Most car accident cases never go to trial and are resolved through the car accident settlement process. Only a small percentage of car accident cases go to court for trial. This is because most car accident claims can be resolved with a settlement, which takes much less time than going to court.
How long the case will take to settle depends on many things, including these factors:
- Whether you hire a lawyer or handle the case yourself: Auto insurance companies like when accident victims handle the case themselves. They will usually offer a low-ball settlement right after they get the claim. The insurance company wants to settle it fast and for as little money as possible. But if you hire a car accident lawyer, the insurance company will change tactics as it knows the lawyer is not going to take a low-ball deal. Hiring an attorney will cause the negotiations to go on longer (weeks or months in many cases), but you will nearly always get more money.
- The facts of the case: If fault for the accident is clear, the insurance company for the at-fault driver will want to settle fast because it knows if they go to court, they could have to pay much more. But if there is any dispute about fault, you can expect negotiations to take much longer. There will need to be a complete investigation of the crash, and this could take months.
- Extent of your injuries: If you have suffered major injuries and there are a lot of medical bills, it could take much longer to settle the case. The insurance company will probably want to see detailed documentation of your injuries and treatments given before they give you a settlement offer.
- The ability of the court to schedule a hearing and trial: If you go to court, the court’s calendar will probably affect the timing of your settlement. If the court is backed up with cases, hearing and trial dates can get pushed back by months. These types of delays can lead to one party getting tired of waiting and a settlement may be offered or taken.
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Much of the timing involved in settling a car accident claim comes down to you. If you need money for medical bills, lost wages, etc., you may decide to take less money with a quick settlement. There are cases where the at-fault insurance company can make a low-ball offer in a matter of days or a week or two. But you should be cautious about taking a low offer if you have more than minor injuries. Once you have signed the release waiver with a settlement, you cannot come back later seeking more money.
If you have more serious injuries, you should consider delaying the settlement and trying to get as much money as you can. You could have injuries that affect you for months or years, and you may need more medical treatment than you initially thought. Contact a personal injury attorney, who can advise you on whether it is advisable to take a lower, faster settlement or to hang on and try to get as much compensation as possible.
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