If you or your loved one have been involved in a car accident, you probably have many questions about the legal process. If you want to file a personal injury lawsuit, one of the most important questions is: how long until the lawsuit is resolved?
Unfortunately, there’s no set answer, as it depends on the unique circumstances of your case. Here at Schmidt & Clark, we’ve handled thousands of car accident lawsuits. Today, we’ll talk about what you can expect in a car accident case.
Summary of the Key Findings
- A car accident lawsuit can take from a few months to a few years.
- How long a lawsuit will take depends on several factors, including your choice of lawyer and when you have received the treatment, among other things.
- A settlement compensation can also take up to a few years.
Car Accident Lawsuit Process
The process of filing a car accident claim includes the following steps:
1. Hire a Lawyer
The first thing you should do after being involved in a car incident is to seek medical treatment.
The injuries you may sustain in vehicular accidents can be severe, and getting the needed medical attention is crucial.
Once you’re feeling well enough, the next step should be to look for a car accident lawyer.
While not all accidents require a lawyer, most of them do. It is essential to find an experienced car accident lawyer, especially if your case is complicated or you were seriously injured.
When trying to find the right lawyer to represent you, check if they offer a free consultation and free case evaluation.
A lawyer will ask for details of the accident, your injuries, and the treatment you received. Then, they will do the investigation in your name and gather evidence. Depending on how complex the case is, this can take several weeks.
A lawyer will handle various aspects of your case, such as dealing with insurance companies and similar, so you can focus on recovering.
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You’ll have to wait until you’ve reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MIM).
MIM means you are done with all the medical treatments, and the doctors say you’ve recovered as much as possible.
Until this happens, your lawyer won’t know how much the car accident claim is worth. Once you’ve reached MIM, it’s time to negotiate.
Your personal injury lawyer will gather all the medical records and medical bills and demand payment from the at-fault party or the insurance company.
Negotiating and reaching a settlement may be a better option in certain situations. Some personal injury cases that go to court may take years to resolve.
3. File a Car Accident Lawsuit
If the negotiations out of court aren’t successful, the next step is to file a lawsuit. Personal injury claims that go to court are different in each state.
However, in most cases, it takes one or two years for the lawsuit to get to trial.
4. Discovery Process
The discovery phase starts after the car accident lawsuit is filed. Each party investigates what the other party claims and what the actual facts are. Both parties exchange documents, and witness depositions take place.
This phase can last for half a year to a year, depending on how complex the case is.
5. Mediation and Negotiation
Once the discovery process is complete, your personal injury attorney can negotiate again and try to get a fair settlement. Sometimes the lawyers can settle the case on their own, and sometimes they have to go to mediation — when a case is settled with the help of a neutral third person.
In general, this is the last chance to settle and reach an agreement before the personal injury case goes to trial.
The last step of the process is trial. Most car accident cases are settled out of court, either during negotiations or with mediation.
However, if the parties don’t come to an agreement, the case goes to trial.
During the trial, your lawyer will give evidence to the court and a jury in order to prove the other party is responsible for your injuries, and that you're entitled to compensation.
A trial can last from one day to several months, depending on the complexity of your case.
The trial is resolved by a jury deciding who’s at fault and what the rightful amount of compensation for the sustained injuries is.
Settlement vs Lawsuit
A settlement is an agreement between the injury victims and the at-fault party that happens outside of the courtroom. A settlement can happen anytime before or during the trial. Most injury claims in the US are settled.
A lawsuit happens when the other party, or the insurance company, contests the injured person’s claim or offers a settlement that the injured person deems too low. When a lawsuit is filed, it goes into a trial process. Each side presents their case in front of a judge and jury who decide who’s the liable party and how much they have to pay.
A settlement usually takes less time than a lawsuit. However, this depends on several factors. How long it takes to settle depends on the accident’s complexity. If you have fully recovered quickly after the accident, you can get a settlement in weeks. However, the average time to settle for a complicated claim is three years.
Factors That Affect Car Accident Settlement
How long a vehicular accident takes to settle depends on the following factors:
The first step before the case settlement is determining who’s at fault.
Did you cause the accident, or were you injured because of someone else’s negligence?
If the fault is shared, this can further complicate the process, especially in states that use comparative negligence .
If both car accident victims share the blame, the average time it takes to settle the case will be longer compared to when one person is to blame.
If the liability is clear, the case will settle sooner.
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Establishing How Much the Case is Worth
The general rule applies: the more your case is worth, the longer it’ll take to settle. The insurance companies try to limit the payout. For an insurance company, it pays off to invest time and money in legal defense rather than pay out a high-value claim.
Victims of car accidents with severe injuries or injuries requiring long-term future medical care will take longer to settle compared to cases in which the victim makes a full recovery.
As mentioned above, you should reach MIM before settling a claim to make sure you’re fully compensated for your medical bills. Also, you’ll need some time to determine the compensation for lost income and possible further treatment. All of these affect how long you’ll have to wait for the settlement check.
Insurance companies will do their own investigation. They want to find any information they can hold against you to devalue your claim or delay paying out the settlement.
“Over the past two years, both the accident rate and the size of insurance claims have climbed dramatically.” Insurance Information Institute
How long the settlement process will take also depends on the size of the insurance company and its policy. Some insurance companies will settle quickly, while others take a long time to reach the settlement.
Your lawyer will advise you on whether you should accept the initial offer or demand a higher amount of settlement.
Related Article: Car Accident Settlement Formula
How Long Does It Take To Get Paid After a Car Accident Settlement?
How long it takes to get paid after a car accident settlement depends on many factors. However, in general, you should receive a check within four to six weeks after reaching a settlement.
Hire a Trustworthy Lawyer
Personal injury cases may be very complicated, and if you sustain injuries in a car incident, it is essential to hire a law firm with years of experience you can trust.
At Schmidt & Clark, we value every attorney-client relationship equally, and we strive to achieve the best possible outcome of the case. We have years of experience in dealing with car accidents and insurance adjusters.
Contact us today if you need legal advice or want to schedule a free consultation.