In 2022, there were 1,786 fatalities due to car accidents in Georgia. Despite having the eighth-largest population in the country, Georgia accounted for the fourth-highest number of traffic fatalities. In other words, car accidents are a significant problem in Georgia.
Being the victim of an auto accident can be the most traumatic event you’ve ever experienced. Making sure you get the medical attention you need should be your first priority. However, the repercussions of an auto accident go far beyond this immediate concern.
Medical bills, time off work, and pain caused by the injuries can add up and take a toll on you. The consequences of the accident can begin to affect every aspect of your life. Victims of car crashes deserve compensation so that they can manage these challenges, and they deserve it fast.
Unfortunately, the settlement process after an auto accident often takes time. As bills add up and the settlement process drags on, it is crucial to understand the answer to one question, How long do car accident settlements take in GA?
Most accident lawsuits take between six months and two years to resolve, although some can take longer. How long your claim takes depends on a number of factors, such as how long it takes you to recover, how cooperative the insurance company is, and whether there are significant disputes concerning liability or damages.
Types of Damages in Auto Accidents
In theory, damages awarded after an auto accident are meant to make you whole for the losses you suffered. In reality, no amount of money could make up for the pain and suffering you’ve experienced. What compensation can do is help you get your life back on track.
Generally, there are three types of compensation you can claim in Georgia. Special damages, general damages, and punitive damages.
Courts award special damages to compensate victims for their monetary losses. Special damages include the following:
- Property damage,
- Medical bills,
- Ongoing medical costs,
- Lost wages, and
- Other quantifiable costs.
General damages are awarded by courts to compensate victims for mental and emotional injuries that are less easy to quantify.
General losses include the following:
- Pain and suffering,
- Anxiety or depression,
- Physical impairment,
- Permanent disability,
- Disfigurement, and
- Reduced quality of life.
Punitive damages are awarded to punish defendants for egregiously bad behavior. This type of compensation is only made available to victims in exceptional circumstances. For example, the courts might award punitive damages to a victim if the defendant was driving drunk when they caused the accident.
Finally, if someone dies in an auto accident, their family may be able to file a wrongful death suit. The types of compensation available in a wrongful death suit differ slightly from what would be recoverable by a surviving victim. For example, a family can sue for funeral costs, loss of companionship, and lost future wages and benefits.
How Long Does a Car Accident Lawsuit Take?
Unfortunately, there is no standard length of time to obtain a settlement or jury verdict. Most lawsuits take between six months and two years to resolve, with some cases extending beyond this timeframe. The length of the process will depend on several factors.
First, the severity of your injuries will affect the length of the process. Insurance companies will have more incentive to negotiate harder if your injuries require greater compensation. Small claims usually settle quickly.
Longer periods of rehabilitation for severe injuries will also increase the length of the process. That’s because you don’t want to settle your claim until you have recovered enough to have a full picture of your losses. Before you make a demand, it’s essential to have an accurate estimate of your medical costs and an idea of how your injury is likely to affect you in the future.
Second, different insurance companies have different processes. Some take longer to process claims and respond than others. Additionally, the type of insurance upon which you make your claim also substantially affects settlement timelines. For example, in situations where you file your claim with the liable driver’s insurance policy, insurance companies typically have thirty days to respond under Georgia law.
Some drivers may choose to pay for an underinsured or uninsured insurance policy in addition to liability insurance. These coverage policies can be advantageous in the unfortunate event you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. However, when filing a claim with your own insurance company after an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, Georgia law extends an insurance company’s response time to sixty days. Your attorney can help you have realistic expectations as you move through the settlement process, including the negotiation stage.
Number of Parties
Third, sometimes more than one counterparty participates in the settlement process. If more parties are involved, the process may take longer. You may seek compensation from multiple parties that caused an accident: a manufacturer, an employer, insurance companies, and more. Each party likely has its own insurance company and legal team representing their interests. Determining liability and apportioning financial responsibility to these parties in your settlement takes time and can prolong the process.
Even in cases where there is only one other party involved, if the other driver disputes fault, the process can take more time. Sometimes litigating the case is necessary when the other party denies that they were at fault for the accident. Taking a case to trial takes more time than settling out of court.
Car Accident Settlement Process
Knowing the steps involved in the car accident settlement process is crucial to understanding how long the settlement process might take.
Seek Medical Treatment
Many involved in a car accident may feel they escaped the experience injury-free. Unfortunately, the adrenaline may initially mask some injuries that may not become apparent until hours, days, or weeks after the collision. Seeking medical treatment immediately after an accident is vital to connecting your injuries to the accident and maintaining an accurate record of your prognosis and recovery.
Contact an Attorney
After an accident, once you are safe and able to do so, contact MG Law for a free consultation.During the initial consultation, your attorney reviews the details of your case and determines whether you have a compensation claim. Additionally, you may have questions such as, How long does it take to get settlement money from a car accident? The attorney can answer your questions and help you learn more about your options for financial recovery. Getting the experienced attorneys at MG Law involved early can help protect your rights throughout the settlement negotiations. It can also speed up the process.
Investigate and Gather Evidence
Next, an attorney can help you gather all the evidence and documents needed to support your claim. You will need to obtain the insurance information of all parties involved. That information will allow your attorney to determine the coverage available to pay for your claim.
You will also need to gather evidence to prove your claim.
Potential evidence includes:
- Official police reports,
- Witness statements,
- A written recollection of what happened,
- Physical evidence from the scene,
- Photographs and video evidence,
- Expert medical testimony, and
- Medical documentation.
It’s vital for an injured victim to focus on recovering and getting back to everyday life. While you focus on healing, your attorney analyzes the evidence gathered in their investigation. This evidence assists your attorney in understanding how you were injured, the extent of your injuries, and the value of your damages. Your attorney may provide you with an estimate of your case’s value after reviewing your economic and non-economic damages. The more detailed the evidence, the easier it will be to assess your case value and prove your claim.
File Your Claim
Most people injured in an accident ask their attorney, How long do car accident settlements take? Filing your claim is the next step after gathering evidence, and it starts the settlement negotiations process. You may be eager to file your claim as soon as possible, but your attorney may advise you to wait until the doctor knows the extent of your injuries. It is best if you can wait until you reach the fullest potential recovery, which doctors refer to as maximum medical improvement or MMI, before filing your claim.
People with minor injuries may be able to file their claims sooner than people suffering from severe injuries. Severe injuries often have a longer recovery period, including substantial rehabilitation and physical therapy. Some car accident victims never fully recover. Your doctor is the only person who can determine whether you have reached MMI. At that point, your attorney determines the total value of your claim because the ongoing cost of any treatment, if any, can be calculated at that time. But you don’t have unlimited time to file your claim.
The time period is limited by the statute of limitations deadline, so given all the factors in your case, your attorney will know when it is the right time to file.
Present a Settlement Letter
Once all the evidence is collected, you will need to present the evidence to the insurance companies as part of a settlement claim. A lawyer can draft a settlement letter outlining your evidence and the compensation you seek for your injuries and losses.
A settlement letter also provides information about the accident, including the time, date, and location and all the people involved. It is essential to present a solid case that is supported by evidence to the insurance companies. Most settlement letters also provide a deadline for the insurance company to respond to your letter.
Once the insurance company receives the settlement letter, they will likely respond with a counteroffer. This response marks the beginning of the negotiation process. Despite your eagerness to speed up the auto accident settlement timeline, it’s vital not to accept the first offer provided by an insurance company. These initial offers rarely grasp the extent of your losses and fail to compensate you for the total value of your damages. A lawyer can help you negotiate the best possible outcome for your case. They will also keep you informed throughout the entire process.
Accept or Reject the Offer
Once the negotiation is over, you must decide whether to accept the offer. Accepting the offer will allow you to obtain compensation quicker than going to trial. It will also let you avoid the risks that trials present. However, sometimes the settlement offer will be inadequate, and your best course of action will be going to trial. You are the only person that can decide whether to accept a settlement offer. A skilled personal injury attorney will guide you through the negotiation process and assist you in determining whether to continue negotiating or move forward with a trial. You may not want to have a potential payout prolonged by a trial and instead may be satisfied with the offer your attorney has been able to negotiate.The skilled lawyers at MG Law can help guide you through this crucial decision.
Going to Trial
If settlement negotiations fail, the parties then prepare their case for trial. Going to trial means it will take longer to recover compensation, and you face the risk of getting less or no compensation at all. At trial, your attorney presents your side to a judge or jury, and the opposing party can present their evidence. But how long does a car accident trial last? Again, each trial is different, and the time it takes to try a case can vary significantly. It depends on the complexity of the evidence, how many witnesses are necessary, and many other variables. Your lawyer can give you an educated estimation of how long it would take to get through a trial in your case.
But remember that even if you prevail at trial, the defendant may appeal the case and ask a higher court to consider the ruling. This may delay your payout longer.
Furthermore, before trial, both parties may request mediation. Mediation involves meeting with a neutral mediator who reviews the position of both parties and works to negotiate a settlement. Mediation is non-binding, meaning the parties are not forced to settle. If the parties fail to reach a settlement agreement at mediation, they will proceed to trial.
As you can see, the personal injury recovery process is complex and requires the assistance of an experienced lawyer. It’s crucial to retain an attorney you trust to protect your rights and work hard to get the best outcome for you.
How an Attorney Can Help with Car Accident Settlements
If you were injured in an auto accident, the skilled attorneys at MG Law can help. You shouldn’t have to deal with the headache of negotiating with insurance companies while recovering from your injuries. MG Law knows how to settle your case quickly and effectively. Our firm focuses exclusively on personal injury matters and will work hard to get you the best outcome possible. If the insurance companies refuse to settle for a reasonable amount, we can zealously advocate for you in the courtroom. Contact MG Law today at (770) 988-5252 so we can help you pursue the settlement you deserve.