Frequently Asked Questions - How Long Does it Take to Get a Settlement From a Car Accident?
Without question at some point every personal injury claimant either explicitly asks or thinks to ask the question "How long does it take to get a settlement from a car accident?". The answer to that question depends upon a number of factors. First of all, in any personal injury claim the last thing that the injured party and their attorney want to do is settle the claim before the full extent of the injuries and damages are known. Thus, in most instances, a settlement demand and the negotiations leading up to a resolution of the claim does not even begin until the injured party has completed their medical treatment and hopefully improved their condition if not had it absolutely cured.
With that said, there are occasions where the circumstances and the severity of the crash, as well as the injuries and damages clearly exceed the amount of the available coverages applicable under the policy of insurance for the person that caused the crash. In those instances it is not surprising to have the adjuster for the insurance company do what is called a “quick tender” of the insurance coverage limits. A “quick tender” is a payment of the full insurance limits under the at fault parties insurance limits by the insurance company. Typically, the insurance limits of the available insurance coverage are offered by the insurance company for the person who caused the crash because it is in the self-interest of the insurance company to get the case resolved quickly. The insurance company wants to avoid a potential lawsuit for so?called "bad faith". One of the ways that bad faith arises is when the insurance company fails to take the opportunity to settle a claim within the limits of the available insurance coverages when they had the opportunity. Having failed to get it settled, the claimant then obtains a verdict against the at fault party or the insurance company in a UM lawsuit that is in excess of those insurance limits. This is called an “excess verdict” and an excess verdict can give rise to the bad faith lawsuit.
However, in most case there is no quick tender of the at-fault party's insurance coverage. In most cases there are facts and issues which must be investigated from the insurance companies perspective in order for them to properly evaluate the claim. As a result, the typical resolution of a case does not occur until the injured party and their counsel submit a formal demand. As indicated above, the demand should not be sent until all of the me4dical treatment of the injured party is essentially at an endpoint. However once the injured party's care and treatment and their damages as a consequence of the crash are established, the next step is to gather all the information related to that claim and prepare what's called a "demand package".
A demand package consists of a formal letter on the personal injury plaintiff's attorney's letterhead directed to the insurance company for the person who was responsible for the car crash. The demand letter typically describes the coverage limits in the first paragraph and conditions the amount demanded on verification that those represent the total insurance benefits available under the policy. The demand letter then describes the details of the crash giving rise to the claim. Next, the demand letter lists the medical providers and their medical bills and describes any insurance coverage under PIP, med pay, workers' comp, etcetera which might reduce those medical bills. Typically, the final paragraph of the demand letter lists the dollar demand made for the claim and invites the insurance adjuster to communicate directly with the lawyer of the injured party in an attempt to resolve the claim. In addition to describing the injuries and treatment, the demand letter includes an attachment containing all of the treatment notes, medical bills, and other documentation including photographs of the property damage, injuries to the plaintiff, and other important documents. This entire package constitutes the personal injury claim.
Once that demand package goes out and lands on the adjuster's desk it's been my experience that on average, in response to a demand package from the insurance company is made sometime within 45 to 60 days from the date of receipt of that demand package. Inevitably, the initial offer in response to a demand from the insurance carrier is needless to say not the insurance company's "best offer". In fact, sometime it's insultingly low. Nevertheless, at this point typically negotiations begin between the insurance company and the attorney for the injured party, with the authority of the injured party. This back and forth process in which both sides try to reach a dollar amount which is satisfactory to both sides continues until the case is settled or impassed. The negotiating process can be as quick as one phone call and as long as months. It does occur, on rare occasions, that the insurance company simply ignores demand and, in order to focus their attention on the claim, the injured party and the attorney must file a lawsuit against that negligent defendant.
If the case is settled, the claim is resolved and funds are disbursed to the plaintiff along with the outstanding lienholders. If pre suit settlement is not achieved then a lawsuit is filed. But most cases that do not settle without a lawsuit eventually do get resolved prior to trial, but after the lawsuit is filed. After the lawsuit has been filed many times the insurance company takes a “fresh look” at the claim. They also take it more seriously now that their insured has been formally brought into a court of law. Moreover, Florida law requires that every personal injury case go to mediation before the court will give the case a set trial date. Under Florida law every personal injury plaintiff, and their attorney, must meet with the defense attorney and the insurance adjuster to discuss settlement. This is called mediation and it is mandatory. This mandatory settlement conference must occur prior to trial. Mediation is where many cases do settle. In fact, about half the cases that go to mediation actually settle. Another half of those that do not settle at mediation end up getting resolved at some point prior to trial. Thus, I would estimate that 90 to 95% of all personal injury claims are resolved at some point prior to the actual trial. Here at Trial Pro, however, we don’t take a case unless we are prepared to take it all the way to a jury trial.
Thus, the answer to the question of “how long will it take to get my case settled?” is “It depends”. At Trial Pro we try to get to the heart of the issues, advocate on behalf of our clients using our resources, experience and talents, and get the matter successfully and satisfactorily resolved as quickly as possible.