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July 29, 2022
how long does car accident settlement negotiation take

How Long Does Car Accident Settlement Negotiation Take?

Considering the economic distress that accidents cause, a common concern among accident victims is “how long does car accident settlement negotiation take?” Settlement negotiation typically takes several weeks or months. In some accident cases, reaching a settlement agreement can take a year or more. Negotiation is an essential part of seeking compensation for damages related to your accident and injuries. Multiple factors determine how long the settlement negotiation lasts. While some factors are in your hands, others depend on the other parties involved.

How Does Car Accident Settlement Negotiation Work?

As you try to estimate how long your settlement negotiation will take, it’s essential to understand how the process works. When it comes to car accidents and other personal injury cases, Nevada is a fault state. That means if someone else caused the accident that led to your injuries, you could hold him or her liable for your damages. You can seek compensation for the damages by filing a car accident claim with the other driver’s insurance company.

Insurance companies often offer an amount that doesn’t fully cover your injury costs and other damages at first. They usually hope that because of the medical bills piling up, you will accept their quick settlement offer. Therefore, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will likely present a lowball settlement offer. You will probably need to have a period of back-and-forth negotiations before agreeing on a final settlement amount.

During the settlement negotiation process, an insurance adjuster handling your claim may dispute some facts to limit your compensation amount. Disputes may lengthen the timeline for resolving your claim. The common elements of claims that adjusters tend to dispute include:

  • The severity of the injuries
  • How necessary some medical treatments received were
  • How long you are expected to require medical treatment
  • The role your own negligence played in causing the accident
  • Whether the policy covers the accident

Your car accident attorney may respond to the disputes by giving sufficient additional information to show why you should get a higher settlement. The process may go on for a while until the insurance company makes a settlement offer that you accept.

How Long Does Car Accident Settlement Negotiation Take in Nevada?

The time that car accident settlement negotiation takes in Nevada can vary greatly. One claim may be fairly straightforward, resulting in a settlement negotiation process that lasts for just a few weeks. Other settlements can involve complex details and take more than a year to resolve.

The exact duration of the settlement negotiation stemming from your car accident will depend on the unique circumstances involved in your case. To help you better understand what you can expect, let’s explore the typical car accident settlement negotiation timeline, as well as the variables that can make the process take longer.

Car Accident Settlement Negotiation Timeline

Settlement negotiations typically can’t take place until you receive treatment for the injuries you sustained and reach the maximum medical improvement (MMI) stage. As a result, seeking medical attention should be one of your first steps after getting into a trucking accident, motorcycle collision, pedestrian accident, or any other type of accident.

Considering how minor accidents can cause significant injuries in the long term, you should get medical treatment even if you feel you are not severely injured. A medical professional will document your injuries following the accident, which will help you get full compensation for your claim later.

MMI is the point where your primary doctor determines that your condition is stable and won’t improve even with further treatment. Your condition may worsen even after reaching MMI, but the doctor will have determined that you won’t recover from the injuries sustained any further. Your lawyer will likely wait for you to reach MMI to get the full picture of the severity of your injuries and your treatment’s expected outcome. That will help establish how much the insurance company should pay for a settlement.

Depending on your injuries, it could take days or months to reach MMI. If you require extensive medical treatment because you sustained serious injuries, it will take more time to get a clear picture of your injury costs, which would lengthen the settlement process.

Sending a Demand Letter

After investigations into your accident and compilation of all supporting evidence, you and your attorney can ask for a fair settlement amount through a demand letter. The letter explains:

  • How the at-fault driver injured you
  • The types of harm you have suffered
  • The total compensation you are seeking
  • Any other details you believe an insurance adjuster should know that could help your claim

It may take weeks or even months for you to get to this step in your case because the demand letter is usually sent out after you have reached MMI. You won’t get full compensation for your claim if the demand package is prepared and sent too early.

In Nevada, the law requires insurance companies to respond to communications about insurance claims reasonably promptly. Failing to respond can be the basis of a bad faith complaint. The insurance company may take several days, weeks, or months to respond to your demand letter.

An insurer may take a long time to get back to you because of a high volume of claims that the company may have to process. Some insurance companies, however, employ delaying tactics to frustrate you into ending your pursuit of compensation. You can get in touch with the insurance company to follow up if you haven’t heard from it after around 60 days. Most insurance companies provide timely responses to demand letters.

Negotiating With the Insurance Company

The settlement negotiation usually starts when you receive a reply from the insurance company. The insurer can accept your demand or send a counteroffer, which is an alternative amount that the company would like you to accept, but you can choose not to agree to it. Insurance companies like minimizing accident claim payouts. As a result, the insurer is likely to send you a low counteroffer compared to what you expected.

When you get the offer from the insurance company and review it, you can accept or reject it or send a counteroffer. If you choose to counteroffer, you will need to have your lawyer prepare a letter explaining why you feel you should be entitled to higher compensation.

Negotiations usually involve the two parties refusing offers and making counteroffers of different amounts. They go back and forth in a bid to get to a number agreeable to both sides. Settlement negotiations often last a couple of weeks or months after the accident victim gets the first settlement offer.

Filing a Lawsuit

Most personal injury claims end with a settlement before a lawsuit is filed and the cases go to trial. Nevertheless, if a reasonable amount of time passes, and you can’t agree with the other party on a fair settlement, you can file a lawsuit with the local courts. How busy the courthouse is in Washoe County determines your court date and the timeline for your trial in Reno.

Negotiations can continue even after your case enters the court system. You can start another round of settlement negotiations after the litigation’s discovery phase ends or right before the trial begins. The case will move to trial if a settlement can’t be reached.

Cases in which settlement negotiations are at a standstill can move into mediation. Mediation involves a neutral third-party individual who helps the parties work out their differences and arrive at a settlement agreement. A court may require the parties to hire a mediator, or the parties may mutually agree to do so. Mediation may involve one or more sessions. Therefore, it may take a few hours or several days.

Time Taken to Receive the Settlement Check

Insurance companies usually issue checks within 30 days of reaching a settlement agreement. It may take about four to six weeks from when you and the insurer reach an agreement to receive the settlement check. The insurance company will require that you sign a document stating that the settlement you will receive fully satisfies your claim. If you sign this release form, you will give up the right to sue the party for the same accident again.

When an insurance company receives the release form, it usually sends the settlement check to your lawyer. Personal injury lawyers typically handle car accident cases on a contingency fee basis. Your lawyer will deduct his or her contingency fees, any other out-of-pocket expenses, and any medical liens or unpaid hospital bills from the settlement amount. Your lawyer will then send the remainder of the settlement amount to you.

Factors That Can Affect the Negotiation Timeline

The following factors can make settlement negotiations take a longer or shorter time.

Strength of Your Case

The pace of settlement negotiations largely depends on the strength of your case. Weaknesses in your case, such as lack of evidence and unclear fault, will make it harder to reach the final settlement amount you are seeking. Such deficiencies may lengthen the settlement negotiation process.

You are more likely to get the compensation you are seeking and make settlement negotiations shorter if you take the time to prepare your car accident claim with supporting documents and evidence that prove the other driver was responsible for your accident and show the full extent of your losses. You can strengthen your case and enhance your chances of successful settlement negotiation by:

  • Taking pictures of the crash scene and injuries
  • Seeking medical treatment for the accident injuries soon after the accident
  • Gathering copies of documents showing the severity of your injuries and the losses that have resulted from the accident, such as records of lost wages, medical records, and bills
  • Consulting with a car accident attorney
  • Gathering evidence of the negligence of the other driver

Number of At-Fault Parties

If your case has multiple at-fault parties, you will have to deal with several insurance companies to reach a final settlement agreement. As a result, the settlement negotiations take longer than if your case involved just one at-fault party.

How Quick the Insurer Responds

A key determinant of settlement time is how soon an insurance company responds to a claimant. A company responding quickly to you and your attorney will lead to a shorter negotiation timeline. On the other hand, an insurer that uses hard-bargaining or delaying tactics to dishearten you and try to avoid paying a larger settlement amount will lengthen the negotiation process.

Severity of Injuries

Serious car accident injuries usually have high costs of medical care that are likely to slow the settlement process. Severe injuries may have an uncertain recovery outlook and projected treatment plan. Negotiations could take longer as insurance companies investigate such cases and look for pieces of information that they can utilize to devalue the claims.

The Lowest Settlement Amount You Will Accept

At the start of the settlement negotiations, you may have a particular number that you are willing to settle for as compensation. Due to the tendency of insurance companies to try to minimize what they have to pay, the insurer may first respond with a low offer that doesn’t fully cover your losses. It will take several rounds of negotiations before reaching an amount that works for both of you.

The higher the minimum amount you are willing to settle for, the longer the negotiation process will take. The process will last even longer if the insurance company doesn’t agree on what you consider fair compensation for your losses, and you choose to file a lawsuit.

Your Patience

If you want to receive compensation much quicker and are ready to accept less money, the settlement negotiations will take a shorter time. In contrast, the negotiations will take longer if you are willing to be patient when considering offers and ready to settle for more money at a later date when the insurance company ultimately offers what you and your attorney consider a full and fair settlement value.

Whether You Are Negotiating With or Without an Attorney

Negotiating a car accident settlement without an attorney typically results in a longer settlement time. Without an attorney, you may run into the pitfalls that extend the negotiation timeline and lower your chances of receiving the amount of compensation to which you should be entitled. The assistance of a lawyer generally produces a quicker and smoother settlement negotiation process.

For instance, the demand letter can lead to protracted settlement negotiations or a faster and more generous settlement. An experienced personal injury attorney will know what to say and what not to include in the demand letter, helping ensure you send a well-written letter to the insurance company. The attorney will collect as much evidence as possible to discover the liable parties and present a compelling case.

Auto accident lawyers will spot the delaying tactics of insurance companies and know how to stand up to them to expedite the settlement negotiations as much as possible. Most importantly, assistance from lawyers usually translates to larger payouts that assign the most accurate value to your damages.

Mr. Osborne is a seasoned trial lawyer with more than thirty years of litigation experience representing those injured in car accidents, by medical malpractice, or other forms of negligence. He is a member of the Nevada Justice Association and the Multi-Million Dollar Forum.

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