Car accidents are traumatic events that physically and emotionally exhaust victims, and most of us involved in a crash would like to resolve the situation quickly. For simple fender-benders, that may be possible. However, in the event of bigger accidents that involve injuries, damage to property, and significant mental stress, it is often in your best interest to file a claim for compensation. When that happens, the process of reaching a settlement after an accident can take much longer.
How much longer? Unfortunately, the answer to that question depends on many different factors. You need to know the full extent of your physical injuries to make the best claim, and sometimes those injuries take weeks or even months to surface. Accidents involving trucking companies or government bodies can take longer, too. There is also the matter of fault percentage, or how liable each party is for the damages incurred. And even when you are clearly the victim of a car accident and not at fault, the other party may try to prove otherwise, adding extra steps and time to the settlement process.
The good news is that you don’t have to feel like you’re staring down a long road with no end in sight when you file a claim after a car accident. While the process of reaching a settlement varies based on each unique situation, all cases follow a general set of steps and timeline you can expect to encounter after you make your claim.
The Car Accident Case Timeline
A basic knowledge of the steps involved in a car accident lawsuit will help you plan for what comes next. No two cases are alike, which means there is no set timeline to reaching a settlement after you file a claim. Your case could take a few months or as long as one year, depending on how many of the following steps it covers:
- You file a complaint. Car accident cases begin when the victim files a claim with a local court. This is officially the start of a lawsuit.
- The defendant answers the complaint. The at-fault party has a set amount of time to answer your complaint, whether to admit the allegations or deny them.
- The lawsuit enters mediation. A neutral third-party moderates talks between the victim and defendant. The goal is to reach an agreement, such as a settlement, without going to trial.
- Discovery phase starts. Here, lawyers from both sides of the case investigate the details of the accident.
When a trial stage is added onto this process, car accidents can typically take as long as one year (sometimes more) to complete if they involve all of the above steps. However, that rarely actually happens.
More typical is for the two parties to reach a settlement, which can happen at any time during the litigation process. For example, if new evidence is found during the discovery phase that inarguably places blame with one party, they may decide to settle rather than take a case to trial. A defendant might even agree to a settlement when they are served the initial complaint, significantly shortening the length of your case.
Again, it all depends on the particulars. It’s natural to want to move things along as quickly as possible after an emotionally and physically jarring event. In many cases, though, speed may not be in your best interest. It takes time to gather and evaluate substantial evidence and decide on the best possible course of action. Working alongside an experienced car accident attorney will help you gain a better understanding of what to expect in your case and how long it will take to reach a settlement.
Call us today to speak with a Chicago car accident attorney.