Car accidents can quickly lead to life-changing situations. Most happen in a split second – and the next steps are rarely clear-cut. The legal proceedings of car accident settlements involve many moving parts. While the details of every case will be different, the general car accident injury settlement process is similar across the board.
But how long do car accident settlements take?
No two car accident cases are the same, and there is no definitive answer. If there was a serious injury, the proceedings can take anywhere from six months to a few years or more.
In this post, we want to provide an overview of what the car accident injury settlement process looks like, what to expect, and what you can do to earn maximum compensation. Let’s get started.
1. Investigation: Attributing Liability
Following a car accident, there are two different procedures to follow: the immediate actions after the car accident and the legal process of seeking a settlement.
The first steps after a car accident involve filing a police report, getting a medical assessment, gathering evidence, witness information, and consulting a car accident injury lawyer.
When you meet with an attorney, you will provide them with the information and evidence needed to determine the validity of the injury claim. Once there is enough information to place liability on the at-fault party, you will file an official claim – and the car accident injury settlement process will officially begin.
The car accident injury claim will include:
- The official police report from the accident
- The location of the accident
- Photographs of the scene – your car, the other party’s car, and the injuries you suffered.
- Witness statements
- Medical records (assuming you sign a release)
- Testimony from the other driver
- Overview of the damages you have suffered
This information will be investigated by an insurance adjuster to confirm the validity of your claim.
2. Consultations with Experts
To reiterate, many factors play into the car accident injury settlement process. The biggest factors impacting the claim are expert opinions, including:
Your doctor, specialists, surgeons, etc. will examine the extent of your injuries suffered in the car accident. They will recommend the treatment needed – and most importantly to car accident lawsuit payout – how much it will cost.
The number one goal in a car accident injury case is to earn compensation for every financial and personal loss you incurred. A great deal of these losses will be medical bills and future medical treatment.
For example, if you suffered a spinal injury in the accident, you may need surgery, ongoing physical therapy, and medication in your recovery. Your medical professionals will determine these requirements with documentation to be included in your claim.
Accident Reconstruction Specialists
This is a relatively new expert in the car accident lawsuit process. They will assess the evidence of your accident and recreate it with digital renderings. If needed, this will serve as a primary piece of evidence showing the factors that played into the car accident – attributing liability to the at-fault party.
This expert will come into play if there were certain geographical features that led to the accident. For example, poor road quality or conditions may have been a primary factor in the collision. The civil engineer will provide their expert take to be used in the claim.
In some cases, the at-fault party in a car accident might be the manufacturer. Let’s say the accelerator pedal was not working properly and caused the driver to crash. The mechanical engineer would examine the defective pedal to attribute liability to the automaker.
Keep in mind, there may be more expert opinions needed to reach your car accident injury settlement. Your attorney will determine this – and will manage communication with them throughout the proceedings.
3. Reviewing the Insurance Policies
If you are involved in a car accident, it’s important to remember that the at-fault party will not personally be compensating you for your damages. Their insurance company will be paying out the settlement. That said, you want to hold them accountable for every last penny.
However, if the at-fault party does not have insurance, you will need to look to your own provider to cover the damages. Regardless of the circumstances, your attorney will examine your insurance policy and that of the at-fault party. They will determine what is covered, what is not covered, and what they will need to negotiate for in the car accident injury settlement process.
When you speak to your insurance provider, you need to be extremely careful. There are many things you can say that will compromise your claim. Your attorney will instruct you on how to handle communication.
4. Negotiating the Car Accident Injury Settlement
The negotiation portion of the car accident injury settlement process generally takes the longest. This involves your attorney speaking with insurance companies to fight for fair compensation. To put it bluntly, insurance providers – even your own – have no intention of providing fair compensation. These companies have teams of people trained to minimize payouts by any means necessary.
Your attorney will fight to earn a pre-trial car accident injury settlement that sufficiently covers your damages. Taking a claim to trial is extremely expensive and time-consuming – and is typically a last resort. Studies have found that about 95% of car accident injury cases are settled before they go to court.
5. Going to Trial
In the rare scenario the car accident injury settlement process leads you to trial, your attorney will manage the proceedings from start to finish – and explain what to expect. In essence, both parties will appear in court to present their claims before a judge and jury. All the evidence, witness statements, and expert opinions will be examined and the judge will decide a verdict.
Regardless of the final decision, both parties will have an opportunity to appeal the verdict. The litigation process can add months – or years – onto the car accident injury settlement process.
Keep in mind, both parties may settle at any time, even after a verdict is reached. Settling a claim out of court is cheaper and less stressful for everyone.
6. Collecting the Car Accident Injury Settlement
Once an agreement is reached – either in or out of court – the at-fault party will pay out the settlement. This can be in one lump sum or installments over a specified timeframe. These terms will be included in the settlement.
Taking the First Step
Hiring a skilled attorney is THE most important step in the car accident injury settlement process. Gathering evidence and trying to negotiate with insurance companies on your own will almost certainly end with a lowball settlement (if anything).
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, don’t waste any time in making a consultation. The attorney will evaluate your situation, determine the validity of your claim, and begin the process to seek fair compensation.
Keep in mind, you don’t pay anything upfront for a car accident injury attorney. These attorneys work on a contingency fee agreement – meaning they make a percentage of the settlement AFTER they win the case. In other words, everyone can afford an attorney to manage the car accident injury settlement process for them.
For any questions or concerns about car accidents and seeking compensation, reach out to Midwest Injury Lawyers. We’re happy to point you in the right direction. Call 312-786-5881, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or book a consultation online.