Waiting for your personal injury claim to settle can be a test of patience. You might feel like you are not getting the attention you deserve, or that your case has slipped through the cracks, but this is not what is usually happening. Settling a case is actually a complicated legal process with a lot of moving parts, all of which take time to work through. Notably, no two personal injury cases are identical, so the time needed to settle each case will also vary.
Factors That May Prolong the Settlement Process in Car Accident Cases
Several reasons contribute to the length of time it takes to settle for car accidents related personal injury cases. Knowing how they work is useful not only for understanding why car accident settlements take a while but also for getting an idea of how long your particular case might take.
Your injuries and treatment
If your injuries are minor and the damage is not too serious, you are likely to get your check relatively quickly, possibly within a few months. However, if your case involves life-changing, serious injuries, the settlement process will probably take a lot longer.
In California, a “serious injury” refers to any injury that impacts your life in a major way. This can include, but is not limited to:
- Significant disfigurement: This could be extreme scarring or burns that visibly alter your appearance.
- Loss of a body part or function: This includes losing a limb, or losing the use of a body part like losing eyesight or hearing.
- Chronic pain: This refers to injuries that result in long-term, debilitating pain.
- Crippling fractures: These are broken bones that require extensive treatment or surgery.
- Brain injuries: This includes concussions and traumatic brain injuries that have long-lasting effects.
- Spinal cord injuries: These can cause paralysis or mobility issues.
If you have suffered this degree of physical damage, it will likely take weeks or even months to fully understand their lasting impact on your body. You can expect to have to wait until you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) — the stage where you have recovered as much as possible — before moving ahead with your case.
For instance, if you have a back injury from an accident, you would want to see how your medical treatment goes and whether you develop any long-term pain or physical limitations before you agree to a settlement. This helps make sure you are reaching maximum medical improvement and have fully accounted for the lost wages and pain and suffering damages before you finalize your settlement with the defendants.
The higher the severity of your injury, the larger your payout could be. Injuries like ongoing pain or permanent physical changes, tend to lean towards higher compensation amounts. This means insurance companies are more likely to engage in longer negotiations that could go on for a relatively longer time period.
Liability involves multiple parties
The task of proving who is responsible might also slow down the progress of your case. If you are working with an experienced car accident lawyer, they will try to identify all responsible parties, not just the driver.
The driver who caused the accident is the one obviously to blame, but sometimes, the designer or manufacturer of the car could also share some responsibility for a defective component. If the crash was caused by a ridesharing (like Uber or Lyft) driver, their company might also be held liable to some degree. In California, if a bar or store serves alcohol to a minor and that minor then causes an accident, that business’ owner can also be sued by the car accident victims.
The most common way to establish liability in personal injury claims is by showing negligence. To prove that the driver at fault was negligent and thus responsible, your car accident attorney will demonstrate the following facts:
- Every driver is legally bound to act in a way that prevents harm to others, which means they must drive safely.
- If a driver acts carelessly, like speeding or using their phone while driving, they fail to meet this obligation.
- The careless behavior of the driver led to the accident.
- This accident resulted in injury to you and your property.
Your law firm will methodically go through these points to gradually build the case to show how the driver’s negligence affected your life. This process can take some time; the more parties your personal injury lawyer has to investigate, the longer it will take.
Gathering strong evidence for your case
To build an ironclad personal injury case against the defendants and to compel the insurance adjusters to come up with a reasonable personal injury settlement offer, your lawyer needs to clearly prove the fault of the negligent parties. They do this by collecting as much evidence as possible, such as:
- Photos/videos taken at the scene of the accident
- Police reports from the accident
- Statements from witnesses
- Surveillance camera footage
- Black box data
- Testimony from accident reconstructionists and other experts
- Calculations of lost income or earning potential, both past and future
- All your health records and medical bills (related to the injury)
The insurance company will typically try their best to challenge your claim, so it is critical to have a capable attorney on your side with the skills and resources to collect and present compelling evidence. The more comprehensive your evidence is, the stronger your case will be – which means the other side will likely want to settle in your favor rather than face the jury.
Settlement negotiations and litigation process
Negotiating is a key step in obtaining the compensation that is rightfully yours. Once your personal injury attorney submits a proposal to the insurance company, they have to wait for the company’s response. This could easily stretch to several weeks.
It is almost never a good idea to accept the initial, lowball settlement offer from the defendants. Your experienced lawyer will be able to negotiate from a position of strength when they have clear evidence to prove liability, a formidable track record of settlements, and the ability to go to trial if necessary.
The negotiation phase in a car accident case concludes either when you agree to their offer that meets in the middle, or when it becomes evident that the insurance company would not provide a fair sum. If a fair car accident settlement is not forthcoming, the next step is to take your case to court.
Going to trial will extend your case’s timeline, but in exceptional cases, it may be the only option to get a payout that truly matches the value of your case.
Consult with an Experienced California Car Accident Lawyer Today
At the Law Offices of Brown & Gessell, our California car accident attorney will move fast to secure all possible evidence, and build a strong case for damages. We have the skills, experience, and resources to take on powerful defendants and large insurance companies. Our track record of successful settlements and verdicts speaks for itself.
The statute of limitations for filing a car accident lawsuit in California is two years from the date of the injury. So, the clock starts ticking from the moment of the crash. As slow as the justice system can be at times, it does give you an opportunity to stand up for your rights and your future. Call us at (209) 583-3938 or contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation for your car accident claim.