After a car accident, the financial pressures begin almost immediately. Medical bills need to be paid. The car needs to be repaired or replaced. If you can’t work due to your injuries, your income may dry up or disappear.
Yet even when you believe the facts are completely on your side, getting a fair settlement offer will take time—sometimes a lot of time. The insurance company is working on its own timetable, without a whole lot of concern for the pressures car accident victims face. In fact, they even use them to their advantage.
We know how stressful and frustrating this process can be. Our team of Louisville and Jeffersonville personal injury lawyers work hard to hold the insurers accountable and recover fair compensation as quickly as realistically possible.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss how long it takes to finally get the settlement you deserve, what factors can drag out the process, and why faster isn’t necessarily better when it comes to your car accident case.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a straightforward answer we can give you here, as there’s a very wide range of possible outcomes. Some simple, straightforward cases settle in as little as a couple of weeks. Others can drag out for two years or more.
A rough estimate of 9-18 months is typical for most car accident cases involving serious injuries or other complicating factors. But again, your specific car accident claim may settle earlier or later (or not settle at all, and go to trial) depending on the circumstances. No two cases are exactly alike.
We can give you a more accurate estimate of how long we think the car accident settlement process will take at your free consultation.
While we can’t tell you exactly how long your car accident claim will take to settle, we can highlight some of the most common factors that tend to drag out car accident settlement negotiations. Here are a few of the major ones:
The insurance company, first and foremost, is trying to save money. They want to close out personal injury claims as cheaply as they can. That’s why calculating your damages accurately is so important.
Depending on your case, you might be eligible for a variety of types of compensation:
In a no-fault state like Kentucky, your own car insurance will pay economic damages up to the policy limit, and any excess would be paid by the at-fault party. In a fault-based state like Indiana, you will demand compensation primarily from the negligent parties.
If your claim is a small one, with maybe only a few thousand dollars in claimed damages, the adjuster might approve it more quickly. Or, if it’s immediately clear that their driver is at fault and the damages you’ve suffered greatly exceed the maximum amount of coverage the policy offers, they may determine that quickly offering a policy limits settlement is going to be better than trying to fight.
But in general, if you have suffered serious injuries and are making a large financial claim, you can expect more pushback from the insurance company.
Calculating damages in large, complex car accident claims is a difficult process. It often relies on extensive medical records and expert testimony (to accurately estimate future costs), as well as subjective evaluations of pain, suffering, emotional trauma, and other non-economic damages that don’t come with a simple price tag.
In short, not only does the insurance company have a lot more to lose with big cases, but there’s also more wiggle room for them to try to minimize your pain and negotiate a smaller settlement.
Almost all car accident lawsuits are centered on the concept of negligence, even in a “no fault” state like Kentucky. People have a duty of care to one another while they’re on the road. If they do not exercise reasonable care, and someone is harmed as a result, they are responsible to pay for the injured party’s damages.
Unfortunately, in many cases fault isn’t completely clear. If there were no reliable eyewitnesses, and the other driver isn’t owning up to their misconduct, fault must be determined based on an analysis of whatever physical evidence is available: road debris, vehicle damage, skid marks, GPS data, and even surveillance footage.
Furthermore, there may be additional parties at fault. For example, this is often true in truck accident cases, when you may have a negligence claim against the driver, the trucking company, and others.
The murkier the evidence is, the more room the insurance company has to argue that their driver wasn’t responsible—or that you were also at least partly responsible. Countering these arguments often requires an extensive investigation, which may include speaking with experts in multiple fields, performing an accident reconstruction, obtaining any dash cam or security footage that may have been taken, and more.
And because of Kentucky’s pure comparative negligence law, if the insurance company can show that you’re even partially at fault, they can reduce the amount they have to pay you by the same percentage.
RELATED POST: How Do I Dispute Fault After a Car Accident?
You can, of course, file a car accident claim any time you wish, up to the statute of limitations. But there are risks to negotiating a settlement before your condition has stabilized and you’ve reached maximum medical improvement—or in other words, your doctor believes that no further progress in your recovery is realistically possible.
Every injury recovery process is different. Sometimes a doctor expects symptoms to go away within 2-3 months, but then they don’t. Other times, injuries linked to the car crash may not be obvious in the first few days after a car accident, but gradually reveal themselves over time.
Settle too early, before you can confidently say what your future medical care needs will be, or how long you’ll be out of work, and the consequences may be tragic. Be wary of pushy insurance adjusters who try to get you to sign on the dotted line while you’re still recovering from your injuries. This is one area where you should definitely wait.
Naturally, you want to settle your car accident claim quickly. You’ve got bills coming in, income drying up, and no clear idea when your settlement check is going to arrive—or if it will even arrive at all.
Unfortunately, an insurance adjuster might harness that desperation as a negotiating tactic. They’re hoping you get so fed up with waiting, so sick of the drama, and so ready to finally start fresh that you’ll take whatever the next car accident settlement check they throw at you is—even if it’s far less than what you deserve.
In a perfect world, you’d get the fair settlement you deserve quickly and efficiently. But in the real world, the auto insurance company is more than willing to outwait you if it thinks it gives them a stronger negotiating position.
While no one who has suffered injuries is happy about waiting months or even years to settle a car accident claim, it’s far better to fight for fair compensation than to take a quick, easy, and cheap settlement offer.
Once you settle, there’s no going back. If your settlement money isn’t enough to provide for you and your family over the long term, you don’t get a second chance to get more. Taking a few extra weeks or months to investigate and negotiate can feel awful in the short term. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s time well spent if you need that settlement to sustain you financially for a long time.
In the meantime, your car accident lawyer can work with you to stop the medical bills and other collectors from harassing you, and get them agree to wait until your personal injury claim is resolved. And once the settlement is finally reached, your attorney can negotiate those bills to help you settle those debts for less—and allow you to keep more of that settlement for yourself and your loved ones.
The statute of limitations sets a deadline for an injured person to file a lawsuit against the person or party that caused their injury. In Kentucky, you have only one year from the date of the accident to file. In Indiana, you have two years.
We’ve heard from many in our community who are confused about what this means, and unfortunately, we sometimes have to turn people away who have waited too long to file their car accident cases with the court.
There are three important things you should understand:
Why contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible? For one, while you may have a year to file a lawsuit, the evidence you will need to prove your case may not last that long. Crash sites get cleaned up, security camera footage gets erased, and medical records linking your injuries to the crash won’t get made if you don’t seek the proper medical treatment at the proper time by the proper specialists.
On top of that, it takes time to gather evidence, talk to witnesses, calculate damages, and prepare a case. You want to give your attorney as much time as possible to carry out these important tasks. For complex car accidents, one year—or even two years—is a lot shorter than you think.
Dealing with the insurance company after a crash is almost always stressful. While part of that anxiety comes from not knowing when (or if) your case will finally settle, the entire process can be physically and emotionally draining.
At Karl Truman Law Office, our goal is to take all that weight and stress off your shoulders, and fight to get you the best possible settlement while you focus on healing. We’ll handle the investigation, the paperwork, and negotiating with the insurance company on your behalf. We’ll always keep you informed about what we’re doing, never make any big decisions without your approval, and happily and promptly answer any questions you have about your personal injury case—whenever you may have them.
Often, we’re able to help personal injury cases settle faster by moving things along efficiently and knowing how to play hardball with the insurance companies. But as we said above, the most important goal isn’t ensuring your car accident claim settles as quickly as possible, no matter the consequences. It’s making sure you’re fully taken care of at every step of the process, and can walk away with the best possible result for your long-term physical and mental wellbeing.
If you’re looking for legal representation in the Louisville, Kentucky area (including Southern Indiana), we’d love to offer you a free consultation and case review. Contact our office today at (502) 222-2222 or complete the simple form on this page to get started.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.