How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?

Posted on July 7, 2023 in Car Accidents

After a car accident, you must seek medical care, repair or replace your vehicle, and endure lost earnings and a mountain of bills as you recover from your injuries.

A common concern for many accident victims is the time it will take to receive a settlement and put their ordeal to rest. The truth is that the timeline for a car accident settlement varies greatly depending on the complexity of the case, the severity of the damages, and the willingness of the negotiating parties. for legal guidance connect with a car accident lawyer.

The Statute of Limitations

Experienced Lawyer for Car Accident near PhoenixAccording to the National Safety Council, around 5.4 million people in the United States each year suffer injuries in car accidents that are serious enough to require medical consultation.

In many of these cases, the injured person did not cause the accident. Serious injuries can result in significant expenses and consequences. If someone else is negligent, you can seek compensation for the accident through the personal injury claims process, but you must do so within the statute of limitations.

A statute of limitations stipulates how long you have to file a lawsuit after suffering injury or harm.

The deadline varies depending on the state and the type of personal injury claim that you pursue. In some states, you have as little as one year to file a car accident lawsuit, while in others, you have up to six years. Aside from state laws, the nature of the injury, the age of the injured party, and the identity of the defendant also influence statutes of limitations. Consult a knowledgeable personal injury attorney to guide you through these intricacies and file your claim on time.

If you fail to file a car accident lawsuit within the allotted time, you may lose your right to pursue compensation for damages. Courts generally enforce these deadlines rigorously and will dismiss a claim if you file it after the statute of limitations expires. This strict deadline applies to lawsuits, but you need to initiate the claims process with an insurance company promptly after an accident to preserve crucial evidence and strengthen your case.

Investigation and Evidence Gathering

A comprehensive investigation is crucial in building a strong case for a car accident settlement. Your attorney will conduct an in-depth investigation to collect all the relevant evidence to support your claim. This process helps to establish liability and determine the accurate value of your damages, which is essential for negotiating a fair settlement with the insurance company.

An attorney will use evidence to prove liability and damages after a car accident, including:

  • Police reports: A police report contains valuable information about the accident, such as the details of all parties, a description of the incident, and any citations.
  • Medical records: Your medical records are vital in substantiating the extent of your injuries, your treatment history, and any future medical care you may require.
  • Witness statements: Witnesses can provide essential information about the accident, including causation, and support your claim regarding fault and liability.
  • Expert opinions: Depending on the case’s complexity, your attorney can consult experts in fields such as accident reconstruction, medical care, or vocational rehabilitation to strengthen your claim.

Investigating and gathering evidence takes time. A straightforward case with clear fault and readily available evidence may resolve quickly, while a complex case typically takes longer due to the need for extensive investigation and expert testimony. Regardless of how long your case takes, allowing your attorney sufficient time to build a strong case on your behalf is crucial.

The Severity of Your Injuries and Medical Treatment

Severe injuries usually require a longer period of medical treatment and recovery, which can prolong the claims process. Additionally, complex injuries may involve multiple medical experts, further extending the timeline.

Pinnocol Assurance, an insurance company, defines maximum medical improvement (MMI) as the point at which a person’s injuries stabilize and they expect no further significant improvement or deterioration in their condition.

MMI is essential in the car accident settlement process because it allows your attorney to accurately assess the value of your claim, including any future medical expenses and lost income. Settling a claim too early may mean you receive less compensation than you deserve for ongoing treatment or unforeseen complications. While waiting for MMI can prolong the settlement process, it is necessary to ensure a fair outcome.


The Negotiation Process

Negotiation plays a significant role in car accident settlements. It is typically the first attempt for both parties to agree on compensation without resorting to litigation.

Your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company, present the evidence of their investigation, and assert the value of your claim. The goal is to reach a settlement that accurately reflects the damages you incurred.

Factors that can prolong the negotiation process include:

  • Disputes over liability: Parties might disagree on who was at fault for the accident, or it could involve shared responsibility. This process requires each side to gather evidence to support their claim, which may prolong the negotiation process.
  • Disagreements on damages: Disputes over the value of damages, such as medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering, can also extend the negotiation process. Insurers may try to minimize the value of your claim, requiring your attorney to build a strong, evidence-backed case.
  • The back-and-forth nature of offers and counteroffers.

The negotiation process is often time-consuming. Your attorney will likely consult with the insurance company several times, each time presenting a stronger case and attempting to reach an agreement. While this process can be lengthy, securing a fair and appropriate settlement for your damages is essential.


Contrary to popular belief, not all lawsuits end up in a dramatic courtroom battle, and most don’t. In 95 percent of all personal injury claims—including car accident cases—parties resolve the matter without seeing the inside of a courtroom.

Litigation becomes necessary when the negotiation process fails to produce a satisfactory settlement or the statute of limitations is fast approaching. Other reasons may include disputes over liability, disagreements over damages, or insurance companies acting in bad faith. In these situations, your attorney can sue to seek a resolution through the court system.

Litigation involves:

  • Filing a lawsuit: Your attorney will initiate the litigation by filing a complaint against the defendant(s) and serving them with the necessary legal documents. This step may prompt further negotiations, and if they remain unsuccessful, the case will proceed through the court system.
  • The discovery process: During the discovery phase, both parties exchange evidence, interview witnesses, and gather expert testimony. This process can be lengthy, as the parties may request additional information, leading to delays.
  • Pre-trial motions: Before trial, both parties may file pre-trial motions, such as requests for summary judgment or the exclusion of certain evidence. Resolving these motions may take additional time, further extending the litigation timeline.
  • The trial: If the case proceeds to trial, both sides present their arguments and evidence to a judge or jury. They determine fault and decide on the appropriate compensation. Trials can take days or weeks depending on the complexity of the case and the availability of witnesses.

It can take months or even years from the initial filing of a lawsuit to reach a resolution and conclude a trial. Factors such as court backlogs and scheduling conflicts can cause significant delays; however, pursuing litigation can be necessary to achieve a fair and just outcome.

Strategies an Attorney Can Use to Deal With Court Delays

An experienced car accident attorney can manage the timeline of your case and provide you with legal options to help you resolve the matter as soon as possible.

To mitigate the effects of court backlogs and delays on your car accident settlement timeline, your attorney may employ several strategies, such as:

  • Continuing negotiation: During periods of court delay, your attorney can continue negotiating with the other party and attempt to settle outside the courtroom.
  • Requesting an expedited trial or alternative dispute resolution: In some cases, your attorney may request an expedited trial or seek alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration, to resolve your case quickly.
  • Staying organized and proactive: Your attorney will organize all documents, evidence, and witness lists and ensure they are readily available so your case can proceed efficiently once it goes to the court.

While court delays can frustrate you, trust in your attorney’s expertise to navigate the complexities of the legal system and secure the best possible outcome for your case. Once the court determines liability and a compensatory award, your attorney typically receives the money within a few weeks unless there is an appeal. They will take payment for their services and provide documents to finalize the case before forwarding your compensation to you.


In some cases, the outcome of a trial may not align with the expectations of one or both parties. A party may appeal the decision because of legal errors during the trial or evidence that did not support the judge or jury’s decision. Appeals can ensure a just outcome for your case.

In cases of an appeal, both parties submit written briefs to the appellate court presenting their legal arguments. The court may schedule oral arguments, allowing each side to present their case before the judges. After reviewing the submissions and arguments, the appellate court issues a decision, which can uphold, reverse, or modify the trial court’s judgment.

The decision of the appellate court is usually final, with limited options for further appeals. In some jurisdictions, an unsuccessful party may petition the state’s supreme court for review, although such requests are rarely successful.

Once the parties exhaust their appeals, the court expects them to abide by the ruling.

Robert W. Boatman - Experienced Car Accident Lawyer for Car Accident Cases in Phoenix, AZ area

Robert W. Boatman, Car Accident Attorney in Phoenix, AZ 

Patience Is Crucial to a Successful Outcome

Various factors influence the timeline of a car accident settlement, including the statute of limitations, investigation and evidence gathering, the severity of the injuries and medical treatment, the negotiation process, litigation, court backlogs and delays, and the appeals process. Understanding these factors helps you manage your expectations and remain patient throughout the often-lengthy settlement process.

An experienced personal injury attorney Phoenix can guide you through the complexities of the car accident settlement process, advocate for your best interests, and assist you as you seek fair compensation for your injuries.