While the timeline to settle a car accident injury claim varies from case to case, there is a typical process that a car accident lawyer follows to ensure their clients get the compensation they deserve. In general, you’re probably looking at about a year to completely get through the claims process and reach a successful settlement or court verdict. Of course, some cases, especially if they involve a bus accident, rideshare accident, Uber accident, or Lyft accident, can drag on for years, and if fault is in question or one of the parties refuses to settle it might be even longer. Knowing all that, you can usually count on your case including the following parts of the claims process.
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Step One: A Complaint is Made
This step kicks off the entire injury claims process because it initiates that complaint against the party the complainant believes was negligent, whether or not they actually were negligent. If you have suffered an injury that is the fault of another party or parties, you must initiate the claim by sending a complaint to the other party or parties.
The complaint is a written document that includes details of the car accident and how the defendant is responsible for your injuries and losses. This complaint is filed through the court in the jurisdiction where the accident occurred. Once it is filed, it will be served upon the defendant by an officer of the court. This is a necessary step whether you end up settling with the insurance company or in court arguing your case in front of a judge and/or jury.
Step Two: The Defendant Responds
Once the defendant (the party you feel is responsible for your injuries) is served with the complaint, they will have a deadline by which they must respond. The response might also be called the “answer” and usually contains a full denial of the charges and why, a denial of specific charges and why, or a defense to the complaint.
The response typically has to be completed on a court-approved form and filed with the court before the deadline in the complaint passes. Often, a defendant will have their own attorney respond to the complaint to ensure it is comprehensive and clear.
Step Three: Discovery
The discovery phase of a car accident claim is generally the longest part of the entire process. This is when the evidence presented by each party is analyzed to determine what happened to cause the accident and whose fault it was. In cases that aren’t clear cut in terms of fault, the insurance company or court will rely heavily on the evidence from the scene. This is why it is critical that you preserve as much evidence as possible immediately after the accident occurs.
Step Four: Negotiations
After the evidence has been analyzed, the other party’s insurance company will determine if they are going to offer you a settlement. If they do, they will likely start fairly low and negotiate with you until you both agree on a reasonable amount of compensation. This is another area where a car accident lawyer is vital because they know how to negotiate to get you maximum compensation.
Step Five: Trial
If the negotiations go nowhere, the claim will end up in court. Experienced lawyers work toward this possibility from the first step to make sure they’re prepared if a trial is necessary. At the end of the trial, the judge or jury will decide if a monetary award is appropriate and if so, how much it should be. This decision can be appealed by either party.
Some car accident injury claims can be settled quickly and others take a longer time. But almost all of them go through the same claims process as described above.