How Long Will it Take to Settle My Car Accident Case?

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After a person has been involved in an auto accident and called in a claim to the insurance company, he or she is likely to wonder when the case will settle. A person can be in a sort of limbo as he or she waits for the settlement to occur.

For example, he or she may have incurred significant medical expenses and be without the funds necessary to pay them. At the same time the injured individual may not have been able to return to work, leaving him or her in a precarious financial position. A lawyer can explain that there are many factors that affect the value of the settlement.

General Timing of Settlements

Many claims that are clear-cut and are solid on the question of liability are settled in a matter of months. This is especially true when the claim involves medical damages that are clearly and objectively established. However, other claims may take years before they settle and may require the threat or commencement of a lawsuit before there is any forward traction in the case. Additionally, some cases do not settle at all.

Nature and Severity of Injuries

One of the most contentious matters involved in a car accident case is the level of damages requested in the claim. If the measure of damages is relatively low, the insurance company may decide to quickly dispose of the case and a person may have the case settled within a matter of a few months. If the insurance company does not believe that the medical bills objectively validate the injury, it may be unwilling to settle the claim without further investigation, which can delay the settlement time. For example, insurance adjusters may be suspicious of claims that are founded on soft tissue injuries and that are supported mainly by chiropractor reports.

Insurance Company

The type and size of the insurance company can have a dramatic impact on whether the insurance company will settle and when this settlement will occur. Some large carriers may have a conservative philosophy regarding settlements and may offer lower settlements than other carriers. Many of these types of insurance companies have their own legal firm or attorney on retainer and factor in the potential cost of litigation into their overall business plan. Additionally, the caseload that the claims adjuster has also impacts the timing of a potential settlement.

If a claims adjuster has a particularly large volume of claims to work through, it is likely that a settlement offer may take longer for the accident victim to receive. Another factor that can impact the forthrightness of a settlement is the internal claims process that the insurance company uses. Some insurance companies may require review by multiple parties and supervisory approval if the claim is over a certain value.

Factors Relevant to the Accident

Particular circumstances that are specific to the accident may impact the timing of a potential settlement offer. For example, liability may not be as clear due to the particulars of the accident or the parties involved. One vehicle may have stopped suddenly because of a vehicle swerving in front of it, causing a third party to crash into the back of the stationary vehicle.

A governmental entity may be to blame for a lack of a proper sign or a malfunctioning traffic light. The victim may have contributed to his or her own injuries. When liability is in question, a claims adjuster may initially deny the claim or take more time to thoroughly investigate it.

Another scenario can arise when the car accident case is not very well-documented. The claims adjuster may lack adequate information to settle the case, such as medical reports regarding the injuries the victim suffered, a police report regarding the accident or evidence pertaining to liability.

Your Personal Injury Attorney May Not Want to Settle

While many personal injury attorneys settle the majority of cases without going to trial, there may be valid reasons why your own attorney may not want to settle yet and has not raised the issue with the insurance company. For example, if you are still undergoing medical treatment, your attorney may want to wait until all of your bills are in and until it is known whether you will require ongoing medical treatment. Additionally, your attorney may want to wait to see if your injury will impact your career so that he or she can request additional damages for this reason.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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