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So, you’ve been involved in an automobile accident. You may be injured, or your vehicle may be damaged. The accident wasn’t your fault, so you are legally entitled to compensation. That’s the end of it, right? Not necessarily. You may be wondering, “Why is my car accident settlement taking so long?”

It may seem obvious to you how much compensation you should receive, but accident settlements are more complicated than you think and can take a long time to resolve. Consider these five reasons your settlement may be taking longer than you think it should.

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1. The Settlement Process Is Complex

How long does a car accident settlement take, typically? How long does any personal injury case take? Almost every lawyer would respond the same way: It depends. Every claim is unique, with varying levels of complexity, though most claims follow the same rough timeline. Consider the events that may or may not take place between when a car accident occurs and when a settlement is paid out:

  • Finding a lawyer
  • Sending a demand letter and waiting the required time for a response
  • Preparing, filing, and waiting for a response to an insurance claim
  • Discovery, which includes time-consuming correspondence regarding evidence
  • Mediation/negotiation, which are bound by court scheduling
  • Preparation for trial if no settlement is initially reached
  • Negotiating the terms of the settlement
  • Waiting for the payout

These events occur in addition to obtaining medical care for injuries and obtaining estimates or repairs for damage to your vehicle. No one has unlimited time to devote to a case, so you could spend a lot of time simply waiting for responses from other parties.

2. Gathering Evidence Takes Time

One of the most important events after an accident is gathering evidence to support your claim. Unless the fault of the other driver is glaringly obvious, an insurance company will fight a claim for compensation. It is always best to compile as much evidence as you can as soon as possible after an accident. You will likely need the guidance of an attorney to determine what evidence is necessary and where to find it.

Common evidentiary support includes (but is not limited to):

  • Reports by police officers and medical personnel from the scene of the accident
  • Photographs from the scene
  • Medical records and bills from injury care
  • An individualized prognosis of recovery from your doctor
  • The driving history of the driver you believe to be at fault
  • An estimated loss of income or future compensation due to injuries
  • Repair bills or estimates from an auto body shop
  • Witness statements

3. Calculating Damages Is Complicated

Knowing you are entitled to compensation does not automatically mean you know how much you are entitled to. It may surprise you to learn that it takes time for certain damages to be calculated.

For vehicular damage, it may be as simple as waiting for an estimate from your insurance company or visiting an auto body shop. For serious physical injuries, however, it is important to understand the concept of maximum medical improvement (MMI). This means a physician has determined or estimated what the extent of your injuries are, and that no further medical care will improve them.

This does not mean you will no longer need medical care for your injuries or that you can’t get compensation for future care. It is simply a standard that helps determine the extent and impact of your injuries for compensation purposes.

For MMI, you may even want your settlement to be a bit delayed, as it is unwise (and sometimes impossible) to rush this part of the settlement process. For example, accepting a settlement before discovering that your injuries may prevent you from working at your current job in the future may leave you with less compensation than you are entitled to.

4. The Defense Could Use Delay Tactics

Another possible reason you may be wondering why your car accident settlement is taking so long: The other party is dragging their feet. Delaying the outcome of a case as long as possible is a common legal strategy.

The longer the case drags on, the more likely it is that new evidence will surface or the plaintiff will simply give up. Especially in personal injury cases, the higher the potential settlement, the more beneficial it is for the defense to delay the outcome and payment. This can be done by filing motions, engaging in extensive discovery, or extending deadlines. An experienced personal injury attorney will know when these tactics are being used and how to respond.

5. Post-Settlement Payouts Take Time

When settling a car accident case, everything goes through your attorney, including correspondence with the other parties and insurance company, medical bills and other evidence, and, ultimately, your payout.

The party responsible for payment will write a check to your attorney, who will disburse it as necessary. What you may not know is that some debts must be paid off with your settlement before it ends up in your pocket. These include:

  • Late child support payments
  • Unpaid medical bills
  • Insurance fees
  • Unpaid fees to any previous attorney who has represented you in this case
  • Your lawyer’s contingency fee

There may also be logistical issues, such as waiting until the check clears. A good attorney will keep you updated as to why your payment seems delayed.

Consult An Attorney If Your Car Accident Settlement Is Taking Too Long

If you’re wondering why your car accident settlement is taking so long, know that an experienced attorney can offer helpful guidance. Let us help you find an attorney today who can handle your settlement.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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