An Experienced Car Accident Attorney Can Explain the Process and Help You Understand How Long it May Take to Get a Settlement
Time is not a luxury for someone involved in a car accident. Car accidents can result in property damage and devastating injuries, including brain and spinal cord damage, amputations, paralysis, and even death. If you or a family member has been hurt in a crash, you may be totally incapacitated and live with a great deal of pain. You might be unable to work while also facing expensive medical bills. The idea of waiting to get payment for these costs only makes you more frustrated. So, how long does it take to get a settlement from a car accident?
Each case is different, and the time that it takes to get a settlement depends on the factors involved. While a simple car accident case can settle in weeks or months if you have fully recovered and liability is clear, complicated cases can take between one and three or more years to settle.
Not only that, insurance companies are out for profit and want to pay out as little as possible. They often are quick to try to settle with you directly and get you to sign a liability release where you sign away your rights in exchange for a settlement that is a fraction of your actual damages. They count on your being anxious to receive your money and hope you will sign without contacting a personal injury lawyer.
So, while it’s natural to want to settle your case as fast as possible, accepting a quick offer from an insurance company can cost you big in the long run. Accepting this initial settlement means you waive your right to seek additional compensation later, even if your injuries turn out to be more severe and you face many more expenses than you expected at first.
Don’t let this happen to you. Even if it takes more time, to ensure you receive a damage award that covers all your costs and provides the full value of a settlement, make sure you consult with a car accident attorney experienced in handling these types of claims. An attorney can give you a realistic idea of the time your case should take, as well as what type of settlement you may be able to receive. They can take the burden off of you by handling all dealings and negotiations with insurance companies, who are apt to be much more reasonable if they know you have an attorney on your side willing to take your case to court.
Steps That Determine How Long Does it Take to Get a Car Accident Settlement
The Car Accident Claim Process Determines How Long to Get a Settlement
A car accident claim can have several different processes before reaching a settlement. Though your case will be unique, you might expect the following steps:
Hiring a Car Accident Attorney
Hiring a car accident attorney is usually the quickest part of the process. Your attorney will understand how important it is to get started on filing your claim. Take time to hire the right attorney for your case. Look at their experience and meet with them in a free consultation to see if they are the right fit. They should talk with you about how the accident happened and who the at-fault parties may be, and determine what your case should be worth.
If you have a simple case, your attorney should tell you so and help you negotiate for a fair settlement. If your case is complicated, high-value, or you suffered serious injuries, you should expect your attorney to:
- Investigate the accident and gather evidence from police, ambulance, and medical reports, videos from surveillance cameras, and interviews with witnesses and first responders
- Handle all legal requirements, court appearances, and paperwork in a timely manner
- Hire experts to reconstruct the crash scene and testify on your behalf as to fault and the costs and effects of your injuries and the care you will require into the future
- Deal with insurance companies and negotiate for a fair settlement
- Build your case and take it to trial if necessary.
While this process can take time, with a personal injury lawyer to advocate for you, you can focus on recovering while knowing the investigation, communications, and negotiations will be handled properly.
Beginning the Claim
Beginning your claim requires preparing paperwork and notifying the person you will name in your claim (and their insurance company) that you will be demanding compensation. This part of the process generally doesn’t take long. It will usually take just a few weeks – at most – to begin your claim.
Later, your lawyer will make a demand of the at-fault party’s insurance company, based on the damages you received. Generally, the demand will not be made until you have reached maximum medical improvement, which means you are not expected to get any better. It is important to wait until the full extent of your injuries is known and any future costs can be anticipated to make sure you get fully compensated, even if this extends the time for your claim.
Once the demand is received, the insurance company typically has 30 days to make an offer or settle your case.
Discovery is a process where each party investigates the facts surrounding the accident, the possible defenses, and other aspects of the case. Documents are exchanged and each side can ask questions and take depositions. The discovery period varies greatly from one case to another. One reason for this is that some people require extensive medical treatment for their injuries. Your attorney must determine when sufficient treatment has occurred to make sure they can properly quantify not only your past medical expenses, but any future medical costs. This process can take a few months, up to a year, or even longer. Though your attorney will work hard to do what needs to be done quickly, they will be dependent on the other side for some of these steps.
Settlement or Trial
Some cases may be settled soon after discovery. If there is no settlement, negotiations will start again, and mediation may be used so both sides can meet with a neutral third party to try to settle the case. If the other side is willing to negotiate your settlement, the process could take several weeks or several months. If a trial is necessary, the process of preparation and the trial itself could also take several months. Settlement negotiations can take place at the same time as the trial, and there may be a settlement reached before the trial concludes. Once a settlement is reached, you will start receiving payment in accordance with the terms of the negotiation. Your settlement could be received in one lump sum or in several payments.
If a trial is necessary, the verdict of a car accident case will usually happen very soon after both sides make their arguments. However, the other side might appeal the decision, which would delay the payment you receive.
So, the entire process could unfold over the course of a couple months if a claim is small and no trial is needed. However, it is more likely that a case will take more than a year to resolve – or even much longer.
Fast is Not Always Best
You might be tempted to hope for the fastest settlement possible. In many cases, rushing to settle comes at the expense of the amount you receive. For example, an insurance company’s initial offer might only be a fraction of the money you could have received if you let the process of your legal claim play out.
The more you deserve in damages, the longer it can take to resolve a case. When a lot of money is at stake, insurance companies and opposing attorneys invest more time and energy opposing your claim. So, if you are owed a lot of compensation, consider how patience might serve you well in the long run.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Settlement from a Car Accident?
Damage Awards You May Recover
In a successful case, your personal injury attorney can help you recover an award for all the damages from the accident. In Texas, settlement damages are divided into two categories: special and general.
Special damages are economic losses dealing with your monetary loss or expense including:
- Medical and rehabilitation costs, now and into the future
- Lost income, and expected future earnings, if unable to work
- Property damage from the accident.
General damages are non-economic losses that do not have a specific dollar value, but which negatively impact your life. Some examples include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional trauma and mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of quality of and ability to enjoy life
- Loss of companionship in the case of a wrongful death
- Humiliation and embarrassment.
In some cases, the knowledge that you have an attorney on your side willing to take your case to trial is enough to push an insurance company to come up with a fair settlement offer in a timely manner. If they fail to negotiate in good faith, your attorney will prepare your case to go to trial.
Amounts of Damage Awards
There are a wide range of settlement award amounts possible in a successful car injury case, from the thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the facts of the case. Factors that influence settlement amounts include:
- Who is responsible for the accident? To win your case, your attorney must be able to prove that another person or entity (the defendant in the case) was responsible for your damages through negligence. This means showing the following:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care.
- The defendant breached that duty through actions or failure to act.
- This failure caused the accident or injury.
- You suffered damages as a result.
In some cases, there may be multiple defendants who were negligent and contributed to causing the accident. Your lawyers should look to name all possibly negligent parties as defendants in your lawsuit, as they all may have insurance and assets that can go toward a settlement.
How Long Does It Take to Get A Settlement from A Car Accident? 4 Factors to Consider.
To help you get a clearer picture of how long your case might take, let’s look at a few factors that determine how long the settlement process lasts:
- The severity of your suffering. If you’ve been badly injured in a crash, then you might not know how serious the financial impact of the injuries will be until several months following your crash. It’s possible that you will continue to find out the many ways you’re paying the price for another driver’s negligence for months or years following the accident.
- The extent of your damages. As we said above, the more compensation you deserve, the longer your case will take to resolve. Though there are exceptions, it’s often true that the more money an insurance company owes you, the more resources they’ll throw at contesting your claim.
- The complexity of the car accident. Proving the cause of the crash can be easy or difficult. For example, if you were hit by a drunk driver, then proving fault will be simple. However, many cases aren’t this straightforward. The more complex your car accident, the longer you can expect a case to last.
- The willingness of insurance companies to cooperate. Your attorney will understand that you prefer getting compensation sooner rather than later, so they will work hard to do their part as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, so many of the processes we’ve discussed depend on the willingness of the other side to cooperate.
As you can imagine, insurance companies, opposing attorneys and at-fault parties aren’t always willing to work with you and your attorney. Their actions will dictate the length of time your claim takes to settle. In general, the more your case is worth, the longer it will take to settle since the insurance company will invest the time and money to fight claims that have a high value. However, Texas law (Sec. 541.060) prohibits insurance companies from postponing payment of a claim in order to pressure you into signing a release.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Settlement From a Car Accident — Get Started Today
To get a better understanding of how long it should take and what you can expect in your claim, call the experienced car accident lawyers at Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law. We offer a free consultation to discuss the individual circumstances of your case and determine the best way to proceed, and there are no fees to you unless and until we win your case. We want to hear more about your car accident, so we can tell you more about the process and how long it should take.
Don’t delay. Texas has a statute of limitations, a deadline for filing a case. According to the law (CPRC Title 2, Subtitle B, Section 16.003), you generally have two years after the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit, or the courts are likely to refuse to hear your case. (*Always speak directly to an attorney to learn the exact deadlines that apply to your potential claim(s).) To make sure your case is filed in a timely manner and that evidence and witnesses can be found and preserved, call our Texas personal injury lawyer for your free consultation right away at (713) 973-8888, or toll-free 1 (800) 444-5000.