The time that a car accident case takes to settle depends on the severity of the injury, the complexity of the accident, the types of insurance involved, whether there is a lawsuit, and the client’s expectations.
Car accidents are the leading cause of death at a young age. In addition, it has led to an escalation of health expenditure in the world. Although they occur in a blink of an eye, settling car accident cases can take extremely long. This is because there are things that we must prioritize before focusing on court matters. This includes offering treatment to the victims and identifying who was wrong.
Sometimes car injuries claims take a lot of time to resolve. Suppose you have medical bills, lost wages, and property; you can be frustrated when a compensation process takes too long. However, it is not always the fault of your legal team, as some things are just beyond their control. A car accident case can go for years, depending on the underlying circumstances.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident and are unsure how long the process takes, you will get the answers here.
Factors that Influence the Amount of Time that it Takes to Settle a Car Accident Case
Most car accident cases never even make it to the courtroom. Most cases are settled before the filing of a lawsuit. Your lawyer will generally file a lawsuit against the at-fault parties if they are unable to reach a fair settlement negotiating with the insurance companies. Unfortunately, accident cases take much longer to settle when your attorney cannot settle the case outside of the courtroom. State laws don’t necessarily limit how long it takes to resolve a car accident case once a lawsuit is filed. The most significant factors to consider are:
The Severity of Injury and Medical Treatment
One of the critical factors determining the longevity of court settlement in an accident is the severity of the injury. A lawyer can close a case in a few months with minor injuries. However, more severe injuries often take considerably longer as the client can take months, if not years, to reach their point of maximum medical improvement.
Maximum medical improvement is the point at which the injured party’s medical condition has stabilized, and continued medical treatment will not likely lead to any improvement in their condition. Most personal injury attorneys wait until their client has reached the point of maximum medical improvement before initiating settlement negotiations. Although this is the most common approach, it is not necessarily the best approach depending on the circumstances.
The Complexity of the Accident
While a rear-end collision at a red light is very straightforward. Accidents often involve disputed liability, meaning that the at-fault driver disagrees that they caused the accident. The at-fault driver and their insurer’s unwillingness to concede fault often delay settlements as a lawsuit may need to be filed, which can be lengthy.
Some of the more complex car accidents that often lead to delays include accidents involving:
- Accidents involving more than two vehicles
- Accidents involving government employees and vehicles
- Accidents involving commercial vehicles or trucks
- Accidents involving drunk drivers
- Hit and run accidents
More complex accidents often require extensive investigation by your lawyer, which will consume more time. The investigation is necessary to obtain strong evidence to prove that the other party was at fault. Without solid evidence, an insurance company will deny or limit the amount of compensation. The investigation can be extremely time-consuming as it may involve obtaining photos and videos of the accident scene, witness evidence, video surveillance, police reports, and accident reconstruction expert testing and modeling.
Insurance carriers often require compelling evidence before determining who is at fault for causing an accident. Insurance carriers rarely rely on the police accident report alone. The at-fault vehicle’s insurer may delay payment until it has had the opportunity to investigate the accident and make their own liability determination.
Additionally, auto insurers and health insurers often delay payments to medical providers. You will likely need to wait until your insurer makes their required medical payments before finalizing a settlement. In no-fault states, this process can take even longer when the auto insurer illegally denies or delays payments to medical providers. The illegal insurance denials and delays often lead to separate lawsuits for medical benefits owed.
Insurance Carriers and Coverage
While some insurance companies offer reasonable settlements, others still fight even with sufficient supporting evidence. A car accident attorney can quickly wind up your case if you deal with quality insurance with fair settlement policies. Suppose you file a claim with an insurer specializing in cheap coverage; they will make a low offer that prolongs negotiations. Discount insurance carriers are generally understaffed and inefficient.
If the accident involves serious injuries, but the at-fault party maintains low bodily injury insurance coverage, the case will likely settle quickly. The at-fault parties insurer may be liable for acting in bad faith if it fails to tender their insured’s policy limits within a reasonable time of learning that the damages exceed their insured’s available coverage. On the other hand, if the defendant driver maintains a substantial bodily injury policy (i.e., more than $1,000,00.00), and the claimant’s damages are not significant or immediately apparent, it may take much longer to reach a fair settlement.
Medical and Billing Records
Upon completion of treatment, your lawyer must obtain medical records and bills from all medical providers who rendered treatment for injuries related to the accident. Additionally, attorneys may need to obtain your prior medical records to compare them to your current records. Unfortunately, the record collection process can take longer than it should, as certain medical providers are slow to respond to requests.
A diligent attorney will provide the at-fault party’s insurance carrier with all the information that they need to value the claim correctly. However, the at-fault vehicle’s insurance company’s initial settlement offer is almost always far less than the case’s actual value. It can take weeks of back and forth between an attorney and insurance company to flesh out all the details and reach an amicable resolution.
However, accident cases do not always settle. When a settlement cannot be reached outside of the courtroom, a lawsuit must be brought against the at-fault parties. The lawsuit process can take a significant amount of time.
If a car accident case cannot be settled through pre-lawsuit negotiation, a lawsuit will be required. Once a lawsuit has been filed, it can take months, if not years, for a settlement to be reached, if a settlement is reached. If a settlement cannot be reached in the case, it must proceed to trial. Some of the most common delays that occur during the lawsuit process include:
- Difficulties in locating and serving the defendant (the at-fault party): A defendant must be served with a court document before a case begins. Since it is done with hands, the process may take longer if they cannot be located.
- The length of discovery time: Discovery refers to obtaining evidence from an opposing party. The types of discoveries include interrogatories, depositions, admission requests, and requests for the production of documents.
- If your lawsuit is filed in federal court, it will generally resolve much quicker than in state court.
- The judge and the court where the lawsuit is being heard can significantly influence the length of time it takes to resolve. Certain judges and courts have tight deadlines, while others allow cases to run for years without much oversight at all. Additionally, many courts have older lawsuits that take precedent over newer lawsuits. A trial can be delayed for months, even years, if other cases take precedent.
If you feel that your lawsuit has taken too long, you should consult with your attorney. Many times, the delay is due to something out of their control.
Defense Legal Team
The defense lawyers representing the at-fault party can make all the difference in settling the case. Some defense attorneys and law firms prefer to drag their defense for as long as possible in an effort to increase the amount of hourly attorney fees they are paid. However, this isn’t the case with in-house lawyers who are most concerned with resolving the case the as efficiently as possible.
Client Expectations and Cooperation
Like any case, car injury cases require cooperation from both lawyers and their clients. For the process to be seamless, a client should always be available to answer their attorney’s questions. When a client does not cooperate, their attorney may not be able to move forward with their case.
Most importantly, the client’s settlement expectations truly control the time that the case will take to settle. It is much easier and quicker to settle a claim for half of its value than twice its value. Unfortunately, many individuals prioritize a quick pre-suit settlement over a drawn-out legal battle that will likely result in full and fair compensation.