Car Accident Claims: How Long Does It Take to Settle?

Photo by Michael Jin

After being injured in a car accident, non-responsible drivers have the right to file claims and receive compensation for their damages. For many accident victims, the compensation can’t come soon enough. After all, there are hospital bills to pay, medical equipment to buy, and lost wages to make up for during recovery, and all of that money has to come from somewhere.

Average Time to Receive a Settlement

There are so many variables that impact accident claims that it’s impossible to say exactly when people will be able to access their compensation. It’s not unusual for receiving your settlement to take only a few months, but for complex cases, the process may be drawn out by years. For those who need access to their money as soon as possible, working with a personal injury attorney is always a good idea.

What Has to Happen Before Getting an Offer

The first step toward getting compensated is to receive an initial offer. Before that can happen, three other things must occur.

Treatment Must Be Finished

To submit a claim, the patient must either finish treatment or be declared to have reached a state of maximum medical improvement, which can take anywhere from a day to several years. In some cases, lawyers can also ask doctors to give estimates for future costs if additional medical procedures must still be performed. Claims often include reasonably anticipated damages.

Documentation Must Be Obtained

Documentation must be gathered and provided, including medical records, bills, doctor’s reports, proof of lost wages, and potentially other documents, as well. The collection of all relevant records can be crucial to settling a claim quickly out of court instead of dragging the process on. Settlements without lawsuits are often based nearly exclusively on victims’ medical records, but insurance companies will view any omission of critical documents as a reason to deny a claim.

A Demand Package Must Get a Response

Once all of the relevant documents are obtained, they can be sent to the insurance company in the form of a demand package. Before a settlement is reached, the insurance company must evaluate the claim and submit a response, which can take anywhere from 15 to 90 days, depending on the company. Accident lawyers can keep the ball rolling by following up with the insurance company to keep the case at the front of the line. According to a San Jose criminal defense attorney, “It is crucial to send a demand package as it creates a time frame for the insurance company to respond. As lawyers, we can continue to push for a prompt resolution by regularly following up with the insurance company. Together, we can keep the case moving forward and reach a fair settlement as soon as possible.”

Factors That Influence How Long It Takes to Settle a Claim

Every accident is unique, and so is every claim. That’s part of why there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how long it usually takes to settle. The following factors often come into play, affecting one or more of the steps described above.

  • The insurance company is involved.

The type of the victim’s injuries.

The severity of the victim’s injuries.

Whether the injured party has a lawyer.

Whether the case must go to court.

If the case must go to court, the entire process can be dragged out much longer. However, this is often necessary to get fairly compensated for damages incurred during an accident.

Why It’s Important to Have a Lawyer

Having a lawyer is the best way to minimize how long it takes to get a claim settled. Lawyers can help clients collect documents, make deadlines, and stay on top of insurance claims so they don’t get pushed to the bottom of the company’s to-do list. The best time to hire a lawyer is as soon as possible after the accident, so don’t waste any time.

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About the Author: Brian Novak