1. The settlement process is complex
How long does the settlement of a car accident usually take? How long does a personal injury case take? Almost all lawyers would answer the same way: it depends. Each claim is unique, with varying levels of complexity, although most claims follow the same approximate timeline. Consider the events that may or may not occur between the time a car accident occurs and the time a settlement is paid:
- Find a lawyer
- Sending a formal notice and waiting the time necessary for a response
- Preparing, filing and awaiting a response to an insurance claim
- Discovery, which includes tedious correspondence regarding the evidence
- Mediation/negotiation, which are bound by the judicial calendar
- Preparing for trial if no settlement is initially reached
- Negotiate the terms of the settlement
- Waiting for payment
These events occur in addition to getting medical attention for injuries and getting estimates or repairs for damage to your vehicle. No one has unlimited time on a case, so you could be spending a lot of time just waiting for responses from other parties.
2. Collecting evidence takes time
One of the most important events after an accident is gathering evidence to support your claim. Unless the fault of the other driver is obvious, an insurance company will oppose a claim. It is always best to gather as much evidence as possible as soon as possible after an accident. You will likely need the advice of a lawyer to determine what evidence is needed and where to find it.
Common evidence includes (but is not limited to):
- Reports from police and medical personnel at the scene of the accident
- Photographs of the scene
- Medical records and casualty care bills
- An individualized recovery prognosis from your doctor
- The driving history of the driver you think is at fault
- An estimate of lost income or future compensation due to injuries
- Repair invoices or quotes from a body shop
- Witness statements
3. Calculating damage is complicated
Knowing that you are entitled to compensation does not automatically mean that you know How many you have the right. You may be surprised to learn that calculating some damage takes time.
For vehicle damage, it can be as simple as waiting for an estimate from your insurance company or visiting a body shop. For serious physical injuries, however, it is important to understand the concept of maximum medical improvement (MMI). This means that a doctor has determined or estimated the extent of your injuries and no further medical treatment will improve them.
This does not mean that you will no longer need medical treatment for your injuries or that you will not be able to obtain compensation for future care. It is simply a standard for determining the extent and impact of your injuries for compensation purposes.
For MMI you can even because your settlement is a little delayed, because it is unwise (and sometimes impossible) to rush this part of the settlement process. For example, agreeing to a settlement before finding out that your injuries may prevent you from working at your current job in the future may leave you with less compensation than you are entitled to.
4. The defense could use delaying tactics
Another possible reason why you might be wondering why your car accident settlement is taking so long: the other party is dragging their feet. Delaying the outcome of a case as long as possible is a common legal strategy.
The longer the case drags on, the more likely it is that new evidence will surface or that the plaintiff will simply give up. Especially in personal injury cases, the higher the potential settlement, the more beneficial it is for the defense to delay outcome and payment. This can be done by filing motions, engaging in full investigation, or extending deadlines. An experienced personal injury attorney will know when these tactics are used and how to respond.
5. Post-settlement payments take time
When settling a car accident case, everything goes through your attorney, including correspondence with other parties and the insurance company, medical bills and other evidence, and ultimately your payment.
The party responsible for payment will write a check to your lawyer, who will disburse it if necessary. What you might not know is that some debts need to be paid off with your settlement before they end up in your pocket. These include:
- Overdue child support
- Unpaid medical bills
- Insurance costs
- Unpaid fees to any previous lawyer who represented you in this case
- The contingent fees of your lawyer
There may also be logistical issues, such as waiting for the check to clear. A good lawyer will let you know why your payment seems delayed.
See a lawyer if it’s taking too long to settle your car accident
If you’re wondering why your car accident settlement is taking so long, know that an experienced lawyer can offer you some helpful advice. Let us help you find a lawyer today who can handle your settlement.
Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information, but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have any legal questions, you should seek the advice of a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.