Most auto accident victims want to put the trauma of a car crash behind them as quickly as possible. When potential clients talk to me about their car accident, one of their most pressing questions is “How long will it take to settle my car accident claim?” When I explain that the answer depends on many factors and I don’t yet have enough information to answer, their next question is “What is the average time for a car accident settlement?”
Because every car accident is unique, there is no average time for a car accident settlement. There are, however, several factors that affect whether and when a case might settle. Understanding these considerations may provide some clarity about the process that will lead to a settlement. These factors also help explain why there is no average time for a car accident settlement.
What is a car accident settlement?
A car accident settlement is an agreement to settle the insurance claim. The parties to a car accident settlement are usually the car accident victim and the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If the case does not go to trial, at some point the insurance company offers to pay the victim enough that the victim feels he or she is fairly compensated for the damages, and therefore accepts the offer. Formal settlement documents are written that include the terms of the offer. Both parties then confirm the agreement.
When does a car accident settlement occur?
The parties can agree to a car accident settlement at any point before a final verdict or judgment in a trial. There is no average time for a car accident settlement—some settlements are reached within weeks or months of a car crash, and others take years. In a simple collision with some property damage and minimal injuries, calculating damages is straightforward. If no one disputes who caused the wreck, the parties can agree to a car accident settlement relatively quickly.
Conversely, if the parties disagree about who caused the crash, they are unlikely to reach a quick agreement. Settlement negotiations will also take time if the crash causes serious injuries because calculating damages after a serious accident is complicated.
In my car accident law practice, I have helped thousands of car accident victims reach fair settlements. When a car accident victim has serious injuries, I caution against settling too quickly. Although clients may want to resolve the case and move on in their lives, a fair settlement usually cannot be reached until the victim has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is the point at which an injury is completely healed or not expected to get any better. Any remaining impairment after MMI is considered a permanent condition. Permanent conditions may require ongoing care or management, which often has costs. Permanent conditions also affect a person’s quality of life and should be factored into the pain and suffering calculation.
To summarize, the following factors affect what might be considered an average time for a car accident settlement:
- Determination of which driver caused the car crash
- Amount of property damage
- Extent of bodily injury
- Length of time needed for the accident victim to reach MMI
What leads to a car accident settlement?
The most important factor in settling an auto accident claim is whether the victim feels fairly compensated. When the insurance company makes an offer that the victim feels is fair and just, given the victim’s injuries, expenses, and time and energy, the case will settle.
Factors A Car Accident Victim May Consider Before Settling
When a client is considering a settlement offer, we look at
- how much time has passed since the car crash
- how close the offer is to our valuation of the case
- the amount the victim will receive after expenses and fees
- the likelihood that the insurance company will increase the offer
- the likelihood of winning a higher amount if we go to trial.
Going to the extra expense, time, and emotional investment of going to trial is only worth it if the victim is likely to receive considerably more money than offered in a settlement. The trial verdict must be high enough to cover the costs of the trial and to make up for the passage of time. Once trial costs and other fees are calculated, a higher award from a trial may only translate to $5,000 more for the victim. Whether waiting an additional nine months to two years is worth an additional $5,000 is an individual decision.
When discussing the option of a trial with my clients, we also consider whether the court might award punitive damages and whether the victim has personal, non-economic reasons for proceeding to court. Some victims strongly feel a need to “have their day in court,” even if it may not lead to more money.
Factors An Insurance Company May Consider Before Settling
An insurance company’s goals include minimizing payouts and controlling risks. A trial can lead to unpredictable results. To avoid the uncertainty of a trial verdict and retain some control over the amount paid, insurance companies usually settle.
Insurance companies also settle when they think they will probably have to pay more if they go to trial. In calculating the likelihood of a court award, insurance companies consider the victim’s attorney’s track record. Insurance companies do not want to go up against attorneys who win a high percentage of cases they take to trial. They also don’t want to engage in lengthy settlement negotiations with attorneys who settle many claims for large amounts. The insurance company would rather dispose of cases with these attorneys as quickly as possible.
Insurance companies use specialized software programs to calculate the value of a case. If a victim supports her claim with evidence and her demand falls within the range of value the insurance company has assigned to the case, the company will likely settle.
What prevents a car accident settlement from being reached?
In about 5% of personal injury cases, parties cannot reach a settlement. In these cases, the parties go to court. The two leading reasons car accident claims go to trial instead of settling are disagreements about who caused the car accident and the value of the damages.
Is there really no average time for a car accident settlement?
Each accident involves a unique combination of cause, fault, property damage, injuries, recovery process, background of the drivers, and available evidence. The insurance company and the victim consider all these factors and more. This means that there is not an average time for a car accident settlement.
An experienced car accident attorney can review the evidence and estimate the time it will take for your individual case to settle. A skilled accident lawyer can also shorten the time it takes to reach a settlement or decision to proceed to trial.
How a Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
Your Injuries Are Personal To Me
I have successfully represented thousands of car crash victims in negotiations with insurance companies. My experience in gathering evidence, putting together a persuasive claim, and understanding how insurance companies work will help you receive just compensation as quickly as possible.
Because your injuries are personal to me, I will handle every aspect of your case and make sure you receive maximum compensation.
Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks at 888-394-1174 or use the convenient online contact form to schedule a free consultation. You are under no obligation and you will never pay any money unless you recover damages for your injuries. I offer bilingual services and I am available 24/7 to talk to you about your case.
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