When someone has been the victim of a car accident, all they really want is to get their life back to normal. That requires being fairly compensated by the at-fault party for all losses stemming from the accident. The timeline of this process can be affected by a number of factors, but an attorney will work to expedite it if possible. What is necessary to attain a settlement and how much time should you expect? The Myrtle Beach, SC car accident attorneys of the Maguire Law Firm take a look.
What Steps Are Involved in a Car Accident Settlement?
Every car accident varies in terms of what must be done to reach a settlement. For instance, if the driver flees the scene, the added step of trying to locate the hit-and-run driver will be necessary. In most cases, however, drivers should expect the following:
Hiring an attorney
It’s important to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer right away for several reasons.
First, you may be contacted by the at-fault party’s insurance company, and it’s not recommended that you discuss your accident with them. Second, your lawyer will begin the settlement process outlined below so that key steps are not missed. Finally, your attorney can address common questions and concerns you have.
Investigating the accident
Your lawyer will begin investigating how and why the accident happened. This is necessary, first, to determine the identities of any at-fault parties such as the car’s driver, the manufacturer, the driver’s employer if relevant, and others. The investigation will also uncover facts that will determine who was at fault. This is vital because the victim bears the burden of showing how exactly the responsible parties caused the crash.
Gathering essential documents and evidence
As part of the investigation, your car accident attorney will start collecting important documents like police reports, medical records, wage statements, and much more. Pictures and video of the accident scene should be recorded, including those that show damage done to your vehicle.
Witness statements also play a critical role and are best taken early in the investigation.
Completing the investigation and gathering all documents may take weeks to months.
Determining the victim’s maximum medical improvement (MMI)
The MMI is the point at which an accident victim has physically recovered as much as possible.
Identifying this is important because only then will you and your doctor know the extent of your future damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, and disabilities. This allows your attorney to file and ask for an appropriate amount of compensation.
The timeline of this step will depend almost entirely on the victim’s injuries.
Sending the insurance company a demand letter
After MMI is determined, your lawyer will send the insurance company a demand letter to seek a settlement. The demand letter does more than ask for money. It provides the insurer with evidence of the at-fault driver’s negligence, itemizes your medical expenses and lost wages, and includes a calculation of pain and suffering and other “non-economic” damages.
Negotiating with the insurer
The insurance company could answer the demand letter by offering a lower settlement amount or even denying liability. This should be expected since insurers rarely agree to settle for the amount initially demanded. You should anticipate at least a few rounds of offers and counter-offers as your attorney works for a fair settlement.
A victim can expect insurance negotiations, beginning with the demand letter, to take several weeks.
Filing a lawsuit, if necessary
If it becomes clear that the insurer is refusing to negotiate in good faith, it may be necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit. It’s important to know that all car accidents are subject to a three-year filing deadline known as a statute of limitations. If the lawsuit is not filed within this period, the victim will lose the right to file altogether.
A lawsuit can take many months to finish, not including any appeals the insurance company or defendants may file after the verdict.
How Long Should Car Accident Settlements Take?
Victims often understandably get frustrated with the time it takes to settle their claims. A common question that gets asked: Why is my car accident settlement taking so long?
There are various factors that can slow the settlement process down or speed it up:
- How serious the injuries are: More severe injuries mean a longer time to reach MMI, which will delay the rest of the steps.
- Nature of the evidence: The more evidence the victim has, and the better it is, the stronger the case will be for a settlement.
- The insurance company: If the insurer denies the claim or refuses to negotiate in good faith, this will likely necessitate a trial.
- A trial: The advantage of settling an accident case is that it avoids a trial, which has multiple steps like filing pleadings, serving documents, conducting discovery, and more.
- Number of defendants: If there are numerous defendants, time will be spent determining their share of liability and contending with court motions.
Working to Win the Most Damages for Car Accident Victims
At the Maguire Law Firm, we want to settle cases as quickly as we can for clients. But we won’t do so at the expense of fairly representing your interests and demanding the compensation you deserve. Don’t make the mistake of taking a quick settlement for the sake of being finished. Talk to our Myrtle Beach, SC car accident team to explore your legal rights today. Call 843-894-3502 or contact us online for your consultation.