After a car accident, the trauma of an injury and the serious disruption to your life can make days seem like years. If the insurance company is disputing the facts of your case or attempting to get you to settle for an amount that won’t meet the financial needs placed on you due to your accident, the uncertainty can add to your burdens and make you wonder how long this ordeal will last. Get answers to your questions about the process of pursuing a claim through a lawsuit.
Do We First Try to Settle My Case Before Filing a Lawsuit?
Soon after the accident, assuming the facts are not in dispute, the insurance company will likely offer a settlement to close the case. The insurance company will assess the medical expenses and property damages, and offer a settlement they feel is fair in your case and urge you to accept the offer. Under the pressure of medical bills, and the loss of wages leading to financial strain many people accept this settlement only to find later that it may not cover all of their future medical expenses.
Upon first receiving a settlement offer that seems too low to meet the expenses of their accident, many people seek the services of an attorney for the first time. Soon after engaging an attorney, they may examine the merits of your case and propose a settlement to the insurance company that better suits your particular case.
If that is rejected, your attorney may recommend pursuing litigation to get the compensation your case deserves. There may be other attempts to reach a settlement throughout this process before the case comes to trial. However, a settlement offer may be made at any time before or after filing a lawsuit, depending on the particular circumstances of the case.
When Will My Lawsuit Be Filed?
The circumstances of each case differ and may shift when a lawsuit is filed. In general, it is a good idea to wait until the accident victim has reached the maximum medical improvement likely for their injury. Before that point, it can be difficult to determine what the medical expenses may be, how much wages will be lost, and the extent of any permanent disability.
The financial situation of the victim may warrant filing a lawsuit sooner, but this can lead to an underestimate of the compensation to be sought.
In any case of personal injury in Florida, the claim must be filed within four years of the date of the accident.
If a claim is filed after that time frame, it will likely be rejected, even if the claim would otherwise have merit. While there are exceptions for some circumstances, most claims must be filed within that four-year window.
Do I Have to File a Lawsuit?
While it may not be strictly required to file a lawsuit, in many cases without pursuing legal assistance, you may be forced to accept a much smaller settlement or no settlement at all compared to what may be achieved by involving the legal system.
Insurance company employees don’t have your best interest in mind. Their job is to look out for the best interests of the company and they will offer the least amount they feel they must in order to close a case. By pursuing legal remedies, you make the insurance company more likely to offer fair compensation, even if the case never actually goes to trial.
What Is Involved in Filing a Lawsuit?
The most important thing after being injured in an accident is to seek medical treatment and to do whatever you can to recover from your injuries. Your health is more important than any other considerations.
Soon after your accident, if the injuries are serious or there is a major disagreement over who is at fault in the case, you should consider having at least an initial consultation with an attorney to find out what options are available to you. Once you engage an attorney, they will investigate your claim and begin gathering evidence to support your case.
Once the lawyer has gathered the evidence in your case, they will consider demanding compensation from the insurance company. If you are still recovering from injuries, it may be in your best interest to wait until you have recovered, or the statute of limitations is nearing expiration in your case.
Once a demand has been made, if the insurance company rejects the demand, there may be an exchange of counteroffers. However, if no satisfactory settlement is offered, it may be time to file the lawsuit.
Once the lawsuit is filed, the discovery process happens in which both sides exchange the evidence that has been collected. After this, there may be more settlement offers, and cases may also attempt to settle through a mediator who helps facilitate reaching a settlement.
Should mediation fail, the case may finally be scheduled for trial. Trials can last a day or a week or longer depending on the circumstances of the case.
From start to finish, a case may take a year or more to settle if it goes to trial. Many factors play influence whether this process takes longer or is finished more quickly. Consulting an attorney about the particulars of your situation should help clarify how long the process will take in your case.
To learn more about car accidents, read our A Comprehensive Guide for Car Accident Victims.