Many factors can affect how long it takes to settle a car accident case. You might be highly motivated to wrap up the case, but roadblocks can arise that hold up the process.
Healing Can Take Time
You should not settle your car accident case until your doctor releases you from treatment. Once the physician does everything reasonably possible for you to get your function back, we can evaluate whether you have any limitations because of your injuries. There are two risks if you settle your claim before you reach that point:
- Your doctor might decide that you need an operation to restore your capabilities. If you already settled your case, the defendant will not have to pay any additional medical expenses. You will get stuck with those medical bills. Do not expect your health insurance to cover the cost, since most policies exclude coverage for motor vehicle accidents.
- You might not heal completely to your previous state. If you suffered long-term or permanent impairment from your injuries, you should get compensation for that loss. If you settled your car accident case before you realized that you would not return to your prior health, you cannot go back to the defendant’s insurance company and get more money.
In addition, complications can arise at any time. You might be recuperating well and then, suddenly, have a setback that adds to your medical bills and causes ongoing problems. This can affect how it takes to settle a car accident case.
Investigating the Accident
At S. Burke Law, we investigate every car accident case that we handle. Sometimes this process goes smoothly, but other times, things can happen that delay the process.
Let us say that we want to prove that the driver who hit you was texting while driving at the time of the accident. We can request the records from the cell phone service provider, but we might have to subpoena the documents or engage in other types of formal discovery with the defendant’s lawyer. We will have to file a lawsuit to perform certain kinds of discovery. It can take several months to obtain documents.
Interrogatories and Depositions
Interrogatories are written questions that a party must answer in writing and under oath. It can take a month or longer to get answers to interrogatories. This can also impact how it takes to settle a car accident case. The other side will likely send interrogatories for you to answer as well.
We might want to ask the defendant questions in person. If so, we will take his deposition. A court reporter will swear in the witness, who then answers questions verbally while the court reporter records and takes down what everyone says. Both lawyers ask questions during a deposition, taking turns.
Once we file a lawsuit, we will likely have to go to court multiple times. The judge will try to get the parties to settle. The judge might have the lawyers come to court to talk about the case and tell the judge the status of the discovery. It can be a month or several months between court dates. If you’re wondering how long does it take to settle a car accident case, this is another factor to keep in mind.
We can negotiate with the other lawyer before the lawsuit gets filed and throughout the litigation. The vast majority of cases eventually settle. Some cases even settle in the middle of the trial. We will be at the mercy of the court’s calendar when it comes to setting a trial date. Depending on how many cases are already on the judge’s docket, it can take months to get a trial date.
What Happens After the Trial
Following trial, the judge will typically take the case under advisement, which means he will make a decision and issue a ruling at a later date. With some judges, the order might come down in a few weeks; with others, we might have to wait for months to find out who won. If the other side is unhappy with the result, they might file an appeal. When the judge’s decision is appealed, the case can go on for another couple of years or longer. We can continue negotiating with the other side, even during an appeal.
How to Prevent Unnecessary Delays in Your Car Accident Case
Although quite a few of the factors that can impact how long a settlement or judgment can take are not within your control, you can do your part to keep the case progressing during some of the stages. You will likely have to sign documents, like medical record authorizations, and provide information for the interrogatories during the negotiations and lawsuit. The quicker you complete these tasks, the faster your case will move forward and the sooner you can settle a car accident case.
Since you should not settle your case until you complete your medical treatment, make sure that you do your best to get as well as possible. Be diligent about your physical therapy and doctor appointments and follow your doctor’s orders.
Call S. Burke Law today at (404) 842-7838 to get started. The initial consultation is free, and there is no obligation.