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Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline

The majority of car accident cases are resolved through settlement negotiations between the injured party and an insurance company. Only a tiny percentage of car accident cases reach the court for trial. Car accident claims can often be favorably resolved without filing a lawsuit.

Read on to learn about the car accident settlement process and timeline.

Reporting Car Accidents

Most states require drivers to report car accidents to the local police department, county sheriff, or state highway patrol if there were injuries involved. Additionally, some states require a written police report of the accident if anyone was seriously injured, killed, or if there was severe property damage.

Check your state's law to find out the specific reporting requirements.

Car Insurance Laws

Almost all states require drivers to carry car insurance. Generally, there are two types of systems regarding car accident liability:

  1. At-fault system
  2. No-fault system

Your car accident settlement process will depend on which system your state follows.

At-Fault System (Traditional Insurance Coverage)

Most states follow the traditional fault-based system. In that system, the person at fault for a car accident is responsible for the resulting damages. Once it becomes clear that the other driver was at fault, you have the option to:

  1. File a claim with your own insurance company
  2. File a third-party claim with the other driver's insurance company
  3. File a lawsuit against that driver

Although you can file a lawsuit, keep in mind that choosing to file a suit opens the door for the other party to counter-sue you.

No-Fault System

If your state follows the no-fault system, you can collect economic damages (e.g., medical expenses and lost wages) regardless of who caused the accident. Your insurance company is required to pay you for personal injuries up to your policy limit. Under this system, you cannot sue the other driver, but the other driver can't sue you, either.

Car Accident Settlement Process

Settling your claim means resolving your dispute without going to trial, which is the way most car accident claims are resolved. Parties tend to settle before going to court because a favorable outcome isn't guaranteed in a jury trial. By filing an insurance claim, you can recover damages for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Pain and suffering damages resulting from your car accident

First, you will need to gather the necessary information and evidence that will support your claim. You must support your claim with evidence, such as:

  • Medical records
  • Medication lists
  • Medical treatment receipts, witness testimony, and photos

After you've gathered the necessary information and documents, you'll need to draft a demand letter setting out your claim, explaining your injuries, and laying out the damages you'd like to recover.

Once you send the demand letter, the insurance company will investigate your case and determine whether to accept or deny it. If the insurance provider accepts your claim, it will make a settlement offer.

At this point, both parties will negotiate to come to an agreement. If the company denies your claim, it will likely allow you to make an appeal to the claims adjuster. If you are suing the other driver, you will need to make an initial filing by drafting a complaint and submitting it to a county or district court.

Statutes of Limitations: Time Limit to File a Car Accident Claim

Every state has its own statutes of limitations, which are laws placing time limits on when you can file an injury claim. Depending on the state and whether the defendant was a government actor, you may have anywhere from less than a year up to six years to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for car accident damages.

The clock starts ticking from the moment of the car crash. After the time limit expires, you won't be able to sue the other driver and recover the damages for your car accident injury.

These serious injury cases require time for the accident analysis, for insurance companies to review the claim, for insurance adjusters to offer damages, and for personal injury lawyers to discuss the injury settlement.

If you've been injured in a vehicle accident and want to seek compensation for your medical care, reach out to an experienced attorney. They can gather evidence and help you recover a settlement check to cover the extent of your injuries.

What Is Maximum Medical Improvement in Personal Injury Cases?

Maximum medical improvement (MMI) refers to the point at which your medical condition has stabilized and is unlikely to improve with further treatment. MMI helps to determine the extent of your injuries and the likely cost of future medical care. This can affect the settlement amount.

Achieving MMI does not necessarily mean you're fully recovered. Rather, it signifies that your condition has plateaued. It's at this point that your doctor can provide a comprehensive prognosis, allowing your attorney to quantify your damages accurately.

How Does Maximum Medical Improvement Impact the Payout in a Car Accident Lawsuit?

Once MMI is determined, it allows your personal injury attorney to calculate the total medical costs related to the auto accident. This includes both past expenses and anticipated future medical needs.

Reaching MMI is typically a prerequisite before a final settlement offer is made. It allows for an accurate assessment of your damages. This is a critical step in ensuring that the settlement amount fully addresses your medical needs and that you aren't left with unforeseen medical expenses in the future.

What Are Depositions in a Personal Injury Claim?

Depositions are part of the discovery process in a personal injury lawsuit. During a deposition, the attorneys for both parties will ask questions to gather information about the case. The witness deposed, which could be you, the other driver, or any other witnesses to the accident, will provide statements under oath that can later be used at trial.

How Can Witness Statements Impact the Settlement Timeline?

Witness statements can both help and hinder the settlement timeline. They can speed up the process if they clearly support your version of events, potentially leading to an earlier settlement. However, if witness statements are inconsistent or conflict with your claims, they can lengthen the timeline as additional investigation may be needed.

How Is the Settlement Amount Determined in a Car Accident Lawsuit?

The settlement amount in an auto accident settlement is determined based on several factors, including the severity of the injuries, the amount of medical expenses, the impact on your ability to work, any pain and suffering, and the level of fault of each party involved in the accident.

How Long Does a Personal Injury Claim Usually Take?

The timeline for a personal injury claim can vary widely. It depends on many factors, including the complexity of the case, the willingness of the parties to settle, and the court's schedule. It could take anywhere from a few months to several years.

While it can be frustrating to wait for a settlement, remember that the goal is to get the best possible outcome for your case. This often takes time. Be patient as your attorney works to build a strong case on your behalf.

Learn More About the Car Accident Settlement Process: Call a Car Accident Lawyer

Auto accidents are subject to many state-specific laws, including statutes of limitations and damage caps for items such as medical bills. As a result, it's easy to underestimate your damages or even overlook important factors in your case.

If you're considering filing a car accident claim or have received a settlement offer, a car accident attorney at a personal injury law firm can help you make the right choices. Contact an experienced car accident lawyer for a free case evaluation.

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