After a serious car accident, most people are anxious to get back on their feet — both physically and financially. But how long does a car accident settlement take, and how soon can you receive compensation?
As unsatisfying as the answer may be, the truth is it depends. Many factors can impact your settlement timeline. And you should almost never accept the insurance company’s first settlement offer.
How Do Car Accident Settlements Work?
When you settle a car accident, you accept a lump sum of money. In exchange, you give up your right to take the case to trial. That means that once you settle your injury claim, you cannot go back and ask for additional compensation later on.
Injured claimants choose to settle for many reasons. Some people need financial assistance quickly. Others don’t want to take the risks associated with taking an injury claim to trial, especially if there are significant weaknesses in their case.
Insurance companies also like settlements, since they eliminate risk. And if the adjuster can get a settlement before a victim consults with a lawyer, it can save the company a lot of money.
When Should I Settle My Car Accident Case?
Ideally, you should wait until you are at maximum medical improvement (MMI) before they settle. You reach MMI once your injuries stabilize and you no longer need significant, ongoing medical treatment. While it doesn’t mean you’re pain-free and completely healed, you’re not facing another surgery in the near future. Your doctors are now focusing on managing your condition, rather than actively treating it.
Settling after you reach MMI offers a greater level of confidence. Once your condition plateaus, you will understand your future medical needs and you are less likely to develop a “surprise” complication or need emergency medical care. This can help you more accurately calculate your injury claim’s settlement value.
You should never settle a car accident claim before consulting with a car accident lawyer. Insurance adjusters frequently try to take advantage of unrepresented accident victims, offering them unfairly low settlements.
What Should I Do If the Insurance Company Asked Me for a Settlement Demand?
At some point in a car accident claim, the insurance company will typically ask you for a settlement demand. An experienced accident lawyer will carefully evaluate your claims and build compelling demand letters that outline your damages. Your demand letter should include:
- Summary of your claim, highlighting the factual and legal issues that strengthen it
- Detailed discussion of your medical treatment and anticipated needs
- An itemization of your damages, including lost income, medical bills, pain and suffering, and other expenses and losses
- How much you are willing to settle for, based upon the facts of your case and the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage
Once the insurance company gets our demand letter, they will usually respond within 30 to 60 days. Typically, your lawyer will negotiate with the insurer back and forth. They may even participate in alternative dispute resolution processes, like mediation, which can help you and the company find common ground.
We Negotiated a Fair Settlement. How Long Before I Get My Check?
Once you agree to a settlement, you will not immediately get your money. First, the insurance company will have to create settlement documents, which outline the terms of your agreement. Your attorney will then review them. Once these documents are deemed acceptable, you will sign and send them back to the insurance company. If you have already filed a lawsuit, you will also have to file them with the court. The insurer will not send you a check until all of this is completed.
In most cases, the insurance company will send your check to your injury lawyer, who will deposit it into their trust account. This is a special bank account that holds their clients’ money. Your lawyer will deduct their fees and legal costs from your settlement and may also pay your unpaid medical bills and liens with the money. After these expenses are resolved, you will receive the remaining money and an itemized statement explaining where the rest of your settlement went.
While we strive to make this entire process as efficient as possible, it may take a month or more to finalize your settlement and get it to you.
How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take? Call Us Today
At Petro Law Firm, we work closely with our clients to help them get the results they deserve as quickly as possible. If you’re eager to settle your claim, contact us today. We can help you understand your claim’s real value and expedite the settlement process.