How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?

One of the first questions that a potential client asks an attorney during an initial consultation (after the question about how much the case is worth) is how long it will take to reach a settlement. There is not a ready answer that we – or any honest lawyer – can give for your particular case other than to say, “it depends.” Your case may go in many directions. Each car wreck case differs and neither you nor your lawyer always controls the timing.

Don’t Rely on Average Statistics for Your Case

We can tell you that a common timeframe for a settlement is oftentimes around a year, but that would not consider the facts of your particular case. As lawyers, we certainly would not want you to make any decisions that count on receiving your check within a certain time because you – we – may have to fight for it. Our best advice is to make sure that you get a fair amount of money for your claim regardless of the time that it takes so long as you can wait. You may have to hold out for a better deal which will add time to your case.

Much of what happens is out of your control. So much depends on the insurance company and how motivated they are to settle. The insurance company needs to be reasonable at the outset for you to settle your case quickly but, of course, this often does not happen. The insurance company is one of the variables to the timing of a settlement.  You need someone who knows their language which can help obtain quicker results in some cases. However, speed should usually not be your priority and our legal team will take the time needed to seek maximum damages in each case.

Know What Is Driving the Insurance Company

You cannot settle your case without the insurance company making a fair and reasonable settlement offer.  These companies are not known for making their best offer first. They are always looking for THEIR best deal. The first thing that drives them is their profit motive. They want to see what they can get away with during the negotiation. While the settlement process may be your lifeline, the insurance company views it simply as a negotiation of just another claim.

It may take several rounds of offers and counteroffers to arrive at a settlement:  This takes time. All the while, the insurance company knows you need the money and they feel like they can drag you along enough to see if you will accept something below your claim value.

It is common for the injured claimant and the insurance company to try to negotiate a settlement during the entire statute of limitations. Often, the insurance company does not get serious about trying to settle a case until some time has passed. In the end, however, they do not want to end up in court in most cases because it costs them money.

Your Case Will Likely Settle at Some Point

The odds are that your case will settle eventually. Most car wreck cases do end without a trial. Your leverage to try to bring the case to a resolution more quickly is your ability to file a lawsuit in civil court. However, if your case goes to court, it can also add more time to the process. Most cases will go through “discovery” including depositions (interviews by the opposing counsel under oath) before they end up settling. The legal process does not always move quickly, but your car wreck attorney will be navigating each step of the process for you.

What May Affect Your Settlement Timeframe

Factors that influence how long your car wreck case may take to settle typically include:

  • The value of your claim – You can expect that insurance companies will take more time when settling higher dollar value claims.
  • The complexity of the issues – If difficult legal issues surround fault or any aspect of your claim, it may take more time to agree (i.e. settle).
  • Your medical treatment – Before you file a claim, you should receive a detailed diagnosis and your condition should stabilize. It may take some time to see all the doctors necessary and know your prognosis. More extensive injuries often mean things will take more time.
  • Filing a lawsuit – If you need to file a lawsuit, it may add another year or two to the settlement timeframe. In many cases, the decision to file a lawsuit is forced on you by the insurance company’s intransigence.

There is such a thing as a settlement happening too quickly. We routinely see this in “personal injury mill” law firms which you typically see advertise on television, billboards, buses, etc.  In those cases, such law firms typically take in a high volume of cases and settle them cheaply and quickly to make a quick buck at the sacrifice of achieving full or fair value on individual claims.  In some cases, claimants may rush to accept the first offer that the insurance company makes.  Insurance companies often try to achieve a quick and cheap settlement before an injured person is represented by competent counsel. Some people settle early and cheaply simply because they need some money quickly or do not know that they can reject the offer and ask for more. An early settlement offer is often too good to be true and the insurance company is more than happy when you take it because you legally deserve far more. When you have a competent car wreck lawyer, they will review any offer to ensure that it is reasonable and they will advise you to counter if it is not.

Calling an Attorney Could Speed the Process

Robert Bohn

Car Accident Lawyer, Robert Bohn

If you are wondering what you can do to help speed up the process, it all begins with a phone call to a competent lawyer who knows the process. The initial phone call will at least get the legal process started quickly. Otherwise, you may be  wasting months of valuable time as you lose valuable evidence.

Your attorney will provide you with effective representation and deal with the insurance company for you. A competent lawyer knows how to file a claim and what evidence you need to submit along with it. When you submit a persuasive and well-documented claim that shows exactly what you deserve, the insurance company is more likely to move quickly. It may also settle the issues of fault so you can get straight to talking about settlement dollars. Although beginning the legal process right after your collision is not easy, it can bring about a quicker settlement.