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Columbia Personal Injury Attorney > Blog > General > Car Accident Settlement Process & Timeline

Car Accident Settlement Process & Timeline


One of the worst things about a car accident is the level of inconvenience it can add to one’s life. Indeed, in addition to dealing with serious injuries—which many people suffer in a car accident—you’ll also need to figure out and schedule car accident repairs, pay for medical bills, get the other driver’s information, and spend hours on the phone with insurance adjusters figuring out who will pay for what. This can be extremely frustrating and exhausting, especially for those who have suffered serious physical harm as a result of a crash.

To help take some stress out of the process, here’s an overview of the car accident settlement process and timeline. Note, however, that the timeline can vary significantly depending on many factors. For assistance with your case, schedule a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer at the Marc Brown Law Firm.

An Overview of the Settlement Process

Here is a general overview of how the car accident settlement process and claims process flows, but remember it is usually best to speak with an experience attorney as soon as possible after the accident. In general, here’s what you can expect:

  1. Accident occurs. Drivers report the accident to the police, seek medical care, and exchange information.
  2. Injured parties seek medical care and treatment (until reaching Maximum Medical Improvement).
  3. The insurance company is notified of the accident and the claims process is started.
  4. The insurance company requests a statement from each driver and opens an investigation into the crash.
  5. The insurance company concludes the investigation. At this time, they will either offer the claimant a settlement or deny the claim.
  6. If the claim is denied, the claimant will likely have to file a lawsuit to receive compensation.
  7. If a settlement is offered, the claimant has the right to reject this settlement, or enter into negotiations.
  8. Negotiations ensue. If no settlement is reached, the case may proceed to litigation.
  9. A lawsuit is filed (assuming the case isn’t settled).

If a lawsuit is filed, this will start a whole additional process—the litigation phase. The litigation process will be characterized by filing pleadings and motions, the discovery process, and perhaps a trial if mediation is unsuccessful. Note that most claims settle before ever going to court. This is typically a win-win for both parties, as insurance companies don’t want to spend the resources that litigation requires, and a claimant typically just wants to get a fair settlement and move on with their life. Litigation is both costly and time-intensive.

What Things Can Affect the Settlement Timeline?

While the process typically unfolds in the order explained above, there some factors that can affect how much time each stage requires. Namely, the three stages of the process that can vary dramatically in how much time they take include:

  • Reaching Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
  • Investigating the accident
  • Negotiating a settlement

Here is some more information on each of these phases:

Reaching MMI

It’s important that a claimant reaches MMI—the maximum extent to which they are expected to heal—before issuing a demand letter and settling their claim. If a claimant attempts to settle before reaching MMI, they may learn later that their injuries require more care (and more money) than they expected, which may mean that they didn’t receive the compensation award that they really needed.

How long it takes to reach MMI can vary significantly. Those with minor injuries may reach MMI within a few weeks or months, whereas those with more serious injuries may not know what the healing process will look like for months or longer.

Investigating the Accident

A less serious accident that only involves one or two parties may not require much of an investigation, especially if all parties involved agree on fault. However, a more complicated accident—such as a truck accident involving three passenger vehicles, a truck driver, and the potential negligence of a fatal injury—is much more complex. For this type of case, experts may need to be called upon, and the accident could take months to investigate. This could significantly delay the settlement process.

Negotiating a Settlement

Finally, another thing that can really draw out the process is negotiating a settlement. While you may want to wrap up the process as soon as possible, you surely don’t want to do this at the cost of receiving less than you deserve. Hoping to take advantage of your desire for expediency, an insurance adjuster may lowball your claim.

Typically, claims where damages are significant (i.e. large amounts of medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, etc.) or where there are disputes about fault and liability are more difficult for parties to settle. This is because there is more on the line for both parties involved. If you have been seriously injured, you can expect a longer car accident settlement process.

With the above in mind, know that a car accident claim could take weeks, months, or even a year or longer to settle depending on various factors.

An Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Can Help

If you have been in a serious car accident, you deserve a serious lawyer. When you call the Marc Brown Law Firm, we will guide you through the entire process. This starts with a free case consultation where we will review the details of your accident and provide you with our opinion regarding how much time your case may take to settle. We can also outline your options and what we believe your claim’s chances of success are.

If you do decide to hire us, we will work hard for you. We want to settle your claim quickly, but never to the point where a quick settlement means you walking away with less than you deserve. We will always work to put your best interests first.

To learn more about the car accident settlement process and timeline and how our lawyers can be of assistance, contact us today.

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