A Timeline of a Car Accident Settlement
A car accident can leave lasting consequences, especially when victims suffer injuries with widespread impacts. In a matter of moments, a life can change forever. If you or a loved one has been in a car accident, contact an experienced Tampa car accident attorney from Boohoff law.
Traveling and transporting products and materials by motor vehicles has become an integral aspect of American life. Increased use of trucks and cars necessarily increases traffic congestion and accidents. However, gridlock isn’t just found on the freeway. Our court systems are often overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of cases specifically related to car accidents.
So the short answer to how long does a car accident settlement take? It all depends on the accident.
The court process and the settlement process run parallel to one another. Claims begin with negotiations, but if an agreeable settlement cannot be reached, the parties may choose to proceed to trial. Status hearings are scheduled to keep the courts updated as to the progress of the settlement process. During the court process, phases may include discovery, negotiation and mediation, and ultimately a trial date which all have individual timelines.
In addition, several factors, unique to each case, may influence the duration of the settlement process. An experienced attorney can use evidence from police reports, medical expenses, and repair costs to determine the best options for moving the case towards resolution.
The settlement process itself will involve negotiations among the attorneys representing both sides with settlement offers and counteroffers being exchanged throughout. The process requires skilled negotiation and an experienced attorney will know, given the circumstances, whether an individual offer is reasonable. An attorney may advise their clients of their choices as well as potential outcomes for each option.
A seemingly simple settlement may require months of negotiation, and in some cases, unsuccessful negotiation may require proceeding to court.
What Is a Settlement?
A settlement is when two parties involved in an accident reach an agreement as to financial compensation for accident related damages. A settlement agreement may include recovery for medical bills and/or pain and suffering. Settlements typically occur between the parties, outside of court. Once a case is “settled” the claim is dismissed and the parties agree to abide by the terms of the negotiated settlement agreement.
A typical car accident settlement requires the responsible parties to compensate the injured victim for the amount of damages agreed upon. An adequate amount is meant to make the injured party whole again, in other words, as they were before the accident. Accident settlement offers usually require the injured victim to agree to waive their right to seek additional compensation for losses resulting from the accident.
During negotiations, be prepared to make a decision and ask yourself, is this amount going to be enough to cover the full extent of accident-related damages? A settlement is a permanent decision, but you can accept or deny any settlement offer that the at-fault party presents you.
Factors Influencing the Settlement Timeline
To begin, the statute of limitations provides that a car accident claim must be filed within four years of the date of the accident. At the expiration of the statute of limitations, injured parties will be barred from bringing a claim.
However, after filing, the time required to settle a car accident claim depends on a variety of factors, including:
- Complexity of the accident: If there are no injuries and the only items open for discussion are damages and loss, the process is fairly simple. However, the majority of car accidents are not straightforward and any complications can increase the time required to reach a settlement. The following questions may help determine whether the claims process will be simple or complex.
- Are there serious damages, injuries, and possibly fatalities involved?
- Was there a crime committed, such as drunk driving?
- Was it a hit-and-run accident?
- Was the accident caused by a government vehicle, such as a city bus, maintenance truck, or the city’s failure to warn about road construction?
- Is someone disputing who was at fault for the accident?
- Damages: Repair or replacement of property is a big part of any settlement. How much is your vehicle, home, or property worth? How much is it worth to you? Some losses may be difficult to assign a value to. An adequate settlement should be as close to covering all the losses as possible.
- Repairs: From a banged up fender, paint job, or a complete rebuild of your vehicle, repairs are expensive and you may be entitled to seek compensation for those expenses.
- Injuries: Injuries can be much more expensive than repairing or replacing a vehicle. Beyond the costs of medical treatment, injured victims may miss time from work, require extensive rehabilitation services, or endure significant pain and suffering. Injury related costs should be compensated by parties responsible for causing the injury.
- Number of parties involved: Settlements get more complicated as the number of parties involved increases. Passengers, bystanders, and pedestrians may be a part of the claim. In addition, multiple parties may potentially share liability for accident-related injuries. As the number of people involved grows, the length of the settlement process also increases.
- The amount you are willing to settle for: Accidents that cause severe injuries can have devastating consequences, not only for injured victims but also for their families. When another’s negligence causes injuries, victims are entitled to compensation for the injuries and damage to their property. Don’t settle for less than your claim is worth. You should not bear the financial burden of injuries and losses you are not responsible for. However, you should expect a lengthier settlement process if you are not willing to settle for less.
- The court process itself: The timelines for status hearings and other procedures of the claims process are established according to state statutes. Each of these steps provides the parties with additional information that may provide more leverage during settlement negotiations. Progressing through the timeline set by the court also drives the timeline of the settlement process.
- Discovery: During the discovery phase, information is shared between the insurance company attorneys and injured victims or their attorneys. Exchanged information may include police reports, medical reports, and bills for damages. An attorney can work with injured victims to gather the information required for discovery. Discovery is comprehensive and if you are currently undergoing treatment for recovery, this may cause delays in the process. In a car accident case, discovery adheres to deadlines, just as the rest of the process.
- Negotiation and mediation: Most settlements can be worked out in negotiation and mediation, saving time and reducing court costs and legal fees. Negotiations and mediations are confidential meetings between the parties to facilitate an agreement and resolution outside of court. Under these circumstances, the parties have more control over the outcome of the case than court proceedings, which allow a judge or jury to resolve the claim. Negotiations typically occur within the first several weeks of the claims process. Remember, however, the timeline for each case will vary depending on the unique facts of the case and the availability of a mediator.
- Hearings and trials: In a hearing or jury trial, a judge or a jury weighs the evidence presented to determine an appropriate outcome. Determinations made by judges and juries can be unpredictable. Injured victims may consult with an attorney to decide whether proceeding to trial is in their best interests. In many cases, backlogged court dockets may delay court proceedings for several months.
Hiring an Attorney
The claims process may feel as if it is taking forever because time can seemingly stand still when you are recovering from an injury, missing time from work, and bills are adding up. Hiring an attorney to handle the legal aspects of the case can relieve significant stress. Experienced car accident attorneys can develop strategies for maximizing injured victims’ recovery while moving the case through the claims process as efficiently as possible.
Skilled attorneys can guide injured victims’ approaches to resolving their claim and position them to successfully fight the claim in court if settlement negotiations prove to be unsuccessful. Contact an experienced car accident attorney for a free consultation to discuss the options for moving forward.