Even with all the modern advanced safety equipment, car accidents still occur every day. No matter how small, a car crash can have devastating consequences and take months or years to resolve.
Car accident settlement process and timeline vary for individual cases and are determined by the facts and details of each case.
Many car accident cases rarely make it to court. The majority are resolved by insurance companies with only a handful going to trial. These cases can take anywhere from a few weeks to months to resolve.
Car Accident Settlement
A settlement is an agreement between the injured party and the insurance company or the liable party. Victims often receive compensation for damages or injuries sustained during or as a result of the accident.
Settlements save time and money and relieve the injured party from investing additional resources by going to trial. Before you decide whether to settle or go to court, consult an injury attorney to explore your options. Your chances of getting a good bargain from the car accident settlement process depend on choosing the right lawyer to represent you.
Car Accident Settlement Process
Each year there are over 17,000 auto accidents in the United States. Many of these accidents are resolved out of court because getting a favorable outcome from a jury trial is not always guaranteed.
Once an accident has occurred, you understandably want to be compensated quickly and fairly. Follow these steps to make the process easier and more efficient.
Seek Medical Treatment
Getting proper medical treatment from a doctor following an accident is critical to determine whether you suffered any serious injuries as a result of the crash. Any failure or delay in seeking medical treatment can also impact your settlement claim negatively.
Most people involved in minor car crashes assume this step and suffer the consequences later when injuries that were not apparent at the time of the crash start taking effect. Follow your physician’s guidance until you recover fully.
This step can take a few weeks to several months, depending on the severity of your injuries.
Consult an Injury Attorney
A personal injury attorney is experienced in collecting evidence and negotiating with insurance companies. We recommend talking to a lawyer to ensure you can negotiate for the best terms during your settlement.
Your attorney will collect evidence to support your claim, review medical records and expenses, assess property damage, and verify any lost wages and other expenses you might have paid as a result of the accident.
A lawyer can take up to 6 months to gather evidence. However, the time they take is largely determined by your medical treatment. It is advisable to collect as much information as possible from the scene of the crime to better situate your attorney in their assessment.
Sending a Demand Letter
Once your attorney has acquired the necessary evidence, they will draft a demand letter stating your claim. This letter gives the innocent party’s account of the accident and the injuries they might have suffered, as well as the expenses they would like to recover.
A demand letter is sent only when your attorney can quantify the total expenses the at-fault driver or their insurer owes you. Most car accident settlement cases start when the injured party sends a demand letter.
If you have retained an attorney to negotiate your claim, once they have issued a demand letter, it typically takes up to 6 weeks to receive a response.
Once the insurance company receives a demand letter, they will file your claim and start the negotiation process on their end by providing your attorney with the next steps to take. Demand letters are filed according to the order in which they are received, and most companies are required to issue a response within 10 days of receipt.
At this stage, the insurance company will review the details of your case and decide whether to accept or deny the claim. If the claim is denied, you can appeal to the insurance adjuster. However, if the claim is accepted, the insurer will make you a settlement offer.
The timelines for this stage vary, but most insurers are required to respond by accepting or denying an offer within 15 days.
Filing a Claim
Your attorney can file a claim if you are unable to resolve the case by initiating a lawsuit. However, filing a lawsuit is not an indicator that the case will go to trial. The insurer can settle anytime even after the trial has started.
The attorney is required to give you a copy of the complaint to review and verify before filing it and serving the liable party or their insurer. The insurer must file a response within 20 days.
A lawsuit can take a few weeks and go on for years depending on various facts of your case, such as the number of defendants involved, jurisdiction, the complexity of the law, and severity of injuries, among others.
Moving to discovery gives each party a chance to assess the damage, review the evidence, exchange information, and establish defenses.
Your attorney should walk you through discovery to make sure the information given is accurate. Depending on unique factors in your case, discovery can take up to a year.
Mediation and Negotiation
Once both parties have completed discovery, the parties meet for mediation and negotiation. Your attorney may also recommend alternative means of dispute resolution, such as arbitration.
During mediation, the injured party and liable party or insurance company listen to each side and negotiate to come to a fair settlement. This process can take up to 4 weeks.
A trial happens only when both sides cannot agree to a settlement. If you decide to proceed to the trial, the case may take up to 3 days.
Once both sides have reached a settlement, the injured party is required to sign and return a release agreement. The insurance company or liable party is required to issue a settlement check within 30 days.
When Is It Warranted to File a Car Accident Lawsuit?
There are some situations where you are advised to file a lawsuit rather than negotiate a settlement. As already discussed, one instance is when your claim has been denied. The next step is usually filing a claim with the help of an injury attorney.
You should also file a lawsuit if the at-fault driver is underinsured or uninsured and in case the settlement offer is significantly less than what was indicated in your demand letter.
Filing a lawsuit is time-consuming and may add months to your settlement case. We recommend getting in touch with a trusted attorney to give you proper representation and make the process easier.
Finally, on Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline.
If you or your loved ones get involved in a car accident, it is better to know the processes and timeline involved in settling the matter. Although each car accident case is different, the steps outlined in this article are the processes to expect in settlement.