How Do Car Accident Settlements Work?

A car accident happens within minutes, and the damages can be severe. You experience a serious disruption in your personal and work life with all the medical and repair bills. The legal process after an auto collision can take months to resolve. Regardless of the wait, you might have a desire to sue the other driver. A personal injury lawsuit can help you recover financially. You should consult a car accident attorney to learn more about your options. You might have several questions about your lawsuit. Like, “how do car accident settlements work?” and our experienced legal team helps answer some of these questions below.

The Car Accident Lawsuit Timeline

Will My Auto Accident Get a SettlementThe length of a car accident case is not the same for everyone. A lawsuit can take a couple of months for one person, or it lasts up to a year for someone else. Settlements require multiple steps before you can get the necessary funds. Your case goes through multiple stages in the legal process. Some claims do not go forward in litigation.

File a Complaint

A car accident lawsuit officially begins with the injured party filing a complaint in civil court. You have to send a copy of the complaint to the defendant. Some defendants can take you weeks to track down. Then, you would need to wait for the liable party to send an answer to the complaint.

If you got into an accident with a government vehicle, you need to send a Notice of Claim before filing a civil suit. In some places, you have a specific amount of time after the collision to send the notice. You should look at your state’s law to see when you need to submit the document. On average, the other side has about a month to send an answer. Once the person does, the case moves on to the discovery.

The Discovery

Both parties use the time to gather information to strengthen their arguments. Lawyers request and exchange information. Depositions of the people involved in the accident occur during the discovery as well. The phase can take the longest compared to other stages. You might have to wait a few months or a year for the discovery to complete.

Mediation

Many lawsuits go through mediation or negotiations before a trial happens. Both sides can resolve the issue and come to an agreed settlement. In a few instances, one or both parties remain unsatisfied with the proposed terms.

Trial

As a result, the lawsuit moves on to a trial. Trials generally last from a few days to a week, but the court can reschedule them. Your lawyer can keep you updated on the progress of your case.

The Car Accident Settlement Process

Most car accident cases settle before they reach the courtroom. Around 95 percent of them can have a successful mediation, and the injured parties can enjoy a favorable outcome. The other party’s insurer might prefer to settle out of court for more control of the compensated amount. Additionally, you can save money on litigation costs. The car accident settlement process can take a few weeks to complete. Before the insurer sends the funds, you and the defendant must complete an Order of Settlement document. You have to sign a release form as well. The form absolves the other side from liability of the same claim in the future.

Once the insurance company receives the document, it processes and sends the check. The insurer might take its time to do so, but the company legally has to mail the funds. From the gross settlement an attorney deducts the legal fees and costs which were advanced to prosecute the claim. Thereafter outstanding medical bills or health insurance liens are paid and the balance of the funds are for you for future medical needs or your non-economic losses.

All of these payments are set forth in a disbursement statement which you and the attorney will sign at the closing for your case. You can deposit the check and use the money for bills and other expenses. there is a lot of necessary actions that go into filling a claim and trying to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries trying to handle it yourself could leave money on the table so if you wondering when you need to hire an attorney, the sooner in the claim process the better.

How to Prove Negligence

Around 4.5 million crash-related injuries happen each year, and many of them are the result of another driver’s negligence. A victim might not be sure if they have a valid case, but a consultation with an attorney can show otherwise. Once they are certain, they must prove the elements of negligence. The plaintiff needs to establish how the other driver owed them a duty of care. All motorists must follow the traffic laws to keep each other safe. The next step is to provide evidence on how the liable party failed their duty of care.

The violation should have led to the accident. Maybe the driver did not yield to oncoming traffic, and the action caused a head-on collision. The last step is to show how your crash-related injuries led to damages. Certain accidents might be easier to prove negligence in then others learning the common types of auto accidents might help you understand how to go about the next step:

Gather Evidence

When the injured party establishes negligence, they should gather evidence to support their case. Photographs are crucial for any car accident lawsuit. Images give a clear view of the severity of the damage. You might notice a detail you did not see at the time. The authorities clean up the crash site quickly, so victims have to record pictures as soon as possible. An officer usually creates a police report after they arrive at the scene. The report lists details of the accident and the officer’s opinion of who was at fault for the crash. You can obtain a copy of the police report to use for your case.

Medical records are helpful as evidence as well. The other party’s insurance company may try to disprove the severity of the damage. The documents display the degree of your injuries. Witnesses can testify on your behalf. Eyewitnesses were there at the time of the accident and can report what they saw. Expert witnesses are specialists who can provide an educated opinion on complex issues. Expert witnesses include accident reconstructionists and doctors.

Is the Rear Driver Always Responsible for a Rear-End Crash?

The liable party can be undeniable in several circumstances, but negligence might not be evident at other times. A person might believe the rear driver is the one who is at fault for the incident. The assumption is due to the expectation to keep a safe distance from the car in front of them. However, not all rear drivers have responsibility for an incident. One way the vehicle in front may be liable is if the motorist brakes to make a turn but does not use their blinkers.

You could sue someone if they did not pull over when their car broke down. A person has to repair broken brake lights as soon as possible. The failure to do so can mean liability in the event of a rear-end collision. Other situations could have the motorist in front be the negligent party in an accident. If you feel you are not responsible, you should not accept the blame for a collision. Speak to a vehicle accident attorney to know if you can get compensation for your injuries.

Lump Sums versus Structured Settlements

Your compensation can come in one of two forms. A lump sum is a simple way to get your reimbursement. You would get the money in a single paycheck, and you can spend it however you would like. You can meet unexpected needs, but you face the risk of spending the money quickly. Another option is to decide on a structured settlement. A lot of people prefer a structured settlement since they feel less pressured to give the money away. You can have the funds to pay expenses over a longer time.

The flexibility of the ongoing support is attractive to several victims. Regardless of what you choose, your compensation remains tax-free overall. Certain aspects of the settlement process might have applicable taxes. Additionally, you should not accept a lump sum or structured settlement before you have a chance to speak to a lawyer. You might resolve the case a lot sooner, but you could end up with unfair compensation. An attorney can maximize how much you should receive.

What Happens if the Driver Has No Insurance?

Several states require drivers to carry insurance. In a few instances, a person gets into a collision with an uninsured driver. The process to obtain compensation could become more complex. You likely have to go to your insurer to cover your losses if the liable party has no insurance. Some policies offer uninsured motorist coverage as additional protection. Multiple states require insurance companies to provide the add-on. Usually, the benefits cannot go over the standard personal liability coverage.

However, the coverage only applies to bodily injuries. You would need to buy another add-on for property damage. Many drivers purchase personal injury protection to help pay for medical bills after a vehicle collision with an uninsured motorist. You can still file a lawsuit against the driver. If you win, you might not get much in terms of a settlement. Since they do not have insurance, they likely might not have enough assets to pay for your damages. The judge may have the defendant make a series of payments instead of all at once.

The most effective step to take is to contact your insurer to see what coverage applies to your situation. Then, you can talk to a lawyer to learn how uninsured drivers affect your potential reimbursement.

Recoverable Damages

Property Damage

No car accident case is the same as another. Lawsuits can have different values based on factors like recoverable damages. Recoverable damages come in many forms. One of them is property damage. Car accidents usually leave one or more vehicles in need of repairs. You might have had to replace your car entirely. The bill from the mechanic can help determine the worth of your settlement. Property damage can include broken phones and sunglasses as well.

Medical Expenses

People commonly recover money for medical expenses. Collectively, people spend around one million days in the hospital due to car accidents every year. Emergency department visits can cost roughly $3,300. Hospitalizations tend to be more expensive for many people. Surgeries, medication, and ongoing rehabilitation lead to high healthcare bills. The court reviews the expenses to calculate the amount to give you.

Lost Income

Lost wages are detrimental as well. A victim might have to take days or weeks off from work to recover. As a result, the paychecks become smaller. A person might be unable to return to work in the same capacity. The loss of future income contributes to the value of your lawsuit.

Pain and Suffering

You could have the right to recover damages for pain and suffering. Pain and suffering refer to any physical discomfort you felt during and after the incident. You might have experienced psychological pain as well. Some people develop PTSD, and you can get some compensation for it.

Loss of Consortium

In fatal accidents, a surviving spouse or family member can recover damages for loss of consortium or companionship. Children of the deceased could have entitlement to the loss of support as well.

Common Car Accident Defenses

Terence Perenich, Auto accident lawyer
Terence Perenich, Car Accident Lawyer

Before a vehicle accident lawsuit settles, the liable party might try to avoid or lessen how much they pay. Their insurance agency typically investigates the collision. One of the possible defenses is to show how the plaintiff was the one at fault. Even if negligence is clear, the defendant could try to prove you bear a high degree of responsibility. You might get less money in a settlement as a result.

The other party could use a procedural defense to convince the court to dismiss the case. One procedural argument involves the statute of limitations. A few plaintiffs accidentally miss the deadline and lose the right to seek compensation.

The defendant could argue you failed to state a claim correctly. You have to allege sufficient facts to support the elements of negligence. The other side may try to dismiss the lawsuit on another technicality. Plaintiffs have to follow each procedural rule to avoid setbacks.