How Long Does A Car Accident Settlement Take: Factors Explained
How long does a car accident settlement take? It depends on many factors, but the four biggest factors are: what a person’s injuries are; the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits; the reputation and track record of the lawyer representing the person injured; and the insurance company for the at-fault driver.
I’ll explain each factor below.
Naturally, when people have been hurt in a car accident, they want to know how it will take to settle.
As with so many areas in law, the answer depends on understanding how a few key factors will affect the length of your case from crash to settlement. There is no “average time” for a car accident settlement in Michigan, or in any other state.
With this blog post, you will learn what those key factors are.
To learn about the settlements and verdicts that Michigan Auto Law attorneys have recovered for our clients, please check out our “Settlements” page.
To find out what your case may be worth, check out our “Car Accident Settlement Calculator.”
Factors affecting how long a car accident settlement takes
There are of course more than the four factors I’ve listed above that can also determine how long a car accident settlement will take. Some of these factors include:
- The state in which your car accident occurred. Was it a No-Fault state or a tort liability state?
- Your specific injuries.
- Are your injuries ongoing or resolved?
- What is your prognosis and future medical needs?
- Have your injuries fully resolved, or if they haven’t resolved, have you reached MMI (maximum medical improvement)? Or if you are still injured and treating, is there a time when your injuries are expected to be fully resolved by?
- Is there a possibility of partial or full disability from work?
- What is the future economic loss you face as a result of these injuries?
- Is liability clear? Was the at-fault driver at-fault in causing your car accident and is fault being contested by the wrongdoer driver? Anything less than 100% at-fault will usually make a pre-lawsuit car accident settlement more difficult and will require a lawsuit to be filed.
- The medical testing and diagnostics that confirm your injury. Remember, not all serious car accident injuries are even capable of being detected by diagnostic testing such as MRIs, CT-scans and X-Ray. A TBI is a great example of this, as are chronic traumatic headaches and complex regional pain syndrome.
- The extent to which your car accident-related injuries have resulted in an impairment that affects your ability to lead your normal life, if you live in a threshold injury law state like Michigan or New Jersey.
- The extent to which your car-accident related injuries have disabled you from returning to work and whether your claim for No-Fault wage loss benefits will exceed the monthly and/or 3-year limits allowed by law.
- The extent to which your accident-related medical bills will exceed the No-Fault PIP medical benefits coverage level that applies to your claim and whether you must sue the at-fault driver for “excess” medical benefits.
- What is the reputation of your lawyer? The insurance company evaluates the lawyer who represents you for your car accident settlement. Who that lawyer is and his or her reputation has an enormous impact on how quickly your case is settled – and on how large the settlement is.
- An experienced lawyer who has a reputation for taking cases to trial and a proven track record for trial can settle a case for more money and often much faster than, sadly, most personal injury lawyers out there today who always seem to cave before trial and take whatever insurance company low-ball car accident settlement offer is on the table. Insurance companies use claim evaluation software and they know which lawyers always settle – or undersettle – and which lawyers talk a good game but always take the last offer before trial. Everything is recorded these days, and who your lawyer is has become one of the most important variables that insurance companies use when assessing their risk.
- Do you have a lawyer? Research by the insurance industry itself shows that victims represented by a lawyer achieve a car accident settlement 4 times greater on average than without a lawyer (which is why so many insurance companies now bonus claims adjusters to try to settle cases quickly with crash victims before they can talk to a lawyer).
- Who is the auto insurance company for the at-fault driver? Every insurance company goes through a pendulum swing every couple years between trying to settle cases and playing hardball pushing cases to trial.
- Remember that insurance companies these days really aren’t insurance companies but financial companies who invest in stock markets and other areas, so their entire business model is to collect premiums and then avoid paying out on claims for as long as possible. The exception is when they feel they can get a car accident settlement quickly and save thousands of dollars on costs of defense and costs of litigation. In general, though, remember that insurance companies are earning interest on financial investments, so they will try to draw things out as long as possible. Some insurance companies deliberately use litigation to try to wear the victim or his or her lawyer down so they will accept a settlement below what the case is worth.
- The adjuster from the at-fault driver’s insurer. Some claims adjusters are better than others and some take their job more seriously than others.
- The insurance policy limits of the at-fault driver’s liability coverage.
- Determining how long a car accident settlement will take also depends the defense lawyer who is assigned by the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company to represent the at-fault driver. Even though a defense lawyer claims to be the individual at-fault driver’s lawyer, he or she is really the lawyer for the insurance company for that driver. This defense lawyer is looking out for the best interests of the auto insurance company that hires him and pays for his book of business.
- Is the case scheduled for trial soon? This is an important factor because the closer a trial date is, the more pressure there is to resolve the case. Going to trial involves risk and exposure, and insurance companies do not like risk or exposure, so there is often a balancing act between trying to hold onto a case as long as possible and trying to resolve the case before trial. The exception, which I sadly see far too often, is when plaintiff lawyers have a reputation of never trying a case or going to trial and always taking the last offer from the insurance company. Once a lawyer gets that type of reputation with insurance companies, it’s very hard to maximize a car accident settlement and most insurance companies will wait until the day of trial before making a less than full value offer.
- Has a lawsuit been filed or a demand for policy limits been made, triggering a potential bad faith claim? This will depend on the state where the car accident occurred and how strong or weak the bad faith law is in that state. Often during the discovery process, especially after key depositions of the at-fault driver or the insurance company adjuster, it becomes clear that the auto insurance company has no reasonable basis to continue its refusal to pay on the car accident victim’s injury claim.
- Having a lawyer who has a reputation and track record of taking cases to trial is, ironically, one of the best things you can do to settle cases faster and for more money without trial.
Need Help? Call Michigan Auto Law First
If you have been injured in a car crash and you want to know how long does a car accident settlement take, call toll free anytime 24/7 at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys. You can also get help from an experienced accident attorney by emailing [email protected] or you can use the chat feature on our website.