So you want to know how long does a settlement take for a car accident?
The only honest answer to this question is “longer than you think.” Before meaningful settlement negotiations begin, a lawyer must set a claim’s settlement value . This figure is like a new car’s sticker price. Both numbers are the starting point for purchase price negotiations, or in the case of a personal injury claim, out-of-court settlement negotiations. The settlement value Texas two-step is discussed below.
Usually, the settlement value starts with the economic losses in a case, mostly medical bills. Then, depending on the evidence in the case, the strength of insurance company defenses, and a few other factors, most attorneys multiply this figure by two, three, or four to determine pain and suffering and other noneconomic losses.
Most lawyers try to settle most claims because, in most cases, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. This aphorism basically means that a certain good thing is preferable to a possible great thing. If insurance company lawyers are willing to give victims most of what they want, it’s not a good idea to risk that good thing in the hopes of getting something better at trial. These proceedings, especially jury trials, are simply too unpredictable.
Out-of-court settlements benefit victim/plaintiffs in other ways as well. For example, in many cases, an agreed settlement cuts the litigation time at least in half. Everyone wants to end personal injury cases as soon as possible.
Medical bills, the police accident report, and witness statements are usually the key bits of evidence in personal injury claims. Of these three, only the police report is available straightaway. In many cases, the police report is also the weakest of the three, as far as victim/plaintiffs are concerned.
Police reports are often incomplete or inaccurate. A first responder is not an accident reconstruction engineer. These individuals must do the best they can with the limited evidence available at the scene. Furthermore, if the victim was killed or seriously injured, only the tortfeasor (negligent party) gave a statement to officers. Tortfeasors rarely lie. But like the rest of us, they remember things selectively.
Initial medical records, like ER records, rarely indicate the amount of future medical expenses. If a lawyer doesn’t have evidence of these charges, the victim will probably be financially responsible for them. Additionally, most witnesses don’t voluntarily come forward at the accident scene. A lawyer, or a private investigator, must locate these individuals later.
Responding to Defenses
Building a case takes time. Solidifying that case, which means anticipating insurance company defenses, takes even more time.
Many defenses only apply in certain situations. If a well-prepared lawyer blocks these defenses, they don’t reduce the settlement value.
The sudden emergency defense in a pedestrian injury claim is a good example. Tortfeasors aren’t responsible for damages if they reasonably react to a sudden emergency. Insurance company lawyers often argue that a pedestrian who “darts out into traffic” is a sudden emergency. However, in most states and in most cases, that’s not true.
Try our accident settlement calculator to get an idea of what your case might be worth.