People who haven’t ever been in a serious car accident sometimes see personal injury claims as money-grabbing attempts. But if you’ve recently suffered a serious injury, you know that seeking compensation isn’t about getting extra cash.
Keeping up with medical bills is a challenge, even if you’re well-off. If you can’t work as a result of your injury, you might find your cash reserves running out quickly.
Whether you’ve already filed a personal injury claim or are considering doing so, you might wonder — what’s the timeline of a car accident settlement?
How soon you receive a settlement depends on when both sides agree to settle. Below is a general outline of the claims process — a settlement can be negotiated up until the end of a trial.
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Seek Medical Treatment
As soon as you are injured, you should seek medical treatment. If you don’t, it may seriously reduce the amount of your settlement. Keeping track of medical bills and maintaining a daily journal of your injury symptoms can also help you build your case.
Get a Case Review With a Lawyer
Emergency medical treatment should be your first priority, but it’s also wise to seek a personal injury attorney early on. Your attorney will be able to give you valuable advice to help you start building a strong case.
The first step to retaining an attorney is scheduling a case review. During this review, the lawyer decides whether they want to take your case.
Here are some of the main factors influencing that decision:
- Whether your case is within the statute of limitations (in Florida, you have two years to file a personal injury claim)
- Whether the lawyer thinks they can win your case
- Whether there’s an opportunity to recover significant monetary damages
- Whether the lawyer thinks you’re being honest about your case
Every personal injury case is unique. If you aren’t sure whether you have a case, it’s worth getting a case review — it won’t cost you anything!
Your Attorney Tries to Negotiate a Settlement
If a personal injury lawyer takes your case, they will usually start by trying to negotiate with the opposing party. In cases where the other party was very clearly at fault (and you have significant damages), you might be more likely to receive a settlement at this point.
If your attorney and the other party’s representation can come to an agreement, you may receive the settlement in as little as a few weeks. If no agreement is reached, your case will likely move on to the lawsuit stage.
Your Attorney Files a Lawsuit
Sometimes, personal injury attorneys will file a lawsuit during initial negotiations to show the opposing party they’re serious. In other instances, they only file if negotiations are unsuccessful.
If both parties don’t reach a settlement right after the lawsuit is filed (and the opposing party has had a chance to respond), your case will start moving toward the trial phase. The process of filing a lawsuit, serving it to the at-fault party, and waiting for that party to file a response can easily take a month or more.
The Case Goes to Discovery
Before your case actually reaches a courtroom, it goes through what’s known as “discovery.” This is when the lawyers for both sides assemble and share their legal evidence.
During this phase, the opposing party’s attorneys will get a clearer picture of your attorney’s legal argument (and vice versa). If your case is especially strong, they may decide it’s better to settle before the trial starts.
The process of discovery is much longer than the trial. It takes significant time to gather evidence. Discovery alone can take anywhere from several months to a year or more.
The Case Goes to Trial
The actual trial only takes a few days. Just like in a criminal trial, both sides show their evidence, and a judge or jury will decide whether the other party was at fault and whether you’re entitled to any damages.
However, it’s important to note that some cases go past the trial phase. If the at-fault party thinks a ruling against them is unfair, they may appeal the decision. An appeal usually means you’ll have to wait months or years before getting a settlement (if you get it at all).
In this instance, the at-fault party may threaten an appeal if you don’t agree to a lower settlement. Often, receiving slightly less is worth skipping the wait and hassle of an appeal.
How Long Does It Take to Receive a Car Accident Settlement?
If your legal team and the responsible party’s legal team can reach an agreement early on, you might receive a settlement check in a few months. However, negotiations often take longer than this.
Car accident cases can be settled at any point, including during the trial phase. If your case goes all the way to trial (but settles before the end of the trial), it may take a few years to receive a settlement check.
Is a Settlement the Only Way to Resolve Your Case?
It’s important to note that a settlement is just one possible positive outcome. Receiving a settlement isn’t the same as receiving court-ordered damages. In a settlement, your legal team and the opposing party’s legal team agree on a sum of money to be paid to you.
In order to receive the money, you must sign a waiver stating that you won’t pursue the other party for further damages. This means you can’t file another lawsuit or claim against them seeking more compensation for the same injury.
Settlements aren’t the only way to resolve personal injury cases, but they are by far the most common. Injured people usually want to receive settlements quickly, and both sides usually want to avoid the time and expense of a lawsuit. That’s why roughly 95% of lawsuits settle out of court.
A St. Petersburg Car Accident Attorney Can Help With the Settlement Process
If you’ve been seriously injured because of another person’s carelessness, you shouldn’t be responsible for covering the medical bills that come as a result.
When you have the right personal injury attorney on your side, you’re more likely to recover the compensation you need to move on with your life. The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers have the knowledge and experience to help you.
Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers was founded in 1955, and we’re proud to be the first legal practice in Pinellas County to focus exclusively on personal injury law. Our attorneys don’t give up — we’ve fought cases to the United States Supreme Court and are ready to fight for you, too. Contact us today and schedule your free consultation at (727) 349-1728.