How Long Does it Take to Resolve a Car Accident Case with Injuries?
After a car accident, you may face serious injuries and aches and pains. Getting things back to “normal” is the ultimate goal, and getting there may mean filing a lawsuit or an insurance claim to get benefits and damages. These payments for medical bills, vehicle damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering may take a while to get, and different routes to recovery can take different amounts of time.
Lawsuits for car accident injuries can often take around a year to get the damages you need, whereas insurance claims often pay damages within a few weeks or months. However, the payments from an insurance claim might not cover your case in full, and you may want to file a lawsuit instead. In any case, the amount of time that the case takes is heavily dependent on how bad your injuries were and how complex your car accident case is.
The Queenan Law Firm in Arlington have personal injury lawyers who also help represent car accident victims across the region. We fight to get you compensation no matter how long it takes – and we offer free legal consultations to help you examine your options. For your free case consultation, call us at (817) 476-1797 today.
How Long Does a Lawsuit for Car Accident Injuries Take?
In any court case, the amount of time that the case takes will always depend on a few different factors. First, the overall harm caused by the accident is going to affect how long the case takes. Cases involving death or permanent injuries often take longer simply because it is important to pin down exactly what facts led to the injury and ensure that the right parties are being held accountable – which takes reasoned deliberation. Second, the complexity of the case is going to make the case go faster or slower. More complex cases involve…
- Multiple cars,
- Multiple defendants,
- Multiple insurance companies,
- Difficult facts, or
- Unique situations.
These cases are often harder to explain, involve more evidence, and involve more people that need to give depositions. Cases involving two drivers and simple facts tend to go faster.
In car accident cases, lawsuits often take around a year to complete. This means that from the time of the car accident, you may be able to complete the case in about 12 months, give or take. This is only true if you speak with a lawyer promptly after the injury and get the case filed within a few weeks. The longer you delay before speaking with a car accident expert, the longer it will take to complete your case.
How Long Does an Insurance Claim Take for Car Accidents?
If you want to file a car insurance claim for damages, this could pay damages quicker than a lawsuit. However, insurance companies may slow down cases that have high-dollar values or involve severe injuries, potentially leading to appeals or litigation. In the end, it is important to check with a lawyer about whether an insurance claim is worth it at all in your case.
Auto insurance is designed to pay damages after an accident so that you can avoid the time and hassle of going to court. Unfortunately, the insurance industry has become bloated and bogged down with technicalities and bureaucratic issues that often mean an insurance claim requires just as much hassle as a simple lawsuit. If your insurance company requires you to submit paperwork, reviewing each set of papers could take 5-7 business days or more, depending on what the insurance adjusters are looking for. Furthermore, insurance companies often require their own reviews from auto body shops, appraisers, adjusters, and maybe even doctors. This could slow down the case in many surprising ways.
How Long Does it Take to Appeal a Denied Auto Insurance Claim?
If an insurance claim is paid promptly, you could receive payments for medical bills within a few weeks of your car accident injury. If the case is stalled, you could end up going weeks, months, or even years without getting payments. If insurance claims are denied, you may need to appeal the claim to get the benefits you deserve. This could involve a long process that might ultimately require you to take the insurance company to court anyway – potentially taking longer than the initial lawsuit would have taken.
An insurance policy is a contract between the policyholder and the insurance company that says when the insurance company is required to make payments. However, insurance companies often have ways of denying policies – sometimes on dubious legal grounds – to avoid making payments. Insurance companies may deny claims based on any of these issues:
- Missed or delayed insurance premiums
- Missing records of payments
- Missing records of claims
- Claims based on intentional acts
- Claims outside the scope of coverage
- Missing records regarding what vehicle/driver is covered
- Cancelled policies
In some cases, insurance companies may even be acting in bad faith. Insurers are required to make a good faith attempt to pay all damages that fall under the terms of the policy, but if the insurance company does not do this, you could be entitled to sue them for bad faith insurance.
When you have to take an insurance company to court to force them to pay the damages they should have paid months ago, the claim could end up taking longer than it would have if you went straight to court in the first place. At this stage, a trial against an insurance company could take just as long as the lawsuit against the at-fault driver would have taken, plus you still need to get damages for the accident.
Talk to a lawyer for help if your insurance company is being difficult or demanding.
Why Do Car Accident Lawsuits Take So Long?
Car accident lawsuits take time because of the way the legal process works. Everywhere in the United States, trials are run by courts under a system where each side gets notice of what’s happening in the case and an opportunity to be heard. It is said that we do not run trials based on “surprise,” and instead, each side gets fair access to all of the evidence, witnesses, and information involved in the case. They also get time to research their arguments and check for legal precedents before being expected to appear before the court or present the case at trial.
As such, there are many steps to a civil trial for a car accident lawsuit:
The first thing you file in a car accident lawsuit is the “complaint.” This document tells the court what happened, according to your side of the story, and what damages resulted from the accident. It also contains facts detailing why the defendant is the one who is at fault.
The defendant gets to present a counter to this complaint, known as the response. Here, they will usually try to argue that they were not at fault and that it was simply a freak accident – or they will try to shift the blame back to you. Collectively, the complaint and response are known as the “pleadings.”
The defense is given time to respond to your motion, and then the court might ask for a response to their response, and then that repeats. The initial stages of the case continue like this until the legal questions at this stage are resolved and the case moves on to evidence collection.
The stage of trial where each side exchanges evidence and takes depositions from witnesses is known as “discovery.” During this stage, both sides request pictures, videos, records, and other evidence from the other side. Essentially, all of the facts are laid on the table for both parties to see so that they can decide how to move forward and how to build their case.
In depositions, both sides’ attorneys ask the witness (which could be an independent witness, the victim, or the defendant) questions as if they were testifying. These records are often used later to help speed up the case.
Pre-Trial Conferences and Settlement Negotiations
During and after discovery, both sides will usually sit down to negotiations. Sometimes the judge is present at these negotiations. Usually, judges try to get both sides to settle the case without trial, since that allows them to save time and resources for the court.
Settlement negotiations often involve offers from either side to end the case and accept or pay damages now. Often, the plaintiff/victim will be able to settle a case and cancel their claims against the at-fault driver if the defendant offers to pay for all of their damages. If the payment is close to how much they need, it might still be a good idea to settle anyway since you save some extra time and money by stopping a lawsuit early (as compared to the money you’d spend to go to trial).
Often, defendants will start with a low offer and plaintiffs will start by rejecting that offer. Eventually, they may be able to come to an agreement that satisfies both sides – but if not, negotiations can end and the case can proceed to trial.
The decision of whether to accept a settlement or go to trial is your choice, not your car accident lawyer’s. Ultimately, the vast majority of car accident cases are settled without trial, but that does not mean settlement is right for your case. Talk with your car accident lawyer about what’s best, but keep in mind that you usually cannot settle and then claim additional damages later. A settlement usually involves an agreement not to pursue further claims.
If the case cannot be settled, it may proceed to trial. During trial, the plaintiff presents their case to the judge and jury first. The defense gets to cross-examine witnesses and evidence, then they get to present their own side of the case. During the defense’s case, the plaintiff gets to cross-examine.
The trial will start with opening statements from both sides that lay out what facts the jury should expect to see and what details the lawyers would like them to pay attention to. This is where your lawyer will explain the basic facts of the case, what the other driver did wrong to cause your crash, and what damages you faced because of the crash.
At the end of the trial, each side will give closing arguments. This is where they sum up the evidence and argue to the jury why that evidence proves their side is correct.
Settlement negotiations can continue throughout your car accident case. In many cases, trials end early because the parties have reached a settlement, and they do not need to proceed to a jury verdict. If the case is not settled, then the jury will rule for whichever side won. If you proved your case “by a preponderance of the evidence” and showed that the defendant was at fault, you should win the case. The jury will calculate damages on their own, potentially awarding higher or lower damages than what you initially claimed.
Factors that Extend the Length of a Car Accident Claim
We’ve already mentioned some factors that make a case take longer, such as increased harm or increased complexity. In the specific context of a car accident claim, these factors can greatly influence how long your case takes to finish and when you can get the payments you deserve.
If the crash involved multiple cars, it can become harder to sort information and determine who contributed to the crash. Ultimately, courts can order multiple drivers to pay damages, with each one covering their fair share of the damages they caused. But this still often means the case takes longer since each driver is going to have their own insurance companies or lawyers involved.
Crashes with Commercial Drivers
If you were hit by a taxi, a tractor-trailer, a bus, or another commercial vehicle, the case could take longer because you will also be suing the transportation company. When you sue a commercial driver, you can also typically sue their employer for the accident – which means suing a taxi company, trucking company, bus company, or other party. When you sue these parties, they often accept liability on behalf of their drivers, but the case could be more complex because they may use high-powered legal teams, or the driver and the company will each have their own lawyers.
Many car accidents happen in the same, common ways: one driver runs a red light and T-bones another car; one driver rear-ends the other because they were tailgating them; a drunk driver speeds across the solid yellow lines and causes a head-on crash. In these kinds of cases, it is often clear who caused the crash, and it just becomes a matter of proving it in court. In some cases, awkward street signs, strangely shaped intersections, and unclear stories from both sides could prove to be harder to understand. If your case involves complex, unique facts, it may be harder to build the case and explain why the other driver is at fault – meaning we will need stronger evidence and full witness statements to prove the case. That could take longer to collect and sort through.
Insurance companies and at-fault drivers want to limit how much they end up paying. If the injuries you faced are severe and the damages are expensive, the defense is more likely to put up a strong defense to try to avoid liability and avoid high-dollar payouts. If you suffered expensive injuries, however, you may really need to get those damages covered or else risk going into debt. Working with a lawyer can help you build a strong case that is able to stand up to insurance companies and defendants, but it may take some time.
Can I File an Insurance Claim While I Wait for My Car Accident Lawsuit to Resolve?
Since car accident lawsuits can often take a long time, many drivers wonder if they can file an insurance claim in the meantime. In states like Texas, insurance claims work on an “at-fault” basis. This means that the driver who caused the accident’s insurance company is the one who pays for damages. Contrast this with a “no-fault” system, where each driver’s insurance covers their own injuries. Under no-fault systems, you may still be able to claim damages against the other driver’s insurance if the accident meets certain thresholds.
If you are filing a claim against the other driver’s insurance and you accept the insurance payout, this will typically function as a settlement. That means that your case will end there, and you cannot go to court later to get additional damages because you already agreed to settle the case. In some cases, your first-party benefits (like those in a no-fault insurance system) will cover some of your injuries and damages regardless of who was at fault, but again, this might interfere with your ability to claim damages later in court.
You should always speak with a lawyer if you suffered physical injuries in a car crash. There may be multiple routes to recover compensation for your medical bills and other damages, but they are not always compatible with each other. You should not trust your insurance company to clearly explain this to you, either. A car accident attorney, on the other hand, has an ethical requirement to have your best interests in mind. They can work to protect your rights and help you get the compensation you actually need rather than whatever compensation the insurance company is willing to pay in a settlement.
How Long Does It Take to Get Paid After an Insurance Settlement?
If your case has ended and you need to get the money you were promised in the settlement, it may take different lengths of time depending on how the settlement was set up.
Some settlements are paid in a lump sum, which means that all of the damages should be paid soon after the settlement. This usually happens when an insurance company is involved, as they have the means to pay large sums all at once. If you are receiving a lump sum settlement, it should usually be paid within the first few weeks after the settlement. In most cases, the settlement agreement will specify when the payment will be made.
Other settlements use an annuity so that the victim gets paid a portion of the damages at regular intervals after the settlement. Structuring a settlement or putting settlement money into a trust might be essential if you receive other benefits, such as disability payments. Speak with a lawyer about whether this is right for you. Either way, an annuity is expected to be paid on time according to the terms of the settlement agreement.
If at any point the defendant or their insurance company refuses to pay or is late on their payments, you can often go to court to enforce the settlement agreement or court order. Your lawyer can help take the case back to court to have a judge order payments and put additional weight behind the settlement agreement. If the defendant does not have the money to pay the settlement as promised or cover the court-ordered damages, the court could potentially go after their property, garnish their wages, or go after the insurance company for payments.
If there are complications like this, it may take longer to get you the damages you need, but your attorney will be with you every step of the way.
Call Our Car Accident Attorneys for a Free Case Consultation
If you or a loved one was involved in a car accident and suffered serious injuries that require a lawsuit or insurance settlement, call a car accident lawyer for help first. The Queenan Law Firm’s experienced Arlington, TX car accident lawyers offer free consultations on new cases. Call (817) 476-1797 today.