How Long Do Car Accident Settlements Take?

February 6, 2024 | Car Accidents

How Long Do Car Accident Settlements Take

If you were injured in a car accident, a settlement could provide you with the necessary funds to pay for your medical expenses, lost wages, and car repairs. You could also get some additional money to cover future expenses and your pain and suffering. You are likely anxious to settle your car accident claim, but how long will that take?

At Fountain Law Firm, P.C., we understand what is at stake. Our founding attorney, Merry Fountain, was hurt in a car accident before she attended law school. She knows firsthand what you are going through and how stressful the car accident settlement process can be. We are here to guide you through every step of the process, all while expediting the process as much as possible. 

Stages of a Car Accident Case 

To understand how long your car accident settlement could take, it’s important to understand all of the steps that are involved in settling a car accident

Consultation with a Car Accident Lawyer

If you were injured in a car accident, you need to understand all of your legal rights. Fountain Law Firm, P.C. offers a free consultation with an Indianapolis accident lawyer to explain your legal rights and discuss your options for financial recovery. A lawyer can explain what to expect and how they can help throughout the process. 

Investigation 

After an accident, your lawyer will want to investigate to identify who is at fault for the accident. Indiana is an at-fault state for car insurance, so the party responsible for the accident is also responsible for paying for the damages they caused. 

An accident investigation may consist of the following:

  • Visiting the accident scene 
  • Reviewing accident reports
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Assessing photos of the scene and damages
  • Reviewing repair estimates and reports
  • Obtaining additional evidence 

Accident Claim 

Your lawyer can file your accident claim on your behalf with the at-fault driver’s liability insurance provider. This notifies the insurance company of the accident and that you are requesting payment. After the insurance company receives notice of your claim, they may launch their investigation into it.

Calculating Damages 

Your lawyer will want to maximize your settlement and will do so by trying to account for all of your accident-related losses and their values. Your lawyer may demand the insurance company compensate you for the following:

  • Medical expenses, including ambulance charges, hospital stays, emergency room visits, and medication
  • Loss of income and employment benefits from time taken away from work 
  • Reductions in long-term earning capacity 
  • Costs to repair or replace damaged property
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Permanent disability
  • Loss of consortium 
  • Loss of quality of life 

Preparing a Demand Letter

Once your lawyer has identified all of your damages and their value, they can prepare a demand letter that lays out the following:

  • Details about the accident
  • Why the other driver was at fault for it
  • The damages you suffered
  • The amount of compensation you will accept in exchange for settling the case

Negotiations 

Once your lawyer sends the insurance company your demand letter with all your medical documentation, the insurance company can respond by denying your claim altogether, approving the settlement, or making a counteroffer for less money than your lawyer demanded. If they make a counteroffer, your lawyer may respond by demanding more compensation. It may take several rounds of negotiations before a final settlement figure is reached. 

Receiving the Settlement Check

The last step in the process is receiving the settlement check. Before that occurs, you will likely be asked to sign a release of liability form. Your settlement check will provide you with payment for your accident-related losses, less the following:

  • Attorney fees
  • Legal costs
  • Payment for medical liens

How Long Will My Car Accident Settlement Take?

Every car accident case is unique, so there is no set timeline for when your case might settle. Some cases are straightforward and can be settled in a matter of months. Others are more complex and may take years to settle. Your car accident lawyer can work closely with you to determine a realistic timeline and work to achieve a fair outcome within it.

Factors That Can Affect How Long Your Car Accident Settlement Takes 

Some factors can increase or decrease the amount of time you can anticipate your case to take, including the following: 

Injury Severity 

Car accidents can cause various types of injuries, ranging from cuts, bruises, and soft tissue injuries to traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, and internal injuries. Generally, the more severe your injuries, the longer it will take to settle your claim. This is because of many reasons, including:

  • Your medical treatment will take longer.
  • Your long-term earning capacity may be impacted.
  • You may have suffered in other ways for which you deserve compensation, so your damage claim could be more valuable. 
  • You might need medical or economic experts to testify on your behalf.
  • Your lawyer will need to accurately estimate your future damages. 

Liability Is in Dispute

Because Indiana is an at-fault insurance state, you must be able to show the other driver was at fault for the accident to recover compensation for your accident-related losses. If the other driver or their insurance company is denying fault, your case could be more complicated and take longer to resolve. 

Insurance companies are for-profit companies. They have an inherent interest in trying to deny and minimize the value of claims as much as possible to protect their profit margins. Insurance companies and the adjusters that work for them often do this by using tactics such as:

  • Getting accident victims to give recorded statements and then use their statements against them
  • Taking claimant statements out of context, such as recording them saying, “I’m fine” as a simple pleasantry but using it to mean they were not injured
  • Sending accident victims blanket medical release forms and then blaming a pre-existing injury on their accident-related injuries
  • Trolling their social media accounts for any mention of the accident or doing activities inconsistent with their injuries
  • Hiring private investigators to follow accident victims and recording them taking part in strenuous activities 

Even if the insurance company cannot rightfully deny the entire claim, they can still use these tactics to blame some of the accident on the victim. Under Indiana’s modified comparative fault rule, the accident victim’s damages award can be reduced by the victim’s degree of fault. 

Strength of Evidence 

Ultimately as the plaintiff in a personal injury claim, you have the burden of showing the other driver was at fault for the accident and the full extent of your damages. If your evidence is not strong, the insurance company might fight back more than if your evidence clearly shows the necessary elements. 

Your lawyer can help gather evidence to support your claim, such as:

  • Accident reports
  • Medical records
  • Witness statements
  • Photos of the accident scene
  • Videos from traffic cameras, dash cams, or surveillance videos
  • Cell phone records
  • Event data recorders
  • Documentation of lost wages and other employment records
  • Traffic citations 

You can speed up this process by keeping all accident-related documentation and giving it to your lawyer so they will not have to make separate requests for it. 

Amount of Damages

Damages are the losses you suffer because of the accident. Accident claims that involve higher amounts of damages often take longer to process because insurance companies have more to lose. An experienced car accident lawyer can help determine the compensation to which you may be entitled and prepare a solid claim to support it. 

Legal Effect of a Settlement

While you might be in a hurry to get your settlement check, you must understand the legal effect of accepting a settlement. When you accept a settlement, the insurance company will likely require you to sign a release of liability form. This form typically states that you are forfeiting your right to sue the insurance company or at-fault driver for any claims related to the accident. 

This means you will give up your right to sue when you accept a settlement. So, even if you discover your injuries are more severe than you first realized or you incurred additional expenses that were not included in your settlement, you will likely not be able to demand additional compensation from the insurance company or at-fault driver. This is why it is essential that you only accept a settlement that properly compensates you for all of your accident-related losses.

Benefits of Settling Your Case

You might wonder whether settling your car accident claim is worth it. However, there are several benefits to settling your case, including the following:

  • It will take less time to settle your case than to go to trial. 
  • You will have a certain outcome. 
  • You can preserve your privacy so you don’t have to discuss your private medical information or private details about how the accident affected you. 
  • You can receive the money you need to pay your medical bills and other expenses.

Your car accident lawyer can review your case and explain whether it is in your best interests to settle your case. 

FAQs 

Why Is My Car Accident Settlement Taking So Long?

You may feel like your car accident settlement is taking a long time, but it’s important to remember that a lot goes into preparing a claim and there can be serious consequences of settling your claim too early. A good car accident lawyer will stay in touch with you and keep you informed about the status of the case. They will also work diligently to expedite your claim as much as possible while also protecting your right to maximum recovery. 

What Has to Happen Before I Can Settle My Case?

Several things must happen before you can settle your case, including:

  • An investigation into your claim 
  • The medical treatment being finished or you reaching maximum medical improvement 
  • Obtaining all of your medical records and other documents to support your damage claim
  • An insurance claim being filed on your behalf 
  • Obtaining all of your medical records and bills after you finish treating
  • A demand letter being prepared and sent to the insurance company 
  • Getting a response to the demand letter
  • Signing a release of liability form

It can take a significant amount of time for all of this to occur, but working with an experienced lawyer can help ensure your claim moves along as quickly as possible. 

What Is the Deadline to File a Lawsuit?

All states have different deadlines by which a car accident victim must file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver if they are unable to settle their accident claim. In Indiana, the statute of limitations is two years from the accident date. This means that, in most cases, you only have two years to recover from the accident (as much as possible), file your claim, investigate the accident, negotiate your claim, and prepare the necessary legal paperwork to file a case.

If this timeline passes and you have not filed your case, you can lose your right to recover compensation through the court system. Preserve your rights by contacting an experienced car accident lawyer today.

Contact an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer to Discuss Your Settlement Timeline

If you were injured in an accident in Indiana, you do not have to go through this process alone. An experienced car accident lawyer can investigate your claim, develop your case, and fight for the compensation you deserve. Fountain Law Firm, P.C. wants to help you. Call us today at (317) 917-7873 or contact us online to schedule your free case review.