The Biggest Factors That Determine How Long a Car Accident Settlement Takes
One of the most common questions for an accident victim to ask at the beginning of the process of recovering damages after an accident is: “How long is this going to take?”
While that is certainly a valid and pertinent question, victims often find the answer frustrating.
The truth is: It depends. Most personal injury cases, including those involving car accidents, settle long before the case ever goes to trial in a courtroom.
However, obtaining a fair settlement for injuries sustained in a car accident often requires intense negotiation between the part of the victim’s attorney on one hand, and defense attorneys or insurance adjusters on the other.
Various factors influence not only the amount of that settlement, but also how long the process will take.
Factor #1: The Severity of the Injury
The more severe your injury, the more likely it is that you have a valid claim against the at-fault party.
While the severity of your injury is the foundation for your ability to file a personal injury claim in the first place, it’s also one of the main reasons that negotiating a settlement or receiving an award in court may take a lot of time.
That’s because a fair settlement should include not only compensation for the medical expenses that you have already incurred because of the accident, but also compensation for medical treatments that you will likely need in the future due to your injury.
These future needs often take time and careful medical analysis to calculate.
An appropriate settlement should also take into account the effects of your injury on your current and future life.
-Can you continue working the same job you had before the accident?
-Will you be required to accept a different, lower-paying position due to the extent of your injuries?
-Can you work at all?
-Will you have the option of living independently, or will you need to pay for someone to assist you with your day-to-day needs?
-Will the injuries result in a lifetime of pain and ongoing medical treatment or will you someday be considered fully recovered and able to freely enjoy all of the activities you participated in before the accident?
Each of these questions takes some time to answer.
Factor #2: Proving Liability
Even if the liability in your case is clear, it still has to be proven.
The most common legal basis for liability is negligence, which is defined as the failure to behave with the level of care that someone with ordinary prudence would have used in the same circumstance.
To establish that the liable party was negligent in your case, and therefore owes you money as damages, you must prove:
-The party owed you a duty of care not to take the action that caused the accident.
-There was a breach of the duty of care.
-This breach led to the accident, which resulted in your injuries.
Many parties could have legal liability to you for the injuries you sustain in the typical car accident. Attorneys seek to identify all parties with liability to their clients, to maximize the chance that the client recovers fair compensation.
For each party whose negligence may have contributed to the accident, liability must be proven through evidence. This, too, takes time.
Factor #3: Gathering Evidence
A lot of evidence goes not only into proving that there was a party liable for the accident that caused your injuries, but also in demonstrating the severity of your injuries.
This often requires a legal team to conduct investigations that gather evidence such as:
-The police report
-A prognosis for your recovery provided by a medical professional
-Information about the at-fault driver’s previous driving history
-Information about your loss of wages and whether you can resume working in the job you previously held
-Repair bills or estimates involving the damage to your car
Carefully studying the details of a case and determining what information is needed to prove liability and damages takes time.
Factor #4: The Amount of Money Requested
As a general matter, small-dollar settlements take less time to achieve than high-dollar settlements. If damages amount to just a few thousand dollars, a lawyer may have success achieving a fair settlement in a matter of weeks, without much negotiation by either side.
However, when a client’s injuries are serious and likely to result in permanent disability as well as significant impacts to the client’s life, then the appropriate amount of damages will typically rise.
The greater the amount of damages a client needs after a car accident injury, the more scrutiny the claim will receive from the insurance company on the hook for paying, and the higher the likelihood the insurance company will dispute the claim to some degree.
Resolving any concerns the insurance company raises, and responding to any counter-arguments the insurance company tries to make to excuse itself from some or all liability, takes time.
Similarly, the higher the dollar-value of the claimed damages in a case, the greater the chance the insurance company decides to fight the case as if it will go to trial, instead of entering into negotiations right away. This, too, may prolong the process of achieving a fair settlement.
When Will You Get Your Check After A Settlement?
Once a settlement has been agreed upon, it is not uncommon for a client to think that the money will arrive immediately. However, that is not generally the case.
Some of the factors in this part of the process that can take time include:
-Releases that you need to sign—and generally get notarized—before the check is ordered by the insurance adjusters.
-The insurance company’s accounting department’s issuance of the check.
-The time it takes to mail a check.
-The bank’s hold on the check, particularly if it is an out-of-state check.
If the insurance company opts to reimburse medical providers directly, then they will often delay the release of funds for other damages until they have done so.
If the insurance company issues the settlement funds to your attorney, the attorney is generally required to wait until the check clears before disbursing funds.
If someone else’s careless or reckless driving has left you or a family member seriously injured, contact an attorney who has the RESOURCES AND EXPERIENCE to help you enforce your rights to recover any compensation you may deserve.
Call Oliveri & Schwartz at 212-987-1100 for IMMEDIATE help!