One of the main questions claimants want to know is how long does it take to settle a car accident case? It’s understandable that victims want to move on and put the accident behind them. However, this is not an easy question to answer, as each case is different. The length of time it takes to settle your case can vary based on the severity of the accident, the ease of working with the other side’s insurance company and/or attorney, and the venue.
Some cases may be resolved within weeks, while others can take months, or even years. Cases that resolve quickly may be because liability is clear-cut and your economic damages already exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance limits; or it may resolve faster because you were willing to accept a lower settlement amount.
Here’s a look at some of the reasons that your car accident case may take longer to settle than others.
Ongoing Medical Treatment
If you are still undergoing medical treatment, this is one of the main reasons your settlement may take longer. It’s recommended that you don’t look to settle your case until you reach the point of “maximum medical improvement.” This is the term for the point in your progress that you are as good as you will be. Prior to this, it might be hard to place a value on your accident and what your overall damages are. If you settle too early and your doctor later determines you will never fully recover, your damages will have a significantly different value.
In cases that will involve future surgery and ongoing treatment, medical experts can determine what the future medical costs will be and how long your recovery period should take, which will allow you to resolve the case now rather than two years from now.
If your accident involves moderate injuries, most insurance companies prefer to wait until your two to three months of treatment are done and the doctor releases you prior to settling.
Insurance Company’s Cooperation
Some insurance adjusters are easier to work with than others. Larger companies typically have a legal team on payroll who can help resolve cases quicker, or if they are in-house lawyers, it may take longer since they are not paying anything additional extra in hourly fees for a defense attorney. If the particular insurance adjuster is backed up on their workload, it may take longer for him or her to review your demand letter. And, if your case involves serious injuries, most insurance companies have protocols that involve multiple layers of approvals for large settlement demands, which can take longer than a simple $5,000 claim that the adjuster has personal authority to resolve.
Disputed Liability or Rejected Demand
If your attorney and the other party’s attorney cannot come to an agreement on liability, the case could wind up in a standstill until a personal injury lawsuit is filed. If you submit a demand package and the insurance adjuster does not agree with liability, they may reject your demand or respond with a lowball offer. The ball is in your court at this time to come back with a counter demand, or file a lawsuit so you can enter formal discovery and work towards a trial.
California is what’s known as a pure comparative negligence state. This means that if someone is a percentage at fault for an accident, they can still collect on a portion of their damages. For example, if you are submitting a demand for 100% reimbursement against the at-fault party and their insurance adjuster feels you are 20% at fault, their settlement offer will be for 80% of your damages. This also means they may pursue your insurance company for 20% of their insured’s damages.
Case is in Litigation
Once a case enters formal litigation, settlement can take significantly longer. There are multiple hearings and status conferences your attorney will be required to attend. Depending on the venue, the court may require you to partake in alternative dispute resolution options like a mediation and/or arbitration. Scheduling a mediation can take a while when you are attempting to coordinate two attorneys’ schedules, multiple clients, and a mediator to all be available on the same day.
For cases that go to trial, it could take months or a year before the case sees an actual trial. It’s not uncommon for cases to be continued repeatedly, especially in courts where the judge’s docket is completely backed up.
Retaining a California Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been involved in an accident and feel the other party is at fault, it’s important to speak with a knowledgeable San Francisco and Marin County personal injury attorney. The attorneys at The Wakeford Law Firm can help fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us at 415-569-7495 to schedule a consultation.