“It depends.” The universal lawyer response. Whether your accident was in San Diego or another part of California, the answer is that it really can take a few months to a few years. Understandably, most people injured in a car accident want to move on. But it’s important to make sure the right steps are taken after a car accident. Seeking immediate medical attention, understanding insurance companies play tricks, and waiting too long can all affect the length and strength of your case or claim.
What determines how long a car accident claim takes?
The first thing that needs to be resolved is to determine the at-fault party. In these cases, it’s possible to settle in a few months. Unfortunately, even “clear cut” cases can take longer due to the insurance company’s review or disputing the amount of injury. The following are factors that will affect the timing of a car accident claim:
Seriousness of Injuries. For the most part, this is fairly self-explanatory. If the accident and injuries weren’t substantial, there is no dispute as to who’s at fault, and there aren’t high medical bills or treatment, then this type of case can settle in a few months. However, if the accident and/or injuries are much more serious, there is a dispute as to who’s at fault or the damages to the injured party, then it’s possible a lawsuit will need to be filed (see below for more).
Every lawyer must not only accurately outline your damages, but has an ethical duty in regard to your health. Once a settlement is reached, the injured party signs a “release of claims.” A release means they cannot sue on any future damage incurred from the car accident (i.e., if a settlement is accepted and release is signed, the injured party cannot later go back and say they need surgery and seek compensation for those additional injuries). So in some cases, it may be necessary to see how the injured party responds to medical treatment.
Type of Injuries. Injuries like whiplash, chronic generalized pain, and soft-tissue injuries are all red flags to the insurance company. This is due to the subjective and generalized nature of the claim and there is a higher chance for fraud. Despite usually being smaller claims, insurance adjusters look at these more closely than others, which can cause further delay in a claim being settled.
Insurance Company Cooperation. California law requires insurance companies must conduct their investigation in a “reasonable time.” They must either deny the claim or offer a settlement within 40 days of receiving a proof of claim unless a reason is offered in writing as to why they cannot. After that they have 30 days to update with reasons why. However, insurance companies use delay tactics to try to find ways to reduce or deny claims.
Lawsuit. If a claim is denied or the insurance company gives a lowball offer, the injured party must decide what they want to do. They can appeal a denial, accept the low offer, try to re-negotiate or file a lawsuit.
If the insurance company tries to lowball the injured party, a lawsuit may be filed seeking damages within two years of the date of the accident. If a case goes to trial, a final outcome may take up to two years or longer.
There is no simple answer to the question of how long a case can take. Just like there is no simple answer to “how much is my case worth?” Every car accident case is unique and the timeframe and damages can vary widely. It’s best not to wait and to speak to a knowledgeable car accident lawyer who understands the process. A well-negotiated claim that takes a bit longer may be better for the recovery process than a short and undervalued quick settlement.
My name is Daniel Hanecak and I am a San Diego Car Accident Lawyer. I know from personal experience how stressful and time consuming a car accident can be. When you call Hanecak Law Inc., you will speak with me directly. It is my aim to provide you with free and friendly advice. Call me today at (858) 206-4326 for a free case evaluation.