TOP PERSONAL INJURY FIRM IN LOS ANGELES

How Long Does It Take To Settle a Car Accident Case?

March 12, 2021

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, how long will it take for you to receive a settlement? Unfortunately, there’s no single answer to this question. How long it takes to settle a car accident injury case can vary widely depending on the circumstances of your case. Some cases settle quite quickly, while others drag on-- or even need to go to trial.

While we can’t give a definitive answer regarding how long a car accident settlement takes, we can go over all the factors that affect auto accident settlement timelines. So, below, we’re discussing how each step of the car accident claims process can impact your settlement timeline. Then, we’ll share a few additional factors that can impact your claim timeline.

Car Accident Claim Timeline

Right After The Accident: Medical Treatment & Documentation

Immediately following an accident, there are two important things to do: seek medical care and document the scene. The first, seeking medical treatment, is the most important of all, since you need to take care of your health above all else. From a legal perspective, seeking medical treatment right away is also vital because medical records provide an official documentation of your injuries. Having this documentation can be very important for settling a personal injury claim swiftly and for an amount that’s appropriate. That’s why you should always seek medical care after being injured in an accident. This is true even when you think your injuries aren’t particularly severe, since injuries that seem minor right after an accident can end up being extremely serious at a later date.

Then, gathering information and documentation at the scene of your accident may be one of the most valuable things you can do for your injury claim. Taking the time to do this now may end up saving you quite a lot of time later, since accurate accident scene information can be challenging or impossible to get at a later date. So, it’s a good idea to gather information now or, if you’re too injured to do so yourself, have a loved one do so for you. Examples of the types of information you should gather include the details of all involved vehicles (make, model, license plate), the name and contact information of all involved parties and witnesses), insurance information, photos of the scene, photos of your injuries, and your own recollection of the accident. Note that while accident scene information may also appear on the police report related to your accident, sometimes police reports miss things. That’s why it’s in your best interest to make sure your own records are as accurate and thorough as possible.

Don’t Admit Fault, Apologize, or Say You Aren’t Hurt

After your accident, there are a few things you should avoid saying if you want to protect your rights (and help your injury claim move forward more smoothly and quickly). Don’t admit fault after your accident, even if you think you were at fault. It’s possible that you’re wrong or that another driver could share fault for the accident. Yet, if you say you were responsible, even if that ends up not being true, this can make it very easy for an insurance adjuster to deny your claim. For similar reasons, you also shouldn’t apologize to other involved parties or say you aren’t hurt.

Report Your Accident to the California DMV

Per California law, auto accidents must be reported to the DMV within 10 days if anyone was injured or killed, or if the accident caused more than $1,000 in property damage. Reporting your accident is time sensitive, required by law, and will be relevant to your claim if California auto insurance is involved, so don’t neglect this step in the post-accident process.

Filing Your Car Accident Insurance Claim

The next step in a California accident case is filing your car accident insurance claim. The exact process here may vary depending on your car insurance plan and provider, so contact your insurer for guidance.

Note that even if you think you may be at fault for the accident, it’s best to report it. If another party reports it (even if they perhaps say they won’t) but you do not, this could spell trouble for your driver’s license, your car insurance policy status, and the strength of your accident claim.

Have Your Personal Injury Case Evaluated by an Auto Accident Attorney

In an ideal world, car insurance companies would always approve accident claims quickly and make fair settlement offers after doing so. Of course, that’s almost never the case. Insurance companies are businesses with one goal: to pay out as little money as possible. Insurance companies tend to look for any excuse to deny claims. They’re also known for making ludicrously low settlement offers to unrepresented accident victims. However, if you’ve been seriously injured in an accident, you don’t have to go up against insurance companies all on your own. A personal injury attorney can be your expert advocate during the claims process.

An experienced car accident lawyer can generally settle a case for far more than an injury victim could on their own. A good personal injury attorney will have an in-depth understanding of how a victim’s injuries and accident circumstances interplay with California personal injury law, giving them a strong understanding of the full extent of damages the victim may be entitled to. They’ll also have plenty of experience negotiating with insurance companies and building strong cases, so they’ll know the right strategies to use to maximize settlement amounts. On top of all that, a car accident attorney may also be able to expedite the claims process, since they’ll be able to tackle each step efficiently and address any issues that may be slowing things down.

Negotiating With Insurance Companies

Typically, negotiations are the lengthiest part of the car accident claims process. Insurance companies will usually start this process with a very low offer, initiating negotiations that can last an indeterminate amount of time. On average, negotiations take around two weeks to three months, but this average may not apply to every case. Negotiation time can vary depending on the skill of the negotiator, the complexity of a case, and the evidence available in a case.

Post-Negotiation: Settlement or Litigation

Car accident cases usually resolve with settlements, but sometimes a trial is required for a victim to receive fair and appropriate compensation for their losses. Whether or not an accident case goes to trial has the biggest impact on the time it takes to close it. Generally, settling is always the easier and faster option, and that’s why most cases end in settlements. However, in some cases, an insurance company may refuse to negotiate in good faith. In such instances, a victim may need to go to trial to receive appropriate compensation for their damages. So, while litigation takes longer than settling, filing a personal injury lawsuit is sometimes the best option for an injury victim.

Other Factors That Affect Car Accident Settlement Timelines

Severity of Injury

The severity of a victim’s injuries can impact how long it takes to settle their case. Typically, accidents involving more severe injuries involve larger damages. Getting an insurance company to agree that a large settlement is fair and appropriate can take diligence, research, patience, and perseverance, all of which require extra time.

The Complexity of Liability

So many things can complicate liability in a car accident case, which will in turn affect how long it takes to settle the case. The number of involved parties affects the complexity of liability, since you need to determine how at fault (or not at fault) more parties are. The types of parties involved in an accident can also make things more complicated. For example, different regulations can come into play when an accident involves a professional truck driver, a city bus driver, an Uber or Lyft driver, a food delivery driver, someone driving a company car, and so on.

Proving Damages & Expert Witness Requirements

To get an insurance company to agree to a high settlement amount, you need to prove that the amount is warranted based on the victim’s damages. This involves determining the full scope of economic and non-economic damages, putting a dollar amount to these damages, and assembling proof that the damages occurred and that the dollar amount accurately reflects the damages.

Proving damages can be cut and dry in some cases, but can be complicated in others. In some cases, more research and investigation may need to be done. And, sometimes, reaching an appropriate settlement amount also requires utilizing expert witnesses. If expert witnesses, intense research, or intensive investigation are needed to prove damages in your case, this can extend the time it takes to settle your case.

Intentionally Difficult Individuals and Entities

Unfortunately, some individuals and entities may intentionally make the settlement process difficult. For example, another involved driver may give fake insurance information or false contact information. Or, an insurance company may let the negotiation process drag out for as long as legally possible. This type of action or inaction can slow down the settlement process and be very frustrating. Often, the frustration is the point here-- the goal may be to get a claimant to give up or fail at filing vital paperwork within a specific time frame. While these tactics are always unpleasant to experience, note that an experienced personal injury attorney can often help you deal with these types of roadblocks and delay tactics.

Hire a Car Accident Lawyer in Los Angeles, California

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident due to the negligent, reckless, or malicious actions of another party, contact LA Lawyers Group today to receive a free case evaluation. Our experienced personal injury attorneys are dedicated to fighting for the rights of car accident victims across Southern California. Our team understands the diligence and attention to detail that’s required to maximize success in this type of case. They also have an extensive knowledge of the type of compensation that may be available to our clients depending on their unique circumstances. Our auto accident attorneys have helped injury victims recover compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of quality of life, and more.

Call LA Lawyers Group at (213) LAWYERS now to receive your free consultation with our personal injury law firm.

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