You have serious medical bills from your car accident.
Worse, you might not have the ability to return to work, thanks to your injuries. Thats where a car accident attorney can assist you.
Like many car accident victims, you may wonder just how long it will take to get the necessary funds in your hands. Unfortunately, you may feel that the process gets dragged out unnecessarily, leaving you without the funds you need. How long does it take to reach a settlement in a car accident claim? In many cases, the answer depends on these five factors.
Factor #1: Can the insurance companies easily determine who caused the auto accident?
Following some car accidents, it’s easy to determine exactly who caused the accident. If a distracted driver on a cell phone swerves into the opposite lane or flies through a red light or stop sign, most parties can clearly see which driver caused the accident. In other car accidents, more investigation may be necessary to clearly determine fault.
- Was the other driver on the clock for their employer at the time of the accident? In some cases, including instances in which an employer had unrealistic work requirements or continued to employ a driver with a substantial accident or ticket history, you may have grounds to seek compensation from the employer directly. If you suffered injuries in an accident with a big truck, for example, if the driver exceeded the legal limits of their time behind the wheel—11 hours out of a 14-hour shift each day—the company could share the blame for the accident.
- Did a mechanical failure cause the accident? Mechanical failures, including faulty tires, a locked transmission, or a shredded belt, can cause serious hazards on the road. When those hazards lead to an accident, several parties may share legal liability. The driver has primary legal responsibility for maintaining their vehicle and taking care of preventative maintenance: replacing tires before they become bald, taking care of regular oil changes, and ensuring that the car remains safe to drive. If the driver operates a fleet vehicle belonging to a company, on the other hand, the company may have legal responsibility for keeping the vehicle road-ready. Sometimes, however, the driver cannot predict potential problems with the vehicle. When a manufacturer defect causes the accident, the manufacturer may share legal liability for the accident. If a mechanic recently worked on the vehicle and failed to repair it properly or did not note an obvious defect they should have noted during their repairs, the mechanic may share legal liability for the accident.
- Can the other driver’s insurance company argue that you caused the accident? In some car accidents, it may not be clear who caused the accident. In these cases, further evidence may be necessary to determine fault in the accident. Figuring out which driver is responsible for damages resulting from the accident may require extensive investigation.
When it is not easy to determine who caused an auto accident, you may need to hire an attorney to investigate every aspect of the accident before filing a claim and arriving at a settlement. Your attorney may need to review video footage, contact witnesses to review their statements, and examine photos of the accident scene. An attorney may also call in an expert witness to reconstruct the scene of the accident and get a better idea of the factors that led to it.
Factor #2: How much money are you asking for?
The more money that needs to change hands in a car accident settlement, the longer it can take to reach an agreement. Many insurance adjusters seek to limit their company’s financial liability as much as possible following an accident, even an accident in which one individual is clearly at fault. Several factors can contribute to the funds you can seek after a car accident and how long it may take to receive them, including:
The extent of your injuries. If you suffer serious injuries, you may have serious medical costs to go along with them. As a Florida driver, you are required to carry personal injury protection insurance, which will pay out the first part of your claim: at a minimum, up to $10,000 in medical expenses and lost time at work. Because Florida has a “no fault” law, it doesn’t matter who caused the accident, you can use your personal injury protection insurance even without determining who is at fault. After you exceed the limits of your personal injury protection coverage, you can file a personal injury claim against the person or entity that caused your auto accident.
Unfortunately, many car accident injuries quickly rack up high medical bills that you may find yourself struggling to pay. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, can cost $85,000-$3 million over the course of your recovery, depending on the extent of your injuries. Spinal cord injuries can cost as much as $1 million in the first year following the accident alone. These costs often quickly exceed the limits of your personal injury protection coverage, even if you carry higher than minimum coverage.
The higher your medical costs, the more you need funds from your car accident settlement. Likewise, however, the higher the cost of your injuries, the harder the insurance company may work to decrease its liability. If you require significant funds for your recovery, you may have to wait longer to receive that compensation.
The limits of the insurance policy. In Florida, drivers who carry minimum liability insurance carry only $10,000 of bodily injury coverage per individual injured in an accident, often with a maximum of $20,000 paid out per accident. The limits of the insurance policy can have a substantial impact on the funds you may receive for your injuries. In the case of serious injuries following a major auto accident, you may have less trouble getting funds in the full amount of the policy—but those funds might not reflect everything you deserve for your injuries. Fortunately, many drivers carry higher than minimum liability insurance. Commercial drivers, especially truck drivers, must carry policies with much higher limits to ensure higher levels of financial protection for accident victims.
Factor #3: Your willingness to negotiate.
Often, immediately after an auto accident, the insurance company that covers the responsible driver will contact you. The insurance company may issue a settlement offer; an apparent effort to provide for you quickly following the accident.
Some accident victims accept that settlement offer immediately, assuming that it represents a reasonable offer that will cover their bills following the accident. If you accept that initial settlement offer, it can help get funds in your hands much faster, because once you sign a settlement agreement, you will receive funds quickly.
In many cases, however, that settlement offer does not represent the full amount you deserve for your injuries. In some cases, the settlement offer might cover only a small percentage of your expenses and even a small percentage of the policy that covers the responsible party.
When you negotiate with the insurance company or responsible entity, you attempt to increase the funds the company is offering in compensation for your injuries, while the company will generally try to limit its financial liability as much as possible. If you negotiate extensively, it may take considerably longer to reach an agreement than if you simply accept an offer as soon as it comes your way. Standing your ground, however, can often substantially increase the funds you receive, which can help ensure you can pay your bills and rebuild your life following a serious accident.
If the claim has to go to mediation or to court, these processes can significantly increase the time it takes to get the funds you deserve in your hands. If, on the other hand, you can settle out of court, you can often get the funds in your hands much faster. Some insurance companies or big businesses may attempt to drag out the process, hoping you will settle to decrease your overall legal costs. Others want to reach an agreement as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, you cannot predict how the company you will have to deal with following your auto accident might behave. An experienced personal injury attorney might give you an idea of how negotiations with a particular insurance company often progress.
Factor #4: Are you working with an attorney?
In a straightforward fender bender, you might choose to work with your insurance company directly to handle the claims process on your own. For an auto accident that involves injuries, however, you should contact an attorney as soon after the accident as possible. Many accident victims find that working with an attorney can substantially increase the compensation they receive for their injuries. Many people do not realize, however, that working with an attorney can also help get the funds you deserve for your accident in your hands sooner.
When it comes time to negotiate a settlement after an auto accident, having an attorney means you have one person completely on your side, representing your best interests. An experienced personal injury attorney can:
- Help find evidence to support your claim. Often, an attorney can access evidence, including video footage of the accident or a report from an expert witness, much faster than you can on your own. The sooner you finish the investigation into the accident, the faster you can get the compensation you deserve.
- Cut through the legal red tape. An attorney often knows how to streamline the claims process, avoiding potential roadblocks along the way and ultimately reaching a settlement faster.
- Keep your rights at the forefront of any discussions. An attorney knows your legal rights. While several factors can influence the timing of a settlement payout, working with an attorney can help ensure that no one violates your legal rights.
Factor #5: When did you start the process of filing your claim?
Ideally, you should connect with an attorney as soon after your accident as possible. In the days immediately following the accident, you can more easily access much of the information related to the accident. Many witnesses may find that their memories fade quickly, leaving them with much less accurate versions of the events in their minds. Likewise, many businesses delete security footage regularly, which means that if you wait a long time to start seeking that evidence, that footage may disappear before you can access it.
At the same time, however, if you begin the claims process soon after your accident, you might not yet know what maximum medical improvement you can make from your injuries. Many people take six months to a year after an accident—or, in some cases, even longer—to see how much improvement they can make. If you have not yet reached maximum medical improvement, you may not know the answers to several key questions: if you can return to work, in what capacity you can return to work, and what future medical expenses you will still face, for example.
As a result, you may struggle to put together an accurate personal injury claim. Talking to your doctors and working with an experienced personal injury attorney can help estimate the future cost of your recovery, but you may need to wait until your recovery progresses to finalize your claim.
When You Reach an Agreement
Once you reach an agreement, the responsible party has 20 days to pay out the funds for your accident, unless you have come to a different agreement. This means that once you do arrive at a settlement agreement, it should take less than a month for you to have the funds you need in hand. In the case of a personal injury claim, the insurance company has 30 days to pay out.
If you suffer serious injuries in an auto accident, it is important to contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible. An experienced personal injury attorney may provide advantages in resolving your personal injury claim, including streamlining the investigation and claims process so that you can get your settlement as quickly as possible.
Orlando, FL 32814