How long will it take to settle my car accident case?
Many factors affect the length of time it takes for a car accident case to resolve. One of the most important factors is whether liability for the auto accident is disputed. Does the other driver’s insurance company accept fault for the car accident?
If Liability Is Not Disputed
If liability is not disputed, the following things need to happen before your case can be resolved:
- You need to complete your medical treatment, or at least have a good handle on what future medical treatment will involve and what it will cost.
- Your attorney will need to get copies of all your medical records and bills, and documentation from your employer of any lost wages.
- Once your lawyer has documentation of your injuries and out-of-pocket losses, he will send a "demand letter" to the other driver’s insurance company.
- The insurance company usually responds with a settlement offer approximately 30 days later.
- Your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company to try to push the insurance adjuster to their top offer.
- If both sides can agree on a number, your case settles. If both sides are far apart, and you do not accept the settlement offer, the next step is to file a lawsuit against the other driver.
- Once lawsuit is filed, you will be assigned a trial date approximately one year out from the date of filing.
- Your case can settle at any point during the time leading up to trial. If no settlement is reached, the case goes to trial and a jury decides the amount you get.
If Liability Is Disputed
If liability is disputed, it will take longer to resolve your car accident case. One of the most common liability dispute issues scenarios involves the "who-ran-the-red-light" case. Each driver claims the other one ran a red light. There are no witnesses. Or if there are witnesses, they are not credible or cancel each other out.
In a disputed liability case, any settlement offer made by the other driver’s insurance company will reflect a reduction for the percentage of fault the insurance carrier attributes to you. For example, if they contend that you were 25% at fault for the car accident, their settlement offer will reflect a 25% reduction for your "comparative negligence." Unless you are agreeable to settling your case for a reduced amount, a lawsuit will have to be filed in order to conduct discovery and gather evidence to fight the comparative negligence claim.
Once a lawsuit is filed, your case will take approximately one year to go to trial, though it can settle at any point during the time leading up to trial.
In California, approximately 98% of personal injury cases settle before trial. However, at the outset of a case, it is impossible to predict whether it will have to be tried. Your local personal injury lawyer will give you his or her advice, but you make the final decision on whether to accept a settlement offer. The best outcome on your case accident case will be achieved if you have confidence in your attorney and that you stay in regular contact with your attorney’s office.