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8 Steps for Understanding a Car Accident
Settlement Timeline

In most cases, auto accident settlements take between 9 and 18 months to be completed. However, your claim could be resolved within weeks or it could take years, depending on how clear the evidence of fault is and the extent of the injuries suffered.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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What Factors Influence How Long a Car Accident Settlement Takes?

Car accidents are frightening and can have a profound impact on your life. Not only have you experienced physical pain, but you are also burdened with financial stresses including vehicle repairs, medical costs, and loss of wages. For these reasons, you’ll want to be compensated fairly and quickly.

The good news is that most car accident cases are resolved without having to go to a trial. However, if you know how car accident settlements work, the time it takes to settle your case depends on a multitude of variables including the severity of your injuries, the time it takes to recover, the at-fault driver’s insurance limits, tort selection, and liability defenses.

Car Accident Settlement Timeline: 8 Steps

Step 1: Seek Medical Treatment (1-12 Months)

The first step after getting in a car accident should always be to seek immediate medical attention. Even if nobody appears to be injured, all parties involved should seek a medical evaluation following a car accident. Many injuries, such as whiplash, are not immediately apparent, and a prompt diagnosis creates a medical record that your attorney will use to support your claim for recovery.

Step 2: Contact a Reputable Law Firm (2-6 Months)

While you are undergoing treatment for your injuries, you should begin looking for a personal injury lawyer. An attorney can protect your rights, and advise you of your options for moving forward with a claim against the responsible parties.

Most U.S. states have a 2-year statute of limitations, or SOL, for personal injury cases. This means that you only have 2 years from the date of your car crash to enter a complaint. This is why it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after your accident.

Step 3: Send a Demand Letter (4-6 Weeks)

A settlement demand letter outlines details of the accident and why the other driver is responsible for paying damages. It also details your injuries and the effects they’ve had on your life. The demand letter should also include an estimate of your medical bills and other expenses.

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Step 4: File an Insurance Claim (2-4 Weeks)

A car insurance claim is a request for financial compensation that a driver files with an insurance company after their vehicle is damaged or they are injured in a car accident. Contact your insurance agent or insurer to report the accident as soon as possible. Be prepared to provide all relevant information. Take notes and write down the claim number you’re provided, plus the name and direct phone number of the insurer you talked to.

Step 5: Discovery Phase (6-12 Months)

During the discovery phase, you’ll be able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your case and what evidence the other side possesses. Additionally, during this period, you can use the means of discovery, including requests for the production of documents, requests for admissions, and depositions.

Step 6: Mediate and Negotiate (2-4 Weeks)

Mediation is a common method used to settle personal injury disputes that allow both parties to make a case to a neutral third party, who makes a recommendation on the settlement. If both sides agree, the claim can be settled without going to court.

Step 7: Go to Trial (1-3 Days)

If both parties are unable to reach a settlement, then they will proceed to trial, which will usually take a day or two.

Step 8: Settlement

Reaching a typical car accident settlement is only one method of resolving your case. However, if you choose to settle, once you sign and return the release agreement, you will usually receive your check within 30 days.


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The Litigation Group at Schmidt & Clark, LLP law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new legal challenges in all 50 states.

If you or a loved one was injured, you should contact our law firm immediately for a free case evaluation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.

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