It’s natural after being injured in a car accident to want to get the whole experience behind you as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, when dealing with insurance companies or going through the litigation process, the wheels can seem to turn excruciatingly slowly. Rules need to be followed, and rights need to be respected. At times there really is nothing to do but wait.
There is no set timeline within which an auto accident settlement will be reached. The circumstances of the accident, the applicable laws, and the persons involved determine whether a car accident claim will settle fairly quickly or whether it is likely to drag on for some time.
The more players involved, the more difficult it can be to get everyone going at the same speed at the same time. Meeting deadlines and being prepared can help keep things moving efficiently toward a resolution.
Auto Accident Claims Process
In most instances, making a claim after an auto accident begins with contacting an insurance company. In Texas, drivers are required to carry a minimum of $30,000 per person liability insurance to cover damage caused to others in an auto accident. The required limit per accident is $60,000.
The insurance company will want information about the car accident and the claimed injuries in order to evaluate the claim and make a decision regarding payment. This information is often compiled and presented to an insurance company in a document called a demand letter. Demand letters follow a general format and are usually written by personal injury attorneys.
A demand letter should not be sent until the outcome from injuries is relatively certain, and a settlement amount can be calculated. The demand letter will state how the motor vehicle accident happened, who was at fault, the injuries suffered, and the costs of medical treatment and other damages.
The demand letter will conclude with a proposed amount that the insurance company can pay to settle the claim. It’s possible an insurer will accept the amount requested and agree to settle the claim. But more likely, the insurer will interpret the proposed settlement amount as an invitation to negotiate and make a lower counteroffer based on its own evaluation of the claim.
If the parties involved are not too far apart in terms of resolving their disagreements, negotiations can continue toward settlement. But when there is no ability to compromise about significant issues such as fault or damages, then it may be necessary to file a lawsuit and have a court determine the appropriate outcome.
Average Time it Takes to get an Auto Accident Settlement
Providing an ‘average’ amount of time it can take to settle an auto accident claim is difficult because no two situations are exactly the same. Generally speaking, claims that are straightforward with minor damage take less time to settle than more complex claims that involve contested issues of fact and law and more severe injuries.
A settlement window of somewhere between a few months and a couple of years is a good working estimate of the timeline for settling an auto accident claim. Settlement can take longer when a lawsuit is filed. An experienced personal injury lawyer can meet with you, listen to the fact of your situation, review documents, investigate your case, and give you a far more accurate picture of what you can expect during this process. That is why it is important for injury victims to take advantage of the free consultations offered by the attorneys of J.D. Silva & Associates to learn more about their legal rights and options.
Factors Affecting an Auto Accident Settlement Timeline
There are any number of factors that can delay the settlement of a car accident claim. Every situation is different. The following common factors can extend the amount of time it takes to settle an auto collision injury claim.
Fault for the Accident is an Issue
Deciding who was responsible for causing the car accident and how much fault to attribute to these parties can delay the settlement process. An insurance company’s responsibility to pay a claim is based on the liability of its insured.
Who is at fault in a car accident in Texas? When fault is not clear, the insurance companies involved will be focused on minimizing their liability before even getting to the issue of damages. The more money that may be at stake, the harder the insurance companies will fight to avoid responsibility.
Claimed Injuries are Significant
Once fault is agreed on, the focus turns to the claimed injuries and the resulting damages. When injuries have made a permanent impact on a person, the damages can be significant. Lifetime care may be required. The ability to earn income may be lost. The opportunity to enjoy what life has to offer may no longer be available.
Compensation for these losses can reach insurance policy limits quickly. Defendants will be sure to look at every opportunity to limit their payments, including blaming you for causing the crash and/or your own injuries.
Multiple Parties and Insurance Companies are Involved
The more parties that have an interest in the outcome of a claim settlement, the longer the process is likely to take. There are procedures everyone must follow. Some participants will do what they need to do more quickly than others. There may be issues between some parties that others are not involved in, but that stall the process until they are resolved.
Potential Damages are High
The potential for high damages increases with the severity of the injuries and the impact on the life of the injured claimant. While insurance companies agree to pay claims on behalf of their insureds, they don’t much like to pay out large sums of money for property damage after a car accident and will conduct their own investigation and evaluation of the injuries and resulting damage.
How Soon after a Settlement is Compensation Paid?
Once a settlement has been reached, it can still take a bit more time before the money is actually available. There are settlement forms that must be signed and may require more discussion and agreement before being finalized. The usual source of the funds is an insurance company and it will typically issue a check after processing the settlement documents.
When a claimant is working with an attorney, the check will be payable to both of them and therefore must be deposited by the attorney into a special trust account. Certain outstanding debts are to be paid from the proceeds before the balance of the settlement can be distributed to the claimant.
The unfortunate reality is that an auto accident settlement timeline can be hard to predict. This is frustrating news for injured persons who are waiting for compensation. Working with an experienced car accident lawyer can help keep your injury claim on track and moving toward a more expeditious settlement.