There is no average car accident lawsuit timeline. Some car crash claims settle in a matter of weeks or a few months, but others could take a year or more before they go to trial. The time it takes to get financial compensation following a collision depends greatly on the facts of the case, whether you need to sue, and other factors.
Working with a car accident attorney ensures you meet all necessary deadlines, your case continues to progress, and you get answers to any questions you may have. They will also manage your accident claim so you can focus on getting better.
Most Car Accident Lawsuits Settle Outside of Court
Every car accident case begins with an investigation. The goal of this investigation is to show the insurance company that the victim deserves a fair settlement. To do this, the investigation must prove several things about the auto accident in question. This includes:
- Who caused the crash by acting negligently
- Who is legally liable for the accident, usually the at-fault driver
- What harm the victim suffered
- The value of the claim, which is equal to the victim’s expenses and losses
Only once there is enough evidence to prove these things–and support the personal injury claim–can a victim demand a just payout from the at-fault party’s insurance carrier. This demand letter usually results in a very low offer from the insurance adjuster but opens the door for settlement negotiations. This process can go on for a while until both parties agree on a fair accident settlement amount.
A personal injury lawsuit may be the next step toward a fair payout if there is no agreement and the two parties cannot agree on the same value. You will want to work with an experienced car accident lawyer to navigate this process or consider your options for alternative dispute resolution. Having a legal professional on your side provides many benefits after a motor vehicle accident, especially if you suffered severe injuries.
Car Accident Cases Often Settle After a Suit Is Filed
Suing the liable party in a car accident does not stop the settlement negotiations. Instead, it often motivates the insurer to offer a better settlement. Settlements can and do occur after a lawsuit is underway. In some cases, they happen just before or even during the trial.
After filing a lawsuit, each side completes the discovery process. This requires gathering evidence such as witness statements, police reports, documentation of property damage and medical care, and more. As the insurance company sees more and more evidence to support the victim’s insurance claim, they often become more interested in reaching a settlement agreement.
For a free legal consultation, call (800) 537-8185
Procedures that Affect the Legal Timeline of a Lawsuit
There are several reasons why your car accident attorney may recommend legal action. This includes:
- There is a dispute about negligence and liability
- The insurer denies the extent of your personal injuries or damages
- You are running out of time based on the statute of limitations
Each state has a statute of limitations that creates a deadline for legal action. While there are exceptions, examples of these deadlines include:
- Two years in Alabama (Ala. Code § 6-2-38)
- Three years in Arkansas (Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-105)
- One year in Louisiana (La. Civ. Code Art. 3492)
- Three years in Mississippi (Miss. Code Ann. § 15-1-49)
Your personal injury attorney will guide you through the lawsuit process, ensuring you meet all deadlines and all steps are complete. The steps for a car accident lawsuit include:
Filing the Paperwork and Serving the Defendant
The lawsuit officially begins with the victim (the plaintiff) filing the initial paperwork, which is called a complaint. Then, the defendant receives a copy through a process known as “being served.” This could take a day or two, or it could stretch out to a month or more.
Answering the Complaint
Once they are served, the defendant has the opportunity to answer the complaint. How long they have to prepare and submit this response depends on the rules in the local courts, but it is usually at least 30 days with an opportunity to request more time.
Discovery and Pretrial Motions
Discovery is the process that allows each side to gather and exchange facts and evidence. There are specific steps and timelines set by state law and local court codes that outline this process. It usually takes several months, although it could take longer in complex cases.
The trial date finally arrives. Most take no more than a few hours, although some could take several days. In the end, the judge or jury will consider all the information they heard and determine:
- Fault for the collision
- Liability for accident injuries and damages
- The value of the court award, taking the economic and non-economic damages into consideration
After a verdict, the parties have an opportunity to appeal. In general, the losing side would appeal and ask an appeals court to review the outcome of the case. They cannot challenge the verdict simply because they disagree. They would need to show the court applied the law incorrectly to overturn the outcome. An appeal could take months or even years.
Receiving Compensation from a Settlement or Court Award
It could still take some time to get your payout after a settlement or verdict. Your car accident lawyer will need to prepare the agreement and have everyone sign it. Only then will the insurer write the check. This may take up to 30 days, but it usually only takes a week or two.
They will send the check to your attorney. The law firm will deposit it, take their attorney’s fees, and get you the remainder as quickly as possible.
We Help Injured Victims of Car Accidents Seek and Secure Compensation
At the Morris Bart law firm, we help car accident victims seek and secure compensation for their injuries. Our legal team reviews cases for accident victims in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. We can help you better understand your legal options today during a free consultation with an experienced attorney from our team.
Contact us online or via telephone to get started right away.
Questions?Call (800) 537-8185
to find a Morris Bart office near you.