If you’ve been in a car accident, you may be wondering how long a personal injury settlement takes—particularly if you are having difficulty paying for medical care or affording other expenses associated with your accident. Pressing medical bills and optimism about how your recovery will go can make you impatient to settle your case as quickly as possible, perhaps even for less than you need to adequately pay for your damages.
However, it may take months—or in some cases, even years—to obtain an appropriate settlement. It all depends on the details of your case and the severity of your injury. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to resolve your case as efficiently as possible without compromising on your settlement.
We’ve created a infographic to help visualize this question and the case process.
Here are some of the circumstances that can affect the length of your case and what you can expect for your auto accident settlement timeline.
What Is the General Timing of a Car Accident Settlement?
Each case is unique and will follow a different timeline based on a number of factors, which we’ll cover below. However, a fairly straightforward case with clear liability and a cooperative defendant can settle in a few months. This is especially true for a claim that involves an unmistakable injury or medical damages that are objectively established. However, some cases can take years to settle and may involve a lawsuit and/or trial in order to reach resolution.
If you are concerned about your settlement timeline because you have outstanding medical bills, you should know that you do have options for paying for those bills before your case is resolved. Personal injury lawyers can help you negotiate with medical providers to lower your bill, defer payments, or create a payment plan. Your attorney can also help you identify alternative financial resources and funds to help you afford your bills. So, even if your case lasts a long time, you don’t have to wait until it’s settled to pay medical bills. You should never feel pressured to settle your case early because of concerns about expenses. There are always options.
What Factors Affect the Length of a Car Accident Settlement?
Generally speaking, cases that involve serious injuries, unclear liability, or a high potential settlement will take longer to process. Here are some of the factors that can lengthen the timeline of your case.
- Severity of injuries. In order to correctly prove the damages for your injury, an attorney and insurance company will need to know the specific injury you sustained, details of your medical recovery process, and long-term consequences your injuries are likely to have. This means identifying your past and future medical expenses, lost earnings, and quality of life losses. Because it may be difficult for a doctor to immediately diagnose certain injuries, or to know the amount of time or number of treatments it will take for you to recover, proving the full case usually means considerable time and effort from you and your lawyer. There’s also a chance that the insurance company will argue that the injury doesn’t warrant the medical bills and refuse to settle the claim without further investigation. This could also delay the time until settlement.
- Responsiveness of other parties. Other parties involved in your accident, such as medical providers and insurance companies, can also affect your auto accident settlement timeline. Your attorney will request medical records in order to document your injuries. Medical providers typically respond to these requests in a reasonable amount of time, but if they do not, it can extend the length of your case. Delays in processing your insurance claim can also impact case length.
- Compliance of the insurer. If the insurance company offers a settlement that is too low, or refuses to accept the full gravity of your harms and losses, an attorney may advise that a lawsuit be filed, which can extend the timeline of your settlement. Usually, when a lawsuit is filed, your claim gets sent to a different adjuster who might re-evaluate the file. This can open the door to additional settlement negotiations before the case has to proceed to a jury trial.
- Litigation process and jury trial. While the majority of the of car accident cases settle without moving on to trial, trial is sometimes necessary to get an insurance company to pay what you are owed. Jury trials are pretty rare, since most cases that are properly worked by your lawyer will settle before trial becomes necessary. However, even cases that are handled properly might end up at a jury trial because of some problem with the case, or because of abusive insurance companies who have nothing to lose because of bad laws in Texas.
- Hospital and health insurance liens. Sometimes the hospital that treated you will issue a lien against your settlement, meaning they will expect to be paid out of your settlement for outstanding medical bills. Similarly, when your health insurance company has spent money on your accident treatment, they expect payment from the settlement as well. The existence of a hospital lien or health insurance lien can extend your case, since your lawyer will have to investigate the validity of the lien and negotiate on your behalf before your case can be settled and closed. In some cases, it is necessary to file a lawsuit against the lienholder in order to get a fair reduction.
Depending on the specifics of your case, your car accident settlement can take months to years to complete. If your personal injury claim warrants more time, be advised that spending more time on a case can make a major difference in the outcome of your settlement. Your personal injury lawyer will advise you throughout the process on the wisest way to proceed, and make sure the case is handled in a manner that best suits your needs.
If you’ve experienced a car accident, FVF can help you understand your rights and receive fair compensation. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your accident. We make sure you are well-educated about your options so you can make informed decisions and focus on recovering from your injuries.