How long will my car accident case take to settle in California?
You undoubtedly want to settle your injury case as quickly as possible to pay for your medical expenses and support your family, but you also want to avoid accepting a settlement that is too low. It’s possible to settle your car accident injury case right away if you’re willing to accept less money, but doing so may mean accepting less than your damages. Here’s what you can expect in terms of how long it will take your injury case to settle and why you should avoid a fast settlement.
What Factors Affect the Timeline of an Injury Case?
Some injury claims are settled fairly quickly while others can drag on for months or years. There are several factors that can impact the timeline of your car accident case, but the three biggest factors that slow down a settlement are:
- Factual or legal issues with the case,
- Your case involves a significant amount of money, or
- You have not reached maximum medical improvement from your injuries.
All personal injury claims have a value determined by liability (or who was at fault) and damages (or how badly you were hurt). If liability is difficult to prove, you probably will not get a reasonable settlement offer until your personal injury attorney files a lawsuit and hires liability experts to establish fault. There may be issues with damages as well, such as a doctor who isn’t sure the other party’s negligence caused your injuries.
If your case involves a significant amount of money, you can expect delays because insurance companies do not want to pay big settlements without doing everything they can to deny or limit the claim. This means the insurance company will do its due diligence by investigating every aspect of the damages and liability issues in the case and refuse a reasonable settlement until they are sure they do not have a good defense, your injuries are as severe as claimed, and they can’t attack your credibility.
Your settlement may also take a long time because you are still receiving treatment for your injuries and have not yet reached a point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). If you are still receiving treatment, it’s not yet clear if you will fully recover or not.
Other factors may also impact the timeline and how long it takes to settle. For example, the type and size of the insurance company affects how long settlement takes as large companies may have a conservative approach and offer low settlements initially or a large caseload. The circumstances of your accident may also impact your settlement timeline. Your attorney can explain the many factors in your case that affect the value of your settlement and how long the process will likely take.
In general, claims that are clear-cut in terms of liability and damages may settle within months. Complex injury claims may take years to settle.
Beware the Initial Settlement Offer
You will likely receive an initial settlement offer from the insurance company within a month of your accident, but this settlement offer will probably not be reasonable compensation for your injuries, especially if you suffered serious, long-lasting, or very painful injuries. Insurance companies make these lowball offers to dissuade victims from pursuing a lawsuit or advancing the case further. These initial settlements rarely take into account pain and suffering, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and more aside from medical expenses.
If you choose to reject the initial settlement offer, your injury attorney can advise you on the best course of action to pursue. This may include sending the insurance company a demand letter that fully details your injuries and why the offer is insufficient or proceeding with a pre-trial preparation. Reasonable settlements are usually made before the case goes to trial.
An Experienced Injury Attorney Can Reduce the Timeline
As you can see, the settlement timeline depends on many variables, but seeking representation from an experienced personal injury attorney can help speed up the process. Insurance companies tend to drag the process out as much as possible, but an injury attorney will have experience with gathering evidence, negotiating with insurance adjusters, avoiding pitfalls, and taking the case to court if necessary.
The best way to speed up the settlement process is seeking medical attention, following doctors’ recommendations, building and maintaining evidence of your injuries, and working with a personal injury attorney to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.