How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take? (2024)

Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 4 mins

After a car accident, negotiating with insurance companies and fighting for fair compensation may be the last thing you want to do. It’s common to want the process to end as quickly as possible. If you’re wondering how long it takes to settle a car accident case, we’re here to help.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps in the average car accident settlement timeline and explain the factors that can cause delays.

Car Accident Settlement Timeline

So, how long does it take to settle a car accident case? Your auto accident settlement timeline will look like this:

Step Time Estimate
Accident and reporting to insurance and policeSame day or as soon as possible
Medical treatmentSame day to years, depending on injury severity
Evidence gathering and damages estimate1 - 8 weeks after injuries and continuing medical needs are clear
Insurance negotiations1 - 2 months
Settlement reachedCan occur at any point in negotiations
Settlement check issued to escrow1 - 2 weeks
Client receives settlement1 - 2 weeks

Car accidents that cause severe injuries can take longer to settle because it takes longer to clarify treatment needs and gather medical records. Once a settlement is reached, it’s usually only a few weeks before you receive your settlement funds.

It is possible to settle a car accident claim without a lawyer. However, this puts you at risk of settling for less than your claim is worth, and doesn’t guarantee settlement will come quickly.

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Factors That Impact The Car Accident Settlement Time

A number of factors influence how long it takes to settle a car accident case, including:

  • Injury severity. The average settlement for a minor car accident is lower than those that caused severe injuries, but settlement moves faster. This is because it takes less time to confirm injuries and value property damage after a minor accident.
  • Number of involved parties. It can take longer to reach a settlement when more vehicles were involved in the accident, due to the time needed to assess property damages on all vehicles. The same is true when passengers are injured and time is needed to certify their injuries.
  • Party types. Just as more vehicles can lengthen the settlement timeline, so can some types of vehicles and parties. For example, commercial truck accidents can be lengthy cases because several parties may ultimately be liable for the driver’s actions.
  • Ongoing medical treatment. Some injuries require ongoing treatment or rehabilitation measures. In these cases, settlement may be delayed until the full extent of injuries and costs are known.
  • Disputed fault. You are more likely to reach settlement quickly if liability for who caused the accident is clear. Disputes over fault can be difficult to resolve until a thorough investigation has clarified what happened.
  • Insurance efficiency. Many insurance companies process claims efficiently, but some can be slow to respond or reach out to you. Working with a lawyer can help ensure your claim is processed effectively. Some state agencies, like the California Department of Insurance, also accept consumer complaints if insurance companies fail to process your claim within set deadlines.
  • Legal process. If your claim cannot be settled without a lawsuit, then the case resolution timeline can take significantly longer. This is due to the need for court hearings and formal evidence discovery periods during litigation. Additionally, court backlogs and hearing delays can draw out the process.
  • Other factors. Never discount the impact of the unexpected. For example, availability of evidence and witness cooperation also play a role in how quickly your case can settle.

Is Settling Your Car Accident Case the Right Choice?

It can be tempting to settle your car accident case as quickly as possible. Negotiating with insurance providers can be stressful, and settling means you can put the accident behind you. However, it also risks leaving you on the hook for expenses the settlement didn’t cover.

Once you finalize a settlement, you cannot go back for more later. A settlement will require you to give up your right to sue, so it is vital that you don’t accept a lowball offer just to get it over with. If you’re unsure whether a settlement you’ve been offered is reasonable, reach out to a lawyer for help. Fill out the form on this page to connect with a local car accident lawyer today.

Benefits of Hiring a Car Accident Lawyer

Hiring the best car accident lawyer near you can save you headaches and maximize your settlement value. The Insurance Research Council found that 85% of personal injury case settlements, including car accident cases, involved a lawyer. The same research found that settlements handled by lawyers resulted in 3.5 times higher settlement values.

Most car accident lawyers take cases on contingency, meaning they only get paid their fees after you receive compensation. You have a lawyer on your side who is incentivized to recover the most they can on your behalf.

You also benefit from your lawyer’s understanding of the legal process and negotiation skills. This expertise ensures your claim is navigated as efficiently as possible, while still protecting your rights.

Fill out the form on this page for a free case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Your settlement money should be delivered within a few weeks to a month after the settlement paperwork is signed. This can vary, depending on how quickly the insurance company processes your settlement and whether you have outstanding debts or medical liens to be paid from the settlement.

    Most states require insurance companies to move forward by certain deadlines. For example, Illinois requires settlement funds to be paid within 30 days once a release has been signed. Your lawyer will put your funds into a trust account or escrow account once they receive the payment, and may arrange to have medical liens and their fees paid directly from the settlement.

  • There is no single formula used in valuing car accident settlements. However, insurance companies and personal injury lawyers often add up clear damages like medical expenses and lost wages and then multiply that number by a value between 1.5 and 5. The multiple is greatest in cases with significant emotional trauma or life-altering consequences.

    While a formula may be used to determine a starting point in negotiations, you are not required to accept the value offered. Working with a lawyer can help you get a clear value estimate and ensure you don’t take a lowball offer. Fill out the form on this page to get help with your case today.

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