How Long Will It Take to the End/Settlement of My Auto Accident Case
When folks have been hurt in a car accident through no fault of their own, they often wonder, “how long will this take to get resolved?” Unfortunately, there is no one answer since no case is the same, but there are six general steps to a car wreck case that can give one an idea of where he or she is in the process and how much longer they have to go.
1. Treatment (Depends on Injuries)
By the time you’ve got an attorney, if you haven’t been to a doctor already to get checked out, he will probably advise you to do so. Usually, your doctor will refer you to another health care provider for follow-on treatment. That follow-on treatment is dictated by your injuries so the time frame varies. Treatment is usually the longest portion of your case.
2. Medical Records and Bills (1-2 months)
While you’re treating, once you’ve signed with an attorney, the first thing he does is request medical records and bills from everywhere you’ve been seen in connection with the accident. If you go to the ER and have X-Rays taken, that can mean asking for separate bills and records from the hospital, the radiology department, and the ER physician. Additionally, their billing departments are oftentimes separate from their records departments or handled by other companies altogether. It can get quite confusing and seemingly endless for those who haven’t done it before. Because of the massive volume of requests the medical providers get, it can take upwards of two months for the bills and records to get back to your attorney. As, most of the time, your treatment will last at least that long, that’s why they make all those requests at the beginning, so there’s no waiting for the next step and they can proceed. Sometimes though, the medical providers can’t get the records and bills in and have to be re-requested multiple times. It’s frustrating for everyone, especially the attorney.
3. Release (2 weeks to 1 month)
When you are “released” from your ongoing treatment (finished), it takes anywhere from 2 weeks to a month for the health care provider to finalize your records and bill and send them to your attorney. Hopefully, those are the only records/bill the attorney is waiting on so that he can begin reviewing your overall case file.
4. Review and Demand (usually 1 month)
Depending on the severity of your injuries, your case review and then the drafting of your demand packet should not take your attorney overly long to perform. The real addition to time comes once it’s been sent to the insurance company. The adjuster has hundreds, if not thousands of case files in front of him and it takes him time to review yours, usually about two weeks after it’s been mailed to him.
5. Negotiation (1 to 2 months)
The time for negotiation is absolutely dictated by the specifics of individual cases, but for a standard case, which includes only minor soft-tissue damage and a month or two of follow-on treatment, it usually takes a month or two. If your client sent an actual offer with your demand package, then the insurance company will begin with a counter which will be very low. Except under extraordinary circumstances, the adjuster and the attorney both know that neither is accepting the first offer either make. It takes several back-and-forths to get to an agreement and because of the workload of each and an awful lot of phone tag, that’s what accounts for the time.
6. Settlement (2 weeks to 1 month)
On a normal case, once your attorney comes to you with what he feels is the best settlement offer he can get, and you approve it, the insurance company will require you to sign a “release”, which states that the matter has been concluded once and for all for that amount of money and that you cannot re-institute suit against them before they will send a check. By the time the verbal agreement has been made, clients are usually ready for everything to be done with and they want the check in ASAP. Unfortunately, once your attorney has let the insurance company know you’ve agreed to the settlement, he has no part to play in their sending the release. They don’t work for him and he can’t make them send it any faster than what they’re going to do. Because insurance companies are so large and handle so many claims it can take a week or more for them to send the release. Once that arrives, your attorney will have you sign it and then fax it back and tell the adjuster to send the check. As with the release, once your attorney has requested the check, it is out of his hands. When it arrives, your attorney will let you know as quickly as possible. As personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee (a percentage of recovery), they don’t get paid until you do and they have every motivation to get that check in your hands as fast as possible
The above is a general outline for a somewhat standard car accident case. Assuming two months of follow-on treatment, it can take 4-6 months to come to an agreed settlement on the case and then another 2 weeks or a month to get the settlement check. To reiterate, every case is unique, so if your case falls outside of that window, that doesn’t mean that it’s going badly. Talk to your lawyer to find out where you are on the timeline.
7. Other Factors in Non-Standard Cases
Covenants Not to Execute
If your injuries were so bad that they exhaust the amount of money available from the at-fault driver’s policy AND you have under-insured motorists (UIM) coverage on your policy, you will have to settle with their insurance company BEFORE you can come to an agreement with yours on your UIM policy. When you come to an agreement with the at-fault driver’s company, they will send you something called a “covenant not to execute” instead of a “release” before they send you the check. Once that’s signed, your attorney can then begin negotiations with your UIM carrier. Ordinarily, he will have already sent them a demand packet (at the same time he sent one to the at-fault carrier) so the timeline picks up with them in the negotiations stage. That said, while it does add time to your case, you will still get the proceeds from the at-fault carrier once you sign the “covenant not to compete.” You will get an additional check from your UIM carrier once you have come to an agreement with them.
Sometimes, no matter how reasonable you and your attorney are, the insurance company will not budge off of an offer you cannot accept. If that’s the case, then a trial is your remedy. Because each case is different, there is no way to say how long it will take to get to trial (prior to trial there are depositions, various motions, etc).
At the Rembert Law Firm, we do our best to keep your case moving quickly and efficiently so we can get you back to your normal life as soon as possible and get the accident behind you. We represent you and make sure you get every penny you deserve for your pain and suffering. Visit us at www.rembertlaw.com or call 843-605-4620 to have your case reviewed for free.