How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?Auto Accidents
Every car accident is different, and there is no way to predict how long a settlement will take to finalize.
While you cannot accurately predict how long a settlement will take, you can discuss the specifics of your situation with a car accident lawyer. A lawyer can evaluate your case and advise whether they think it might settle sooner or later.
To learn more about car accident claims and the factors that affect the speed of settlement, continue reading. For more information, reach out to a car accident attorney.
What Is the Process of a Car Accident Lawsuit?
If you and your car accident lawyer cannot settle with the insurance company, the next step to pursue recovery is to file a lawsuit in civil court. Filing a lawsuit can intimidate you, especially if this is your first exposure to the court system. If you have the right attorney working for you, you need not stress the particularities that arise in a car accident lawsuit. Your lawyer will have experience with the process and procedures and can handle the claim for you.
Step One: File a Complaint
Filing a complaint starts a lawsuit.
Your attorney will file the complaint in the proper court and include:
- The names of each person or business you allege are responsible for your harm must be listed as a defendant in the complaint.
- A statement of jurisdiction. If you file the complaint in the wrong court, the court will dismiss the case. Depending on when the dismissal occurs, it may be too late to refile per the statute of limitations.
- A statement of the allegations.
- Your request(s) for damages. For example, if you want reimbursement for your lost income and medical bills, you must state that in the complaint.
Step Two: Serve the Defendant
Serving the complaint and summons on the defendant notifies them that you filed a lawsuit against them. Courts require proper service of process on defendants in a civil lawsuit. Proper service of process requires a person who is at least 18 years old and is not a party to the lawsuit. Some states require a signed copy of the summons to go back to the court and become a part of the court filings.
Step Three: Defendant Files an Answer
The defendant in a personal injury lawsuit has 30 days from the date they receive service to file an answer to the complaint (speak to a local personal injury lawyer to verify the deadline for filing a response). Depending on the state procedural rules, a defendant can file an answer, a motion to dismiss, or another pretrial motion that may resolve the case.
Step Four: Discovery and Depositions
As the lawsuit continues, you will participate in discovery. Discovery is the fact-finding stage of the case. Each party uses discovery to investigate the claims and build their case. Discovery is subject to procedural rules. An experienced car accident attorney knows how to request documents, pictures, statements, and answers to interrogatories in a way that does not violate the rules and protects your claim.
Your attorney will likely depose witnesses, and you might undergo a deposition yourself. Depositions happen outside of a courtroom, but witnesses provide formal testimony under the penalty of perjury. The parties, eyewitnesses, expert witnesses, and any friends and family that may provide relevant testimony can be deposed.
Depositions require preparation. Your attorney will work with you on how to answer questions if the opposing side requests your deposition. Your attorney will also represent your interests by deposing opposing witnesses on your behalf.
Step Five: Settlement Negotiations
Your car accident lawyer will work with the insurance company to try to settle the case. As the lawsuit remains pending, your attorney will work on your behalf to receive a satisfactory settlement from the insurance company.
An accident attorney may write a demand letter. A demand letter is a settlement attempt. In the demand letter, your attorney will outline your position. Sometimes a demand letter will include an itemization of your medical bills and lost income.
Call an accident attorney in your area if you have been in a car accident and suffered injuries. A car accident lawyer’s help will increase your potential for maximum recovery after a car accident.
Step Six: Trial Prep
If the insurance company is unwilling to settle for an acceptable amount, your case will proceed to trial. Trial preparation involves hard work, and you may not know how to do this if you do not have an attorney. If you suffered an injury in a car accident, call a personal injury lawyer in your area.
Trial prep begins at the initial consultation. When you and your lawyer agree to work on your case together, they start building your case. The right lawyer can give you the best chance of maximizing your compensation.
Before the trial begins, your lawyer will participate in jury selection. Jury selection is the process of choosing jury members. The jurors decide liability. During jury selection, the attorneys will ask the jury pool questions about any potential biases.
After jury selection is complete, your lawyer will present your case. Since you are the plaintiff, your side will go first. This is called your case-in-chief. During your case-in-chief, your witnesses will testify, and your side will present its evidence. After your case is over, the jury will review all the evidence presented and reach a verdict.
Your accident attorney will help you at each stage of the lawsuit. This process may seem intimidating to someone who has never been part of a lawsuit. That makes hiring an attorney to represent you essential. If you suffered an injury in a car accident, call a local personal injury lawyer to ensure you maximize your chances of getting the most out of your car accident lawsuit.
How Do I Collect My Judgment?
Getting a jury verdict in your favor is the first step to receiving recovery. Sometimes, a defendant cannot or refuses to pay the judgment against them. If that happens, you have options to help you receive the money the jury awarded you.
First, you and your attorney can work with the defendant and their attorney to create a payment plan. Often defendants will pay a judgment if they can make periodic payments. If you are willing to be flexible, your fight to get the money you deserve quicker.
Another option is filing a garnishment. A garnishment allows you to take a partial amount of the defendant’s regular income until the judgment is satisfied. A garnishment of wages is a new legal matter. You must file a new lawsuit. Your car accident lawyer may take your case if they have experience and are comfortable with garnishment cases. The attorney can refer you to a garnishment attorney if they are not.
You can pursue the defendant’s assets if the above options do not work out. This, along with a garnishment case, is one of the more extreme measures a plaintiff can take to get the money they deserve. Speak to your attorney to discuss this option.
Should I Hire an Attorney?
You should always hire an attorney after a car accident. Accident attorneys are advocates for their clients and work hard to ensure that their clients are taken care of and receive the compensation they deserve after they suffer injuries in an accident.
Examples of ways that an accident lawyer can help you have a successful outcome for your case include:
- Talk to the insurance company for you. Insurance companies are for-profit companies concerned about their bottom lines. Insurance adjusters try to avoid paying settlements to accident victims or pay the least amount of money to an injury victim to protect company profits. An accident lawyer cuts through the insurance company’s tactics and gets you the recovery you deserve.
- Help you get access to medical care. Some doctors are hesitant to treat accident victims. They want to avoid getting involved in a lawsuit. Your attorney may have relationships with doctors willing to help you and connect you with the care you need.
- Represent you at trial, if necessary. While most states allow accident victims to represent themselves at trial, presenting a compelling case before a judge or jury is a skill honed by experience. If you have suffered an injury in an accident, trust a local accident lawyer to take care of all the legal stuff, including representing you at trial.
What if I Cannot Afford to Hire an Attorney?
If you cannot afford an attorney, do not think that you are doomed to deal with your injuries. Many accident attorneys across the country represent accident victims on a contingency fee basis. A contingency fee agreement is a payment structure that a client and attorney enter into that defers payment until the end of the case.
The terms of the contingency fee agreement must be in writing, and the client and the attorney must sign the document. Make sure you understand all the agreement terms before you sign it. Do not hesitate to ask the attorney to clarify anything you have trouble understanding.
Typical terms of a contingency fee agreement include how litigation costs get paid and the percentage of the final settlement the attorney will receive as payment for their legal services.
Litigation costs are expenses that arise during the lawsuit. Litigation costs include filing fees, payment for expert witness testimony, money for copies, and postage. The attorney and their firm may pay litigation costs up front but will require reimbursement after the case is over. A client can choose to pay litigation expenses as the case continues.
The contingency fee agreement should clearly state the percentage of the settlement that the attorney receives. The rate will vary depending on the case.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney Today
If you have suffered an injury in a car accident, you should call an experienced car accident attorney. Hiring an experienced lawyer puts you in the best situation to recover maximum compensation for your injuries.
An accident attorney will advocate for you to have a successful outcome. Put your focus after an accident on recovering from your injuries. Hiring the right attorney ensures you can do so without the distraction of your legal battle. Contact a qualified accident attorney in your area today.
Nathan Hughey, an attorney and fourth-generation South Carolinian, founded Hughey Law Firm in 2007. Before that, he spent five years defending nursing homes and insurance companies. Leveraging his experience, he now advocates for those injured or wronged by such entities, securing over $220 million in verdicts and settlements.