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How Long Does it Take to Get a Car Accident Settlement?

Written by Ankin Law Office

There is no hard answer to how long it takes to get a car accident settlement, as several factors affect how quickly a case settles. Car accident victims find themselves with physical injuries that often require medical treatment. Many victims also find themselves in debt due to their injuries which prevent them from working, and their medical treatment. Instead of proceeding through the lengthy litigation process, car accident victims may want their cases resolved via a settlement. 

Factors That Dictate the Settlement Process

The settlement process begins with the insurance company receiving an accident claim from the victim, or his or her lawyer. The purpose behind making a claim is to put the insurance carrier on notice and to allow them to investigate the collision. Depending on how much information is available versus how much has to be collected, an investigation could slow down the settlement process. Illinois law requires that an insurance carrier must complete its investigation within 60 days after receiving the claim. If information is readily available, it can be analyzed more quickly. In addition to investigating the collision, an insurance company must determine if the driver and his or her vehicle is properly covered by the insurance policy. Another factor that affects the settlement process is the severity of the victim’s injuries. Car accident victims often require medical treatment for severe injuries, which influences the amount of a claim.

Overview of the Car Accident Settlement Process

Initial Investigation

In cases where liability is clear, such as a rear end collision, the investigation is a simple process. If liability is not immediately obvious, the initial investigation will take more time. An investigation can be completed more quickly and accurately if all the parties collect information immediately following the collision. The Insurance company will want to speak with the drivers of both vehicles. The insurance company will attempt to obtain statements from any independent witnesses. Finally, the insurer will review evidence, such as the police report and property damage photos, if available.  

Liability and Insurance Coverage

The insurance company’s goal when conducting an investigation is to recreate how the collision occurred and determine which driver is at fault. Another factor that is evaluated by the insurance company is whether a victim can prevail at a trial should a claim proceed to litigation. The complexity of these issues can have an enormous impact on the settlement process. To win a car accident lawsuit, Illinois law requires a victim to prove all the elements of his or her case. A victim must prove the other driver caused the collision, and that the collision caused his or her injuries. Both of these issues must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, i.e., 51%.

The insurance company is also searching for evidence to support a possible legal defense. As the victim bears the burden of proof, the insurance company is evaluating whether the victim can meet this burden. The insurance company is also searching for evidence and evaluating whether the victim is partially at fault.  Under Illinois’s comparative negligence law, a victim can recover as long as he or she is not more than 50% at fault. If the insurance company’s investigation reveals the other driver caused the collision, or that the victim can win, they will likely accept liability, which can shorten the settlement process.

In addition to the issue of liability, the insurance company is also investigating and evaluating if they have to provide insurance coverage to the driver of their vehicle. The insurance company will verify whether the insurance policy was valid and in effect. The importance of insurance coverage is evident in collisions involving Uber vehicles. During a rideshare crash investigation, the insurance carrier is attempting to determine the status of the app and the vehicle. This is because rideshare companies, such as Uber, provide one million dollars of insurance coverage if the app was active, and if the driver has a passenger present in the vehicle. 

Injuries And Medical Treatment

The injuries car accident victims suffer often require some form of medical treatment. A victim’s medical treatment is a substantial factor in how long it takes for his or her case to settle. Collisions which are less severe usually require a victim to undergo a brief course of physical therapy to make a full recovery. Victims involved in severe collisions typically require emergency medical treatment. The severity of these injuries means victims must need extensive follow-up medical care such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and orthopedic care. This course of treatment can take several months, or longer if surgery is required.  Even after recovering, victims may require future medical treatment.

Prior Injuries

The settlement process, and the settlement award, can be affected if a victim has been involved in prior collisions or suffered prior injuries. While prior accidents or injuries do not preclude a settlement, these factors provide the insurance company with a defense. If the insurance company is unable to contest the issue of fault, it will instead argue the collision did not injure the victim. Some victims make the mistake of concealing their medical history from their treating doctor. This can hurt a claim. Insurance companies maintain a database of prior accidents in which drivers made claims for bodily injuries. A victim that conceals his or her prior injuries runs the risk of strengthening an insurance company’s defense and prolonging the settlement process. This is because the insurance company can argue the accident did not cause the victim’s injuries because the treating doctor was unable to rule out that the victim’s injuries were caused by prior collisions. Additionally, victims that conceal their medical history experience a prolonged settlement process as insurance companies subject their claims to additional review, and scrutiny.

Preparing Demand And Sending To Insurance

After a victim completes his or her medical treatment, a settlement demand is prepared and presented to the insurance company. A demand is a written document that is prepared by a car accident lawyer.  A demand describes the collision, outlines the victim’s injuries, medical treatment, medical expenses, lost wages, and the effects the accident had on the victim’s life. Gathering a victim’s medical records and bills, and wage information, for a demand is a time-consuming process, which can affect the overall settlement process timeline. This is because a settlement demand is how a victim claims his or her damages. 

Two types of damages are available, economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are the financial losses a victim has suffered, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Non-economic damages are the pain and suffering a victim suffered due to his or her injuries. To claim economic and non-economic damages, a demand must include all the victim’s medical expenses and wage information such as pay stubs and tax returns, and a description of how the injuries impacted the victim’s life. A complete and well-prepared demand is an effective tool when negotiating a settlement, as it explains to an insurance company why it is in their interest to resolve a case via a settlement agreement. 

Categories: Auto Accidents