After an injury, you need money to recover lost wages and pay bills. That’s why our Kansas City law firm pushes to resolve cases as quickly as possible. But we don’t simply stop there: our car accident attorneys also fight to recover the maximum amount for every one of our clients.
Ask a Car Accident Attorney: How Long Does It Take to Get a Settlement?
The answer to this question depends on if your settlement is the result of an agreement or a court order. With a settlement agreement, you can reasonably expect to receive a payment within 20 to 30 days.
If you receive a settlement award following a personal injury trial, payment will typically be released within 30 to 60 days after the judgment. Should the defendant (insurance company) fail to pay your settlement in a timely manner, interest charges and penalties may incur.
Some Key Steps Are First Required
Before you can get to the settlement stage, however, you must follow a series of key steps, the first of which is being seen by a doctor after your accident. Not only does medical attention improve your chances of making a full recovery, but it’s also important to have documentation in your medical records that you immediately sought treatment. This could impact the outcome of your lawsuit.
The second step involves reporting your injuries to your car insurance provider – the sooner the better. Your next call should be to a Kansas City car accident attorney who can help calculate your financial losses relative to the accident. These include:
- Current and future medical bills
- Vehicle damage
- Present and future income loss
- Pain and suffering damages
After calculating these figures, your attorney will assemble a settlement demand package and send it to the insurance company. Included within that package will be a letter requesting a specific amount of money. Many times, insurance companies prefer to negotiate until a final number is reached. If that number is both fair and reasonable to you, you have the option of accepting it. A settlement agreement will then be entered into and the case closed.
Filing a Lawsuit
If negotiations do not yield a fair settlement offer, you must proceed to the next step: filing a lawsuit against the party responsible for causing your injuries. This can be one or several different parties, including the driver of the other car, the car manufacturer in the case of a defect, or the bar that served alcohol to the driver who hit you.
A lawsuit requires that your lawyer file a petition with Kansas or Missouri state courts. The defendant can then file a response, and case documents get exchanged between legal teams. This process is known as written discovery and is often accompanied by depositions in which lawyers interview accident witnesses to strengthen their arguments. In a deposition, witnesses swear oaths to provide truthful answers.
Mediation Before Trial
The presiding judge often requires a case to be mediated before going to trial. An impartial mediator will facilitate discussions, and many times, a settlement is reached. If it’s not, however, you and your lawyer will prepare for trial, proceed with the jury selection process, and present your evidence. If a jury rules in your favor, they’ll also decide your damages. The judge will then sign an order that requires the defendant to pay the amount of money awarded to you.
When Delays Occur
We’ve presented this process in a simplified way so you understand the sequence of steps necessary to settle your case. But not every case goes through every step, and just as importantly, delays sometimes extend the time required to reach a settlement.
Ongoing Medical Treatment
For instance, if you’re still receiving treatment for your accident-related injuries, it’s difficult to accurately value your claim. You could choose to settle before reaching your maximum medical improvement (MMI), but this increases the likelihood that you’ll receive less than your claim is worth. It’s generally best to wait until you’ve been fully treated before settling your case.
Sometimes, the long-term impacts of car accident injuries can never be resolved. Permanent impairments and/or functional limitations are likely to need indefinite medical attention; in these cases, your car accident attorney will use statements from treating physicians and medical experts to estimate the costs of your future treatment. These costs can then be included in the settlement letter sent to the insurance company.
Unknown or Disputed Facts
Another hurdle arises when the person responsible for causing the accident is disputed. Your attorney will need to assemble as much evidence as possible and investigate the facts to clearly document for the insurance company why you were not at fault. Even when your position is well supported, the insurance company may side with their insured driver – even if he or she is not providing truthful statements.
When liability is difficult to prove, the insurance company may offer a settlement that does not cover the full extent of your injuries and damages. A good Kansas City attorney, however, will know when and how to show additional evidence and/or hire expert witnesses to testify on the cause of your injuries.
Other factors can also complicate the settlement process, including:
- Accidents involving commercial vehicles
- Uninsured or under-insured motorists
- Hit-and-run accidents
Such scenarios require more time to identify what insurance (if any) is available to cover your damages. Or, as when a commercial vehicle is involved in an accident, more than one insurance policy may be at play. The policies must then be reviewed to discover which is primary and secondary with regard to coverage.
You Have Serious Injuries
When insurance companies realize a large sum of money will need to be paid to cover serious injuries, they move very slowly. Common delay tactics include denying coverage or forcing you to take your claim to court.
The corporate attorneys behind these moves understand injured people need money to pay household bills and medical providers. Dragging out settlements increases their leverage and the likelihood you’ll accept a smaller amount. Let your attorney know your current financial position so the two of you can arrive at the fairest settlement possible.
A Word of Caution
Because we live in a digital age, it’s crucial you understand that anything you post to social media can be easily misinterpreted and used to undermine your claim for damages. Insurance adjusters are quick to examine social media platforms in the hopes of finding photos or other evidence showing your injuries are not as severe as your lawsuit claimed. And in most cases, anything they do find will be turned against you.
Even if you use social medial for the most innocent of intentions, such as posting a photo of you standing at the shallow end of a pool after completing physical therapy for a leg injury, your message can be misconstrued. We therefore urge you to avoid these platforms so your case proceeds as it should.
It’s natural to feel victimized after a car accident, but our law office strives to empower you. We’ll stand by your side every step of the way, answering questions, providing information, and representing your interests. We serve the greater Kansas City metropolitan area with pride, fighting for the compensation people deserve. Schedule your free consultation today by contacting Yonke Law.