Injured in a car accident? Learn what you need to know about, “How long does a car accident claim take to settle?”
You were injured in a car accident, and you need to secure insurance coverage so that you can move on with your life. But, you are struggling to make progress, and you are getting anxious about when (and if) your insurance company is going to pay. So, how long does a car accident claim take to settle?
Typical Timeframes for How Long it Takes a Car Accident Claim to Settle
The answer to the question, "How long does a car accident claim take to settle?" depends on the specific circumstances involved. We know this isn’t the answer you want to hear, but it is the truth. Some auto insurance claims take weeks, and some claims can take a year or longer.
Generally speaking, however, the average time it takes to settle a car accident insurance claim is in the range of one to three months. If you have all of the information you need, and if you hire an experienced attorney to represent you, you should be able to resolve your claim fairly quickly. With that said, you still need your insurance company to offer a fair settlement, and this is not something that you can control.
However, there are steps you can take that can significantly improve your chances of receiving a fair settlement offer. The more effort you put in – and the more you rely on an experienced car accident lawyer to help you – the less time it should take to receive a fair offer on your claim. We provide a detailed list of recommended steps below.
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Factors that Determine How Long a Car Accident Claim Takes to Settle
The wide range of possible timeframes for negotiating a car insurance claim settlement is due to the wide range of factors that can impact the insurance claims process. For example, the following are all key factors that could impact both the timeline and the amount of your settlement:
1. The Available Evidence
If the evidence clearly points to the other driver being at fault, then this should speed up the settlement negotiation process. Likewise, the more evidence you have of the impacts of the accident (i.e. your repair estimate, medical records, employment records, and impact statement), the more convincing your claim will be—and the more likely the insurance company will be to quickly agree to a fair settlement.
2. Allegations of Partial Fault
If your insurance company accuses you of being partially at fault in your car accident, then this could delay the settlement process. Depending on your state’s “contributory negligence” or “comparative fault” law, allegations of partial fault could impact the amount of your settlement, or they could lead to a claim denial. It will be important for you not to accept your insurance company’s determination of partial fault, but instead to work with an attorney to accurately apportion liability.
3. The Extent of Your Injuries
If you suffered serious traumatic injuries in your car accident, it will take time to understand your injuries’ long term effects. In this scenario, it is extremely important not to rush into a settlement. Rather than focusing on how long it takes your car accident claim to settle, you should instead be focused solely on ensuring that you receive the full compensation you deserve.
4. Whether You Hire a Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer is a critical factor in determining both how long it takes to settle your car accident claim and how much you can recover. Contrary to popular belief, hiring a lawyer does not necessarily mean that your insurance claim will take longer.
In many cases, hiring a lawyer can speed up the settlement process—because your attorney can submit all of the necessary evidence, hold your insurance company accountable for complying with the law, and negotiate effectively on your behalf. So, when asking "How long does a car accident claim take to settle?", it is also important to consider whether a lawyer is involved--as hiring a lawyer can result in both a faster and higher settlement.
5. Your State’s Law
Many states have laws that require auto insurance companies to make a determination of liability within a certain number of days of a claim being filed. In states that have these laws, the deadline is usually around 60 days. While a determination of liability is not the final resolution of your claim (you still need to prove how much you are entitled to recover), this is a necessary precursor to engaging in settlement negotiations.
Steps You Need to Take in Order to Settle Your Car Accident Claim
Instead of, “How long does a car accident claim take to settle?”, the more-important question is, “What steps can I take to ensure that my car accident claim settles as quickly as possible?” Here are five of the most-important steps you can take to help ensure that you receive a quick and fair insurance settlement:
- File your insurance claim promptly. After a car accident, you should file your insurance claim right away. This will get the process started, and it will start the clock if your state has a law that requires your insurance company to make a determination of liability within a certain number of days.
- Collect your records. In order to negotiate a settlement, you will need proof of both liability (who was at fault) and proof of damages (how much you are entitled to recover). You should collect all records you have from your accident, as well as records related to your medical treatment and any time you miss from work.
- Avoid giving a recorded statement or medical records authorization. While your claims representative may say that giving a recorded statement or providing a medical records authorization will speed up the process, this is only because doing so will allow your insurance company to more quickly build its case against you. You need to be very cautious about sharing information, and you should rely on the advice of your attorney.
- Keep seeing your doctor(s). Before you can settle, you need to know how much your injuries are going to cost you. So, you should keep seeing your doctor(s), and you should be sure to make sure you have a clear understanding of your diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment needs.
- Hire a car accident lawyer. When you have an auto insurance claim after a car accident, there is no substitute for experienced legal representation. Your lawyer will not only be able to help ensure that you receive a settlement as quickly as possible, but your lawyer will be able to help you avoid settling for too little as well.
For more information about what to do, you can read our comprehensive Guide: Steps to Take After a Car Accident.
FAQs: How Long Does a Car Accident Claim Take to Settle?
In addition to understanding the answer to, “How long does a car accident claim take to settle?”, there are some other answers it will be important for you to know as well. This includes the answers to questions such as:
Q: Is My Auto Insurance Company Required to Settle My Car Accident Claim?
No. While auto insurance companies have an obligation to process claims in good faith, they are under no obligation to settle. If you do not make a convincing case for why you deserve compensation, you can expect your insurance company to deny your claim.
Q: Can I Accept Partial Payment for a Car Accident Claim Settlement?
You need to be very careful about accepting partial payment for your car accident claim. If a check that you think represents partial payment comes with waiver language attached, you could lose your right to seek additional compensation.
Importantly, you should be able to accept payment for your property damage claim without waiving your right to compensation for your injuries. Property damage claims and injury claims are separate, and you should be able to get your car repaired or replaced while you are still working to understand the long-term effects of your injuries. With that said, you still need to be careful, and you should work with an attorney to ensure that accepting payment on your property damage claim will not negatively impact your ability to secure a fair overall settlement.
Q: When Should I Settle My Car accident Claim?
In addition to asking, “How long does a car accident claim take to settle?”, you should also be asking, “When should I settle my car accident claim?” You should not settle your claim until you know how much you are entitled to recover. Once you know this, there are various other factors you will want to consider as well, and you will need to make an informed decision about when is the right time to settle your claim.
Q: What if My Auto Insurance Company Won’t Settle My Car Accident Claim?
If your auto insurance company won’t settle, then you may need to take your claim to court. If you are struggling to collect payment and have not yet hired a lawyer, you should schedule a free consultation promptly. A lawyer may be able to get your claim on track for settlement; and, if there is a legitimate dispute as to liability, your lawyer will be able to go to court and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Q: How Long Can a Car Accident Insurance Claim Go On?
Car accident insurance claims can potentially go on for years (although this is relatively rare). One factor to keep in mind is that all 50 states have statutes of limitations for car accident claims. Filing a claim with your insurance company does not stop the statute of limitations from running; and, if it takes a long time for your claim to settle, you may need to file a lawsuit in order to protect your legal rights. However, you can keep negotiating for a settlement once you file a lawsuit, and many car accident claims still settle after this stage.