Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: March 18, 2023 11:38am CDT
You’re placed in a challenging situation when you have a motor vehicle accident. By being in a car accident, you will likely suffer some level of physical injuries, property damage, and financial losses that can leave even the strongest amongst us devastated without assistance. This reality is part of the reason personal injury claims exist to ensure that the party at fault or party liable for the auto accident compensates you for the injuries and damages you suffered.
Most often, the money you will recover from a car accident claim will come from what is known as a settlement in contrast to a court award that can be won after a jury trial. The point of these settlements is that the liable party agrees to provide the finances you will need to pay for your medical expenses and other costs while often providing some funds for damages.
It’s how you hold them accountable and recover financially without going to court. These settlements can make all the difference after a personal injury and are essential to the legal process. Unfortunately, car accident settlements rarely arrive at the most reasonable time we would like after suffering a car wreck.
Sometimes a personal injury settlement takes an exceptionally long time to come through, and you are left struggling until it does. While settlements are supposed to be processed within a reasonable timeframe, often, some elements might delay it.
So this means you are likely left trying to pick up the pieces and wondering where your recovery funds from your car accident settlement are.
Understandably, you might be less than pleased and frustrated at the idea that the car accident settlement money to compensate you for the incident has not been sent to you and left wondering why your car accident settlement is taking so long.
However, these delays that are slowing down your settlement timeline might be for a good reason, even if it does not seem that way at the time. So we created this article to help provide some insight into the potential delays and how long it can take for a car accident settlement to arrive.
Negotiating A Car Accident Settlement With Insurance Company
Many plaintiffs do not realize until after the fact that personal injury claims are not as simple as stating that “the defendant harmed you due to negligent behavior.” When you file a claim after a car accident, it typically goes to the defendant’s insurance company for review.
After the insurance company looks at the case details, they will hopefully accept liability and begin negotiating with your car accident attorney to identify a reasonable settlement amount.
Insurance adjusters want to avoid paying hefty lump sums because it affects their company’s profits. As a result, the adjuster will carefully examine the complaint you have filed against their client to ensure the requested payment is accurate, necessary, and justified.
With this being said, it is always possible the insurance adjuster could deny liability or even blame you as the at-fault driver for causing the car accident. That means the other driver’s insurance company is not even open to paying you any settlement for the time being, which makes your car accident lawyer’s job much more challenging.
A situation like this where you are getting blamed is a reason why a car accident settlement would take so long.
Your attorney will have to work to get the defendant’s insurance company to accept responsibility for the accident or have to litigate your case in court to win the compensation you deserve. Both of these take time, slowing down the settlement process.
The larger the amount you and your personal injury lawyer demand, the more likely this will be, especially if the circumstances surrounding your case are unclear.
Similarly, if the amount of money demanded in your claim letter is significant, the insurance company and their defense lawyers will analyze your medical records, medical bills, and prior insurance claims, even those not associated with this car accident case.
They do this to look for any injuries they can avoid paying for and attribute to something other than their client who caused the car accident and whom you are suing for the settlement.
While this does not necessarily come across as the most humane or fair math when it is your car accident case, this practice is allowed and performed to prevent false settlement claims from being paid out. Regardless, this analysis occurs whenever the insurance adjuster receives a demand letter for a specific settlement amount.
When the Insurance Company Accepts Liability For the Accident
If the insurance company accepts responsibility, they will likely send a counteroffer to your attorney’s office to start the negotiation process in hopes of reaching a settlement. That counteroffer is often referred to as the “initial offer.” The more the insurance company finds that it is not its responsibility, the lower the settlement counteroffer you will receive.
If the counter is unfair, your attorney will counter the insurance adjuster’s response and use discovery documentation, which is evidence, to prove the need for the original demand amount. Usually, this will force the adjuster’s hand, and they will offer an amount closer to the demand due to the evidence being too strong to refute.
However, some insurance adjusters will double down on their counteroffer and insist that the reduced settlement amount be accepted.
This settlement process can delay your payout since your car accident lawyer might need to litigate the case before a judge and jury, who will hopefully rule in your favor due to the evidence presented by your law firm. A favorable verdict will force the insurance company to pay a court award for your losses.
When the case is filed as a car accident lawsuit and a trial date is set, it can increase the chance of a fair settlement. However, it can also significantly delay the approval of a settlement check until closer to your date in court.
Nevertheless, negotiations with car insurance companies are not the only type that affects your settlement timeline, and in general, why car accident settlements can take so long.
Negotiating Liens With Medical Providers After the Car Accident Settlement
While negotiations with an insurance adjuster are the main focus of a personal injury claim, your attorney often must negotiate with the medical providers that treated you for your injuries.
The costs of the medical providers who treated you are often the basis of your settlement negotiation. The primary goal of any settlement is to provide you with enough money to pay for your medical treatment without having to tap into your own savings.
However, because the purpose of a settlement is to help pay off your medical costs, there is often little room for leftover funds for you to get as a settlement check at the end of the case.
Fortunately, some states allow your attorney to negotiate down the amount personal injury victims owe medical providers, like doctors and surgery centers, so that plaintiffs can walk away with more of their settlement money at the end of the case.
So if you are lucky to be in a state where medical liens are an option, your attorney can deal with your medical providers to reduce the cost you owe for your treatment.
In a way, your personal injury attorney plays the insurance company’s role, except they are trying to save you money and pay the least fair amount possible for your medical liens.
However, this process will always delay the sending of your settlement check in the mail or your law firm handing it to you. Just because an attorney can request a reduction of the lien does not mean a provider is obligated to agree to it by law. Common practice or not.
The medical providers are also trying to earn money, so if they feel the reduction request is too steep, they might send a counteroffer that favors their profit margins. This back-and-forth negotiation could further delay your settlement check as your attorney tries to get you the best possible resolution in your favor.
However, this particular form of negotiation is not accepted across the country and will depend on your home state. Aside from negotiations, other details can hold the case up and keep your car accident settlement money out of your hands.
The Amount of Money in the Demand Letter
As we mentioned before, negotiations with the insurance adjuster significantly affect how long it takes for personal injury claims to resolve. However, car accident settlement negotiations can take longer if the amount of money is substantial.
The more money involved in your claim, the longer it takes for an adjuster or attorney to evaluate the necessary costs and conduct their negotiations.
Significant compensation personal injury cases are the type of claim insurance companies are eager to avoid whenever possible, especially since those funds are their responsibility to repay.
One of the tactics that an insurance adjuster might employ is to delay the negotiations to try and wear you and your legal team down. Mostly, they must use more care to assess the details surrounding your car accident claim, and that extra care takes more time and resources.
Regardless of whether these underhanded tactics are used, an abundance of costs and funds can severely slow your claim and delay your car accident settlement.
The best way to summarize this is that the only thing insurance adjusters hate more than paying is overpaying. So, they will want to assess every dime to ensure it is relevant to the claim.
The more treatment you receive for the car accident and the more complications with the case, the more they will have to evaluate those developments and the longer the time your car accident settlement will take. However, sometimes the delay in your auto accident settlement has more to do with legal complications of your case than financial concerns.
Legal Complications With the Car Accident Case
While the monetary settlement is the primary reason for filing a personal injury claim, it is not the core of the process. At its heart, a personal injury claim remains chiefly a legal matter, with the settlement serving as a byproduct rather than the primary purpose.
Personal injury claims aim to ensure personal injury victims have a way to recover losses from the negligent parties who are responsible for their loss. However, because personal injury cases are legal proceedings, they can be complicated by certain legal contrivances or issues.
The primary complication of a personal injury case is that the defendant might try to dispute the damages. That means whether they do not accept responsibility for the damage to the accident victims and their injured loved ones and the medical care that was needed to treat their serious injuries. If this happens, they will attempt to absolve themselves of the responsibility to repay you.
They do so by insisting that they did not cause your injuries and that the case is a farce in some way. Meaning they claim they should not be held responsible for the accident. Other times, this is done on a smaller scale, and they will only attempt to absolve themselves of minor injuries they caused.
However, liability can be challenging to prove in some circumstances.
Determining the at-fault party and their liability is critical to receiving a payout from the defendant’s insurance adjuster. If you cannot prove that they were indeed responsible for the accident that left you injured, you will be unable to receive your settlement.
Usually, liability is straightforward to establish since both witnesses and physical evidence will typically support one of the two sides of the conflict. However, sometimes the incident occurs out of witnesses’ view and without direct evidence to support your claims.
How You Can Establish Liability in the Car Accident
In these cases, proving liability is more complicated but still quite possible. Evidence like photographs, dashcam footage, and recorded video footage from nearby ambient cameras can help you prove liability. If the police arrive at the accident scene and make an accident report, your personal injury law firm can pull the police report to help determine the at-fault driver.
Sometimes the other driver might admit fault to the police right after the accident but tell a different story later to their insurance company. This is good news for you, as your lawyer can use this as leverage when negotiating with the insurance company.
Other times, you may have been perfectly healthy right up until after the accident, so all of the injuries you suffered are too severe to be attributed to anything other than what was stated in your claim.
Once you bring enough evidence to prove the defendant is liable for your injuries, your claim should proceed with less hassle and more in your favor. It is proving this liability that can prove challenging and be the most difficult task to achieve.
For the most part, liability is the main obstacle that can keep you from wrapping up your claim in an expeditious matter. However, you might find that your medical recovery can be just as obstructive, and there are other, more exotic causes for legal interruptions to your claim.
You Have Not Fully Recovered From Your Injuries
While it might seem strange, your recovery from your injuries does impact the speed at which your car accident settlement is processed. Your body can be the greatest obstacle to getting the compensation you are after if you are still treating your injuries.
That is not a bad thing but rather an unfortunate reality of the situation. As we mentioned, the point of a fair settlement is to equip you with the finances needed to repay your medical expenses.
Therefore, it is impossible for a demand letter to be drafted if you are still in the process of treating your injuries. That is one reason you should never skip your medical appointments, as it can hurt your case and your chances of getting a fair settlement.
You do not necessarily need to fully recover from your injuries to close out your claim entirely. Some injuries are permanent and will require care for the remainder of your life.
What Does Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) Mean?
In these injury cases, you will need to stabilize your body to a point where you can somewhat normally live your life following the accident. This point in time is known as the maximum medical improvement (MMI).
That is when your injuries have recovered enough that you no longer need a physician to help you improve any further. Once you have reached MMI, you and your lawyer can understand which injuries require continued attention and which are fully recovered.
Once you meet MMI requirements, you will also have a comprehensive medical expense report that you can use for the demand letter. The one thing that can cause you to lose your right to receive a car accident settlement altogether is if you do not file a claim before the statute of limitations for the state of the accident elapses.
If you are taking too long to finish treating and reach the MMI and forget to file a claim before the statute of limitations is up, you will be unable to file a claim and thus unable to receive your settlement.
However, this is less likely to prove an issue since you likely will not hesitate to seek out the medical treatment you need following an injury, and your lawyer will keep track of the statute of limitations for your case.
They understand the legal side, and that is why you, at a minimum, have a free case evaluation with an experienced lawyer following a car accident. With the help and legal advice of your car accident attorney, you can stay focused on physically recovering while they build your case.
All of these factors can impact the speed of your injury claim to different degrees. However, a big factor that many people do not realize until after a personal injury claim is how our financial obligations and the cost of daily life not only continue but go up when we get hurt.
So even with a potential car accident settlement on the way, you might need help paying for those expenses when your injuries require extensive medical treatment. It costs money and time to heal.
Closing Statements on Why Car Accident Settlements Can Take So Long
Some personal injury settlements can take a significant amount of time to process, whether it be your attorney negotiating with the insurance adjuster to get you a larger car accident settlement or with your medical providers to pay them less.
These settlements are meant to help compensate for the expenses incurred by your injury, but the legal proceedings involved play a significant role in how long that will take to receive a car accident settlement.
While there is a general idea about how long they can take and what the average amount of a car accident settlement is, several factors can easily delay the process. Some personal injury lawsuits take years to move through the system before reaching a settlement offer.
Unfortunately, even if you have a set timeframe or estimate for your car accident settlement, it does not prevent the costs of living from affecting you. It is worth noting that you will get more pertinent information about the potential delays for your claim by consulting with your personal injury attorney.
They will be able to tell you what about your specific case might be delaying the settlement check process, though it will likely relate to one of the factors discussed here.
Living life costs money and means fulfilling financial obligations that apply to daily life, such as rent or groceries. It can be easy for these expenses to build up and become overwhelming very quickly when you are suddenly forced to balance medical and transportation costs on top of the cost of living. These costs don’t stop when dealing with a legal battle of any kind, personal injury included.
Lawsuit Funding Can Help You During a Long Settlement Process
It can feel impossible to manage your finances when you need money now, and the settlement process is taking too long. It will always feel like your settlement check is taking too long and will never arrive if the insurance company is stalling and still negotiating the settlement amount with you.
Fortunately, there can be an option for you to balance out your costs and help you bide your time versus the insurance company before the moment of reaching a fair settlement arrives. We at Express Legal Funding can provide non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs who are involved in the claim and settlement process, so they can have the funds they need now to pay for essential services.
Since the money is advanced as a non-recourse purchase agreement and not a loan(except for residents of some states like Missouri, where it is a pre-settlement loan), it is risk-free.
That means we, Express Legal Funding, as a Plano, Texas-based pre-settlement funding company that serves clients in states across the nation, only expect repayment from a portion of the proceeds of the case, which we buy with the cash advanced to you on your legal claim.
So that means if you saw your case to the end but did not recover a settlement or case proceeds, you get to keep the legal funding you got from us. That is what makes lawsuit funding a risk-free financial option for plaintiffs with civil lawsuits and injury cases.
The lien is on the claim and not you, the plaintiff. So, if you need financial assistance, call us today for a free consultation to see if you can get approved for legal funding and whether it is the best financial option for you and your case.
About the Author
Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title “The Legal Funding Expert” through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R Winston was featured in a smith.ai interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).