In general, a car accident lawsuit will take between one to two years to resolve. There are several key dates during the lawsuit process that may result in an earlier settlement, such as 30 days after case evaluation or at a facilitation. Some car accident cases also settle before a lawsuit is even filed by a lawyer sending a settlement demand package and negotiating the case with a claims adjuster. A firm trial date remains the biggest hurdle today as many courts are still backed up because of Covid-19 closures.
Although the specific facts of each individual car accident lawsuit will influence how long a case may take, there are three factors in every case that can significantly affect how quickly or slowly a case resolves: (1) your lawyer, and specifically his or her reputation and results; (2) the at-fault driver’s insurer; and (3) the adjuster and/or the defense lawyer.
One of the most important factors will be whether you have an experienced lawyer with a track record of trial success and a reputation for trying cases, as paradoxically this can result in a case settling faster and for more money.
The remaining two factors will be the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company, and specifically the claims adjuster and defense lawyer assigned to the case. Many insurers today incentivize delaying and denying claims and defending these cases aggressively. Every insurance company goes through periods where cases are easier to settle and periods where they become more aggressive on defending and deliberately delaying cases. The biggest reason for this is that many insurance companies no longer make most of their money through the business of selling insurance. Rather, many insurers today are actually financial companies, and they make money through financial speculation and investments.
Your choice of lawyer can affect the duration of your case
Your choice of lawyer can affect how long your lawsuit can take for a car accident and how much you ultimately settle for. Research shows that experienced lawyers with a proven track record of winning at trial and a reputation for being ready to go to trial can settle cases faster and for significantly more money.
The track record and reputation of the lawyer whom you choose to protect you and your family play critical roles in determining how long your car accident lawsuit will take and how much you will be able to recover in compensation and economic damages.
Insurance companies keep tabs on the lawyers so they know which lawyers will actually go to trial and which lawyers have not tried a case in years and will be willing to “settle cases short” (hint: this is the vast majority of plaintiff personal injury lawyers out there). Insurance companies and defense lawyers know that dragging out the lawsuit process is the best way to force these personal injury lawyers to settle short and to pressure their clients to accept an insurance company’s low-ball settlement offer.
Insurance industry research indicates that an experienced attorney with a track record of success and a reputation for trying cases can increase a settlement amount by up to 4x more than an attorney without that experience, track record of success and reputation.
To learn more about what your compensation may be if you were hit by a drunk driver, please check our “Settlement Calculator.”
Factors that affect how long a lawsuit takes for a car accident
The factors that affect how long any given lawsuit takes for a car accident include: (1) the victim’s injuries, prognosis, and medical needs; (2) the victim’s lawyer’s experience; (3) the at-fault driver’s insurer; (4) if the at-fault driver is contesting liability; (5) where the case is filed; and (6) the judge.
Here is more about the factors that affect the length of time it takes to settle a car accident lawsuit:
- Your injuries and prognosis;
- Your current and future medical needs;
- Whether you are partially or fully disabled from working because of your injuries;
- Whether your injuries will necessitate “excess” coverage for medical bills and lost wages;
- The strength of your evidence showing that your injuries have resulted in a serious impairment of body function that affects your ability to lead your normal life;
- Your lawyer’s experience, track record and reputation;
- Whether the at-fault driver is contesting liability;
- The limits of the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage;
- Whether there are multiple layers of liability insurance with different insurance companies;
- The at-fault driver’s auto insurance company;
- The claims adjuster assigned to the case;
- The insurance defense lawyer or lawyers assigned to the case;
- The private defense lawyer hired by the at-fault driver if he or she is self-insured;
- The court where your car accident lawsuit is filed;
- The judge to whom your case is assigned;
- Whether the case is on a fast or slower discovery track which is determined by the judge assigned to the case;
- How quickly the case can be scheduled for trial.
Significant events that affect how long a lawsuit takes for a car accident
The significant events that affect how long a lawsuit takes for a car accident include: (1) filing the complaint to start the lawsuit; (2) the discovery process; (3) case evaluation; (4) facilitation; (5) a possible settlement; or (6) trial if a settlement agreement cannot be reached.
Here is more detail about each of these events:
- A lawsuit is started with the lawyer you hire filing a pleading called a complaint. This must be drafted, filed with the proper court and served on the at-fault driver and on any of the pertinent insurance companies.
- The legal discovery process follows. During discovery, the crash victim is able to ask for information from the at-fault driver, from his or her insurance company, from medical experts, witnesses and crash reconstruction experts. The insurance company is also able to do the same. The purpose of “discovery” is to discover the facts that you need to prove your case and to discover the facts that the at-fault driver will likely depend on to try to escape being held accountable for having injured you and/or your family.
- After discovery has been completed, a case evaluation is held. This is an informal, non-binding process in Michigan where a panel of three lawyers (consisting of a plaintiff’s lawyer, a defense lawyer and a “neutral” lawyer, typically a retired judge or a lawyer who has practiced both plaintiff and defense) hear arguments and evidence from the victim’s and the at-fault driver’s attorneys, evaluate the car accident lawsuit in question and offer their assessment of how much money the case should settle for. Neither the crash victim nor the insurance company is required to accept the case evaluation amount.
- If case evaluation does not result in a settlement of the case, the judge may work with the parties to encourage them to attempt to reach a settlement through an alternative dispute resolution process called a facilitation, which is often referred to as a mediation in other states.
- The last resort for cases that do not settle is trial. Cases are tried either to a jury or to a judge.
Were you injured in an automobile crash? Call the attorneys at Michigan Auto Law
If you were injured in a crash and you have questions about how long a lawsuit takes for a car accident, your legal rights to pain and suffering compensation, economic damages and auto No-Fault insurance benefits, you can speak to an experienced lawyer at (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation. You can also get help from an experienced No-Fault insurance attorney by visiting our contact page or you can use the chat feature on our website.