Waiting is never easy, and rarely is that truer than when you’re waiting on a financial settlement after a car crash. Ideally, you’d have that money in your bank account before the first medical bill appears, but most of the time the car accident claim process isn’t that quick.
As experienced car accident lawyers, we get it. When you, or a loved one, are recovering from serious injuries, you want to focus on getting well and keeping the rest of your life intact. Dealing with the insurance company, and wondering when you’ll ever get the money you need for medical bills and lost wages, can be exhausting and even scary.
This article will give you a sense of how long your car accident settlement might take, and things that might be delaying the process. We’ll also explain how a personal injury attorney can support you throughout the entire experience.
The truth is that there’s no set amount of time it will take to get a personal injury settlement of any sort, and there’s no formula for figuring it out. It depends on the particular circumstances of your car case.
Fortunately, most car accident cases follow a general set of steps, so it’s easy to get a sense of where you are in the process, if not how long it will take. Small, simple cases might go through the steps in just a few weeks, while large, complex cases could plod along for a few years. Many cases fall somewhere in between and take 9 to 18 months.
Once your case gets going, a few things can slow the auto accident settlement process down. While these are important parts of the case, they have potential to create complexity.
One very important thing to remember when you’re trying to get a car accident settlement is the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations is the length of time you have to file a lawsuit for your injuries. In the vast majority of cases, this is a hard deadline, and a car accident lawsuit filed after that deadline will be dismissed.
In Oklahoma, the personal injury statute of limitations is two years from the date of the injury. We strongly recommend talking with an attorney sooner rather than later so that you’ll know whether or not a lawsuit is necessary long before you hit the statute of limitations.
You can get a sense of how long car accident settlements take when you know the general steps of a typical auto accident case.
Below, we’ll outline the basic steps from injury to trial, but keep this in mind. Not all personal injury claims lead to a lawsuit, and not all lawsuits end in a court trial. You could settle at any point, and it’s very common for the parties to agree to a settlement well before a trial becomes necessary.
Once you know what the injury costs you in terms of medical bills, lost income, and projected expenses, you can demand compensation from the at-fault party and their insurance company. Your car lawyer will send a demand letter outlining the amount of compensation you’re seeking, why you believe your demand is reasonable, and why their driver is liable for it.
While the initial demand letter is sometime accepted (depending on the circumstances), often the at-fault party’s insurance company won’t agree to the demanded amount without a counter-offer. A few rounds of negotiation might result in a settlement agreement. Or, you and your attorney may decide to escalate to a lawsuit.
A lawsuit begins when the injured party (plaintiff) serves the at-fault party (defendant) with a complaint. This must happen before the statute of limitations runs out, which is two years from the date of injury in Oklahoma.
This phase of investigation involves the parties gathering information from each other and other evidence to prove liability. Depending on the complexity of your car accident case, this could take a few months to more than a year.
Unless the parties immediately agree to a settlement amount after discovery, your lawyer will enter into more negotiations. It’s common for a few rounds of negotiation to result in a settlement agreement long before you feel the need for a trial.
When negotiations are complete and the defendant has agreed to a settlement, you can expect to get financial compensation without the need for a trial. Typically, you’ll have your settlement check within about 30 days from signing the agreement.
If negotiations break down, a court trial might be necessary. While you may spend several months to a few years getting to this point, the trial itself will probably only take a day or two. The trial’s outcome might be appealed, but if not, you could end up with a jury award.
Unfortunately, your bills and expenses don’t simply stop because you’re waiting on a settlement check.
If you need assistance paying for food, housing, and other necessities while waiting for financial compensation, talk to your attorney about pre-settlement funding. These loans are designed to help injured people maintain their livelihood, especially if they can’t work to their usual capacity.
Additionally, your attorney can work with hospitals and healthcare providers to discontinue any debt collection efforts until after your personal injury case has concluded.
Everything we’ve discussed here is made vastly easier with the help of an experienced personal injury attorney. Their familiarity with the process, and skills when it comes to negotiation, are invaluable for keeping things moving forward.
While hiring a car accident lawyer can make the process go faster in many cases, speed isn’t necessarily the most important goal—it’s about making sure your settlement adequately provides for your financial needs. In other words: fair compensation is better than a fast result. Once you settle, there’s no going back.
Prepare for this to take some time, certainly longer than accepting an initial offer from an insurance company. However, that time is well spent, increasing your chances of a full and fair settlement.
The sooner you talk to an attorney after being injured in a car crash, the sooner they can get to work, ensuring evidence is located and deadlines are met.
If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident in Oklahoma City, The Wolf Pack™ can help! We have an amazing, experienced team of lawyers and legal professionals at Colbert Cooper Hill Attorneys. With our years of knowledge and industry connections, we have what it takes to help you secure the financial compensation you need and deserve.
You’ll have peace of mind knowing we’re striving to build you the strongest case that we possibly can. Call (580) 271-9672 or fill out the online form to get your free case evaluation from The Wolf Pack™!
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.