Auto accident cases can become even more complicated depending on a case’s circumstances. For example, serious injuries, multiple involved parties, or a question of liability can further complicate a case and lengthen the settlement process. Even so, many personal injury cases follow the same general process. Below, our Los Angeles car accident lawyers explain what you can expect from California’s car accident settlement timeline.
Auto Accident Settlement Timeline in California
The process for recovering compensation for your damages begins right after your accident. Because of this, it is critical to understand how to protect yourself and your claim best. Your immediate actions following a car crash can strengthen or hurt your case. We recommend taking the following steps:
- Check for any injuries and call 9-1-1 to report the car accident.
- Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver.
- Take pictures of the accident scene to document vehicle damage, any injuries, and other potential contributing causes of the accident.
- If there are any witnesses to the accident, get their contact information.
- If you did not receive medical attention at the accident site, seek a medical evaluation from a health professional as soon as possible.
- Report the accident to your insurance company.
- If the police came to the accident scene, they created an accident report. Request a copy of it.
- Discuss your situation with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine whether you have a viable car accident claim to recover compensation for your damages.
Why You Should Seek Medical Treatment After a Car Crash
There are many essential steps to take directly after an auto accident to protect yourself and your auto accident claim. One of the most critical steps is getting a medical evaluation as soon as possible after a car accident.
A medical evaluation is significant for a couple of reasons. First, auto accidents can result in various injuries varying in degree of severity. Some of these injuries, such as soft tissue injuries, may not show up for many hours, days, or even weeks after the accident. An early evaluation can help you discover these injuries and get medical treatment before your injuries worsen.
Additionally, you need medical documentation for your accident claim. You need official documentation that proves your injuries were a direct cause of the accident. Further, your medical records explain the extent of your injuries.
These records provide substantial evidence that you get medical attention as soon after the accident as possible. The longer you wait to get evaluated, the easier it is for the other driver’s insurance company to challenge the connection between the crash and your injuries.
How Long Does It Take for an Auto Accident Settlement?
There is no fixed timeline for how long it takes to reach a California car accident settlement. How long a case takes depends on its unique factors. Additionally, not every case settles. In some cases, the involved parties cannot or will not reach a settlement, and the case proceeds to litigation when a lawsuit is filed.
However, many auto accident cases follow the same general process. Our Los Angeles auto accident lawyers discuss the car accident case timeline below.
Step One: Find a Car Accident Lawyer
After a severe car accident, consider reaching out to an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your situation and legal options. Here is our guide on how to find the right personal injury attorney for your case.
Having a lawyer on your side increases your chances of recovering fair compensation for your damages. In addition to dealing with insurance companies, adjusters, and other law firms, your attorney will guide you through the car accident settlement process and ensure your case follows all legal rules and procedures. If you are not a lawyer, it is easy to miss important deadlines or jeopardize your claim’s success with mistakes.
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At the Law Offices of Steers & Associates, we provide a free, confidential, and no-obligation consultation to help you understand your best legal options and determine if we can help you through the legal process. If we determine that we can help you, we will handle the legal side of your accident claim so you can focus on recovering.
Step Two: Initial Investigation
Your auto accident attorney will conduct an independent and ongoing investigation of the accident. During this time, your attorney will gather as much evidence as possible to strengthen your accident claim. Examples of significant evidence include:
- Accident report created by the police
- Photos and videos
- Witness statements
- Traffic or surveillance footage
- Medical records
Your lawyer uses this information to determine contributing causes of the car crash and the at-fault party or parties responsible.
Step Three: Demand Letter and Settlement Negotiations
Your attorney will draft and send a demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance company. A demand letter notifies the insurance company that you are pursuing financial compensation for your damages. Typically, a demand letter will include the following:
- Details about the accident and why you are seeking compensation
- How the other driver caused the car accident
- The extent and types of your damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering
- Support for your claim
- Your demand for compensation
Generally, your demand letter will prompt settlement negotiations. The other party’s insurance company may reject your demand, send a counteroffer, or deny any liability for your injuries.
If you cannot reach a fair settlement, you may have to resort to litigation to get the compensation you deserve.
Step Four: File a Car Accident Lawsuit
Though most car accident cases settle before litigation, not every case does. Your attorney may not be able to reach a fair settlement with the insurance company on your behalf, or the insurance company may refuse to accept any liability. If this is the case, your car accident attorney may file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party.
You only have a certain amount of time to file an auto accident lawsuit in California. This deadline is called a statute of limitations. Under California law, you only have two years from the accident date to file a lawsuit. This rule has certain exceptions, but generally, it is two years. If you miss this deadline, you may be barred from filing a lawsuit for your damages.
Step Five: Discovery
During discovery, each party investigates relevant evidence and information from the other. Each party analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of each side to strengthen its case.
The discovery phase includes written discovery, such as:
- Written questions, also known as interrogatories that the other side must answer
- Requests for admission, which consist of statements that the other party must admit or deny
- Requests for production, which are requests for the other party to produce specific documents
The discovery phase also consists of depositions of relevant parties, including, but not limited to:
- Witnesses of the crash
- Emergency responders of the accident
- Medical providers
Step Six: Mediation
Mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution that may occur before trial. A mediator facilitates mediation. A mediator is a qualified and neutral third party. During meditation, both parties agree to cooperate to reach an agreement through discussion.
Step Seven: Trial
If mediation fails, then the case will go to trial. Both parties will present their case to a judge or jury during the trial. Afterward, the judge or jury will deliver a verdict.
Discuss Your Case With Our Los Angeles Auto Accident Attorneys
As you can see from our explanation of the settlement timeline above, resolving auto accidents in California can be challenging and time-consuming. Consider working with a dedicated and experienced car accident attorney to handle the process on your behalf. You can focus on recovery while your attorney handles your accident claim, the insurance companies, the lawyers, and the legal process.
At the Law Offices of Steers & Associates, we handle auto accidents daily for our clients. We represent Californians in many auto accident cases, such as car, truck, and motorcycle accidents. If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto accident, we may be able to help you too.
Our firm provides a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your car accident case. We can answer your questions and help you understand your best legal options. We will also determine whether we can help you with your case. Call us at (800) 824-5416 or fill out our online contact form to learn more about your legal options.
Allen Vaysberg practices personal injury law and works tirelessly to defeat the tactics of insurance companies and large corporations who try to deny justice and fair compensation to injured people.