How Long Will My Car Accident Case Take to Settle in Texas?
Once you make the decision to pursue a personal injury claim after a car accident in Texas, you’ll probably wonder: how long will my car accident case take to settle? You may be left with mounting medical bills, an inability to work, and a painful recovery ahead of you with no guarantee you’ll get back to 100 percent.
The idea of a long wait for the compensation you need probably isn’t very comforting.
Technically, a car accident case can settle within a week, but there are many reasons you should not be too quick to settle.
A car accident case can take weeks, months, or even years to settle depending on the complexity of the case and severity of your injuries. Here is what you should know about the timeline of your car accident case and the factors that influence the timeline.
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How Long Does a Car Accident Case Take to Settle in Texas on Average?
The length of time to settle a car accident case in Texas is dependent upon many factors. Every case is different, and it isn’t possible to even predict whether your case will settle or go to trial, although most cases do settle outside of court.
While a simple car accident case can settle in weeks if you have fully recovered and liability is clear, complicated cases can take between one and three years to settle.
During your initial consultation with a Fort Worth car accident lawyer, your lawyer will help you understand the factors that may affect the timeline you should expect.
What Factors Affect How Long it Takes to Settle a Car Accident Case?
A number of factors influence the typical time it takes to settle a Texas car accident case. The following factors can decrease or increase the amount of time it takes to resolve your claim:
What Your Case is Worth
The more your case is worth, the longer it will take to settle. This is because the insurance company will try to limit the payout. They are more willing to invest the time and money on a legal defense for a high-value claim compared to a claim valued at under $20,000, for example.
The Severity of the Injuries
Cases that involve serious injuries that affect your future or cause disability usually take longer to settle than cases that involve injuries from which you can make a full recovery. You should also reach maximum medical improvement prior to settling your case to ensure the settlement is fair and fully compensates you. Depending on your injuries, this may take time.
Your case can likely settle sooner when liability is clear. If liability is unclear, multiple parties are responsible, or you share some liability, your case may take longer to settle.
The Insurance Company
Every insurance company is different. Some companies may be quick to settle while others will take a long time to accept liability. The size of the insurance company can affect this timeline.
Case Load in Your Jurisdiction
If your case goes to trial, the case load can influence how quickly your case is heard.
Your personal injury lawyer will help you understand the effect these factors have on your case.
The Insurance Company Wants You to Settle Quickly
When you are injured and need to pay for repairs to your vehicle, doctor bills, and cover lost wages, you may be pressured to accept a settlement as quickly as possible. Just remember that the insurance companies are not on your side. The insurance company will be focused on limiting the amount they pay out.
Adjusters will likely use a number of tactics and try to settle with you directly and get you to sign a liability release. Soon after you make the initial claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company, you may be offered a settlement.
This initial settlement will likely be a lowball offer intended to make you sign away your rights in exchange for a fraction of your actual damages. The insurance company hopes you will sign without contacting a personal injury lawyer.
The insurance company will always try to value your case far below what it is really worth. They will also try to shift blame onto you to reduce their liability and limit what they have to pay.
Receiving an early settlement offer may seem helpful at the time, but it will cause damage in the long run. When you accept the initial settlement, you will waive your right to seek additional compensation later, even if you turn out to be much more injured than you thought.
One of the most important steps you can take to protect the value of your claim is seeking experienced legal counsel as soon as possible.
Most Personal Injury Cases Settle Before Going to Court
Most car accident cases are settled privately outside of court, sometimes before a lawsuit even needs to be filed. Unfortunately, this is not always true. Sometimes insurance companies refuse to accept a claim or make insulting offers. They are gambling that a jury will find their client was not at fault or that they will successfully shift blame onto you.
When a case cannot be settled, it will go to trial. When this happens, it takes much longer to recover the compensation you deserve, although a settlement can still occur before the case is concluded.
While going to trial takes longer and costs more than negotiating a settlement out of court, if you are successful, the outcome can be more beneficial. A jury may award you a much higher amount of damages than the insurance company would have agreed to pay in a settlement. A lawsuit also opens the possibility of punitive damages in some cases.
Understanding the Personal Injury Claim Process in Texas
To understand how long it may take to settle your car accident case, it helps to understand the personal injury claim process.
Beginning Your Case with a Personal Injury Lawyer
The first step to take after a car accident is seeking medical care. Once you receive treatment, your second step should be consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Texas to help you. While not all car accident cases require a lawyer, it’s recommended if your case is complicated, your case is high-value, or you suffered serious injuries.
With a personal injury lawyer to advocate for you, you can focus on recovering knowing the investigation, communications, and negotiation will be handled on your behalf.
During your consultation, your car accident lawyer will discuss the details of your accident, your condition and injuries, the type of care you have received, and more. If you choose to proceed with the lawyer, they will perform an investigation of your accident to gather evidence that supports your claim. Depending on the complexity of your case, this process may take weeks.
Demand & Negotiations
Next, your lawyer will make a demand of the at-fault party’s insurance company for your damages. This demand will be based on the damages the lawyer calculated, including anticipated future costs of your injuries. Your personal injury lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf to seek a fair settlement offer.
In most cases, a demand will not be made until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). This happens when medical treatment is complete or you have reached the maximum level of recovery expected. This step is important because the value of your case won’t be known until you have fully recovered. Otherwise, you may be leaving money on the table and face future medical costs that will not be compensated.
Depending on the severity and type of injuries you sustained, it may take weeks or many months to reach MMI.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If the insurance company will not reach a fair settlement, a personal injury lawsuit will be filed. You will receive a court date and your lawyer will handle a number of pretrial procedures.
The discovery phase begins once a lawsuit is filed. During discovery, each party investigates the facts surrounding the accident, defenses, and legal claims. Documents are exchanged and each side can ask questions and take depositions. This process lasts for several months.
Negotiations & Mediation
With discovery complete, negotiations will start again. Even if your case did not settle initially, it may still be settled after discovery. Sometimes mediation is used so both sides can meet with a neutral third party to try to settle the case fairly.
Sometimes cases make it all the way to trial. If this happens, you can expect the trial to last just days or months for very complex cases. In a trial, a jury will ultimately decide which party is liable for the accident, the degree of liability if both parties are partially to blame, and an award amount.
Contact a Fort Worth Personal Injury Lawyer
Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer can be crucial to not only settle your case as quickly as possible but get full compensation in a car accident settlement. If you have been injured in a car or truck accident, contact our Fort Worth, Texas law office at (817) 420-7000 to schedule a free consultation with Jason Stephens to discuss your case.