How Long Does It Take to Settle a Car Accident Case?

Car accident claims in fault-based insurance states take some time to settle. Unlike the handful of no-fault insurance states that compel accident victims to make claims against their own personal injury protection insurance policy, fault-based states with comparison negligence insurance systems require an investigation to determine the cause of the accident, who was at fault, and the appropriate insurance policy to cover the damages like property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering. The car accident lawyers in Encino share how long it takes to settle a case in California.

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What Is the Typical Timeline for Car Accident Claims?

In some cases, an insurance adjuster who knows their policyholder is at fault for an accident will offer a fast settlement after a car accident. However, this is almost always a lowball offer that may be far less than your claim is worth. More often, a lengthy investigation process takes place, with an insurance adjuster investigating the accident on one side, and the attorney for the injury victim on the other. Depending on the type and complexity of the car accident and whether or not the insurance company disputes fault, the investigation could involve timely processes like deposing eyewitnesses and consulting with accident reconstruction experts.

Once the investigation is complete, the injury victim’s attorney carefully calculates the victim’s damages, including the following:

  • Property damage
  • Medical expenses
  • Anticipated future medical expenses for further injury-related care
  • Lost wages
  • Future income loss
  • Diminished future earning capacity if the injury caused disability
  • Pain and suffering and other non-economic damages that might apply like loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement compensation, or compensation for loss of one of the senses like vision or hearing

After the attorney documents clear evidence of liability and calculates damages, they send a demand package to the insurance company. Then a series of negotiation meetings occurs, sometimes with mediation between all parties. In the majority of cases, the claim is resolved with a mutually acceptable settlement offer at this point. Still, if the insurance company fails to offer an acceptable settlement amount or wrongfully denies the claim, the case becomes a lawsuit in court.

When an Insurance Claim Becomes a Car Accident Lawsuit

A car accident victim must file a lawsuit within the state’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims. This time limit is two years from the date of the accident in most states, including California.

Litigating a car accident lawsuit in court takes substantially longer than a car accident claim resolved with a settlement, but the good news is that jury awards for damages are typically higher than the amount the victim would recover in a settlement.

What is the Average Time It Takes to Resolve a Car Accident Claim?

Most studies show the average time of a car accident claim to end in a settlement is two years, however, some may resolve in as little as six months. Those cases that go on to court could take longer even when an attorney files the petition well within the two-year time limit.

As much as a car accident victim may wish for the settlement process to go quickly so they can focus on their physical recovery and moving forward from the accident, accepting an early settlement offer almost always means settling for far less than the full value of the claim.