The timeline for a car accident settlement in Fort Lauderdale depends on the specifics of the case. Totaled vehicles, catastrophic injuries, or wrongful death could all require more litigation time,for example, just as a minor fender bender could require less. Some car accident settlements must wait for ongoing criminal cases against the at-fault drivers to end before awarding the plaintiffs. A discussion with a personal injury attorney can give you a more accurate estimate of how long your settlement could take, but below is a general outline of what you might expect.
Months Zero to Three
The first week after your accident requires the most work as a victim unless you hire an attorney to do the work for you. You have to act quickly after a crash to gather evidence and protect your rights. In the hours after a collision, go to the hospital for any injuries you might have suffered. Document information such as the location of your accident, who was at fault, how it happened, and your property damage and injuries. The more information you gather about your crash, the stronger your case for a settlement will be.
Most insurance companies require that you report collisions within 24 hours of the accident, or as soon as you are able. Once you’re in a safe location and on the mend from any injuries, call the phone number listed on your insurance card. Follow your agent’s directions for reporting a claim. You will file the claim with your own insurance company due to Florida’s no-fault insurance laws. Your insurance company will then start the investigative process.
You will need to complete medical treatment and get a professional assessment of the value of your property damage before your insurance company can offer a settlement. Your insurance company will wait until you reach the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI), or the point at which no further healing will occur. If no one disputes liability, your injuries aren’t catastrophic, and you wish to accept your insurer’s first settlement offer, you will likely be able to settle your claim within 30 days of your MMI.
Months Three to Six
Insurance companies will try to get car accident victims to settle for the least amount possible; often less than the case is actually worth. Florida’s insurance laws make it especially tricky to get full recovery for your medical bills and property damage from your own insurer. In the event that you do not want to agree to the initial settlement offer, you will enter into negotiations with the insurance company. At this point, if you haven’t already hired an attorney, do so. An attorney can significantly boost your chances of settling for the maximum amount possible.
Insurance settlement negotiations can take weeks or months depending on the wishes and demands of both parties. If both sides cannot agree on a number, the next step is to bring a lawsuit against the other driver. A lawsuit might also be the correct move if you suffered permanent injuries or scarring, or if your insurance company wrongfully denied your claim. You have four years from the date of your car accident to file a lawsuit in Florida.
Months Six and Beyond
It can take up to one year after you file a car accident lawsuit to have your day in court. The claims filing and serving processes, as well as time for the defendant to answer your claim or file an extension, can last months. While a good lawyer will expedite the court process as much as possible, it can take additional months or even years for the case to come to an end. If the defendant files an appeal of the court’s decision, it can make your case last even longer. The vast majority of car accident claims in Florida, however, settle without needing to go to trial in just a few months.