How Long do Car Accident Cases Take to Settle?
Sometimes, legal cases can seem to drag on forever. Between document and evidence collection, depositions with doctors, and any preparation necessary for trial, there can be numerous steps to take before a matter is settled. This period of time can feel especially long if you are simultaneously recovering from your injuries or still otherwise impacted from the car accident, whether psychologically or economically.
It is incredibly difficult to determine how quickly a car accident case will settle. Each auto accident has a different set of facts. From how and why an accident occurred in the first place, to the psychical, psychological, and economical impacts on the victim. Even how quickly either side is willing to settle the damages. Some factors are outside the control of either of the parties. For example, if the court in your jurisdiction has a high caseload. That is, they have a lot of cases to schedule and work through at any given time. This will result in your court date possibly being scheduled later on a calendar than in a jurisdiction with a court that has a lower volume.
Why Do Car Accident Settlements Take So Long?
Settlements in car accident cases can take a long time. This is typically because the factors and strategies that increase the likelihood of successful outcomes (i.e. the factors that directly impact financial payouts) take more time.
For example, negotiating with an insurance company often requires bouncing communications back and forth, especially for claims that require proof. This can involve tracking down and submitting medical bills, communicating with a medical office to request records, and supplementing additional documents if an insurance company does not agree with the first doctor’s assessment. Of course, you can settle a case at any time. However, negotiating with an insurance company can increase your financial award compared to simply accepting a first offer – which is where the trade-off becomes clear: forego time for the potential to settle a case for more money.
Serious Or Grave Damages
If an accident caused serious or grave damages, this may trigger a separate, mandatory investigation by the insurance company. This secondary investigation by the insurance company is their due diligence to confirm that the claimed damages and injuries do, in fact, warrant the amount of money they would have to pay. This secondary investigation also takes time, but if the insurance company’s own investigation confirms the severity of your injuries, then settle a case for more money also increases the likelihood of settling a case for more money.
If you are receiving ongoing medical care, like rehabilitative or physical therapy, then an insurance company may also be hesitant to offer. They will usually not offer a settlement amount until you have reached what is known as Maximum Medical Improvement. An insurance company wants to be certain that you will not need subsequent, additional medical care for your injuries. By waiting until you’ve received the most medical care that would lead to improvement, they are preventing people from filing additional claims later. Additionally they don’t want to pay more money to cover those costs of medical care. Unfortunately, some individuals can take much longer in recovery than others, and this is certainly a disadvantage to those who are unable to bear the medical costs before they receive a settlement payment. At the same time, it encourages individuals to be proactive in their medical treatment and recover sooner rather than later.
Hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit also takes some time. An attorney will need to sit down with you and assess the facts of the case. They often also request additional proof to support your claims. They may advise certain strategies that may take longer or shorter depending on the facts of your case and the state where you live. This is because court rules vary from state to state and can even vary from county to county. Similarly to negotiating with an insurance company, negotiating with the party who caused the accident may require some back and forth communications. This also takes time. However, negotiating with this other party may increase your financial settlement award compared to accepting their first settlement offer.
Finally, a trial and all the preparation involved in it can take a long time. While appearing before a judge can take as little as an afternoon, trials can also last a week or longer. Trials are oftentimes rescheduled due to scheduling conflicts that may arise. This conflicts can be from either party or a judge. Trials may also need to reschedule if new, relevant facts arise in a case . Or, if an individual who needs to appear to testify and is critical to the case is no longer able to attend.
More Complicated Car Accident
Sometimes, settlements in car accident cases take longer than others because the facts of the case are simply more complicated. If more than one person was responsible for the car accident, if the medical care you received for injuries related to the car accident was compromised by medical malpractice, or if your own vehicle was defective at the time of the accident, determining who is responsible and for what amount of damage can be a very complicated question. Of course, it is understandably also frustrating and time-consuming. However, not all car accident cases are so complex and they can resolve quickly – but it is important to be prepared for a case to take longer than you expect.
Myth: Faster is Better
There is a dated belief that a good lawyer will get you results fast. And that’s certainly possible: if you are willing to sacrifice time and money. If so, an attorney probably could secure a settlement very quickly for you. However, a faster result doesn’t necessarily mean a better result.
Think of it this way: suppose you want to sell a car for $5,000. You know the car is worth $5,000, but you also know that not everyone is willing to pay $5,000. If you want to sell the car today and not wait for a buyer to evaluate your vehicle, you will likely need to decrease the sales price significantly for the car to sell quickly. Instead of recouping the full value of the vehicle, you may be taking a loss by selling the car below its value. By waiting and presenting thorough documentation (like history of maintenance, proof of purchase, etc.) you will eventually be able to sell the vehicle at your asking price – or higher!
Similarly, a car accident case can settle quickly. But this means forgoing the opportunity for a higher financial award. In auto accident cases, being meticulous and thorough will help you recoup more of your financial losses. By documenting and maintaining records resulting from the accident, even if it takes a little more time, in highly beneficial.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney Today
If you are the victim in a car accident, you deserve to have an attorney who will treat your case with care. We can help you navigate the complex legal system to get the justice you deserve. The attorneys at B|B Law Group have experience in litigation related to car accidents, personal injury, and more. They are ready to work with you to answer your questions. Contact the B|B Law Group to schedule a consultation today.
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