such as with an orthopedic doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor.
You must follow through with this treatment, treat continuously for your injuries, and do not stop treatment until a healthcare provider formally discharges you. Otherwise, the insurance company handling your claim might become skeptical. The adjuster, for example, may believe that your injuries were not serious, you did not take your treatment seriously, and you are not entitled to recover significant monetary compensation through a settlement.
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a car accident resulting from negligence, you have legal options. A skilled car accident lawyer can assist with gathering your medical records, lost wage statements, and other documentation. Your lawyer can then assemble a demand package and submit it to the insurance company and pursue settlement negotiations on your behalf.
How a Settlement Works
Even while car accident victim is receiving treatment for their injuries, a personal injury lawyer can begin advocating for them. The lawyer can gather the accident victim’s medical treatment records, lost wage documents, property damage photographs, victim impact statements, and injury photographs and assemble them into a settlement demand package. Once the accident victim concludes the majority of their treatment, the claims-filing process can begin.
First, the personal injury lawyer will draft a settlement demand letter that makes a monetary demand to settle the car accident claim. The lawyer will then send this letter and a complete settlement demand package and send it to the adjuster for their review. The adjuster will read all of this documentation and decide whether to accept fault for the accident. Once the insurance company accepts fault, the adjuster might put a settlement offer on the table.
Initial settlement offers from insurance company adjusters are usually far below the case’s actual value. Adjusters want to settle the case as cheaply as possible since insurance companies do not make money by paying out large personal injury settlements or judgments. By offering a low settlement early on in the case, the adjuster is trying to see if the car accident victim is in a hurry to settle.
Your lawyer can negotiate with the adjuster on your behalf to obtain higher settlement compensation. However, if the insurance company refuses to offer that compensation, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in court.
Just because a lawsuit is pending in the court system does not mean that your case will go to trial. In fact, most car accident cases settle long before the trial date. Your lawyer can continue negotiating with the adjuster while your case is in litigation, and the case may still resolve at any time. Your lawyer can help you decide whether you should accept an insurance company’s settlement offer or file a lawsuit and litigate your case in court.
Factors That Influence the Length of the Settlement Process
Numerous factors can influence how long the car accident settlement process takes. In some instances, a car accident case can settle within a few weeks or a few months after the accident. However, the settlement process can drag on for years at other times.
Since no two car accidents are the same, the settlement process—and the overall length of time it takes to settle—varies considerably from one case to another.
One factor that influences the settlement time in a case is the need for an investigation. It can be challenging to determine exactly how a car crash occurred in some instances. This is especially true where there were multiple vehicles involved.
Under the circumstances, the accident victim’s lawyer may need to retain an investigator, such as an accident reconstructionist, to review police reports, speak with witnesses, and piece together exactly how the crash happened. This investigation is necessary to establish that another driver caused the crash.
However, these investigations can take time and may delay the settlement process. If the insurance company later issues a formal liability dispute, they will have no incentive to offer significant monetary compensation to settle the case. Under those circumstances, many insurance companies will wait it out, take their chances, and see if a jury will take their side at trial.
Another factor that can influence the settlement time in a case is medical record requests. To obtain medical records to prove your injuries, an accident victim’s lawyer must request them directly from the healthcare provider. This can take time, and the insurance company cannot properly evaluate the claim until they have all of the necessary documents. The same holds true when requesting lost wage documentation from an accident victim’s employer.
At other times, insurance companies will send the accident victim for an independent medical evaluation. These exams can be difficult to schedule and typically support the insurance company’s version of the case. In fact, some insurance companies will not evaluate the case until they have their own doctor examine the accident victim plaintiff.
Finally, the settlement time in a car accident case often depends on the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Some insurance companies and their adjusters simply act more quickly than others when resolving claims. However, even when the insurance company appears anxious to resolve your claim, you should still speak with your lawyer about negotiation options. Your lawyer can assist you throughout the negotiation process and work to get you the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time possible.
Call an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer in Your Area for More Information
Victims of car accidents can recover various damages as part of their settlement compensation. Potential damages include compensation for lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, mental distress, loss of spousal companionship, loss of use of a body part, and loss of enjoyment of life.
This is difficult to obtain alone, and you want legal representation right away. Your lawyer can pursue fair settlement compensation on your behalf as efficiently as possible to make you whole again after your car crash. Never get hung up on how long your claim might take, as the most important thing is to obtain full compensation to cover your losses.
Trust your experienced car accident lawyer to handle the process and protect your rights. Reach out for a free consultation with a trusted law firm today. Contact a lawyer today to receive your consultation.