How Long Will It Take to Get a Settlement from a Car Accident?

Written by James Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff |  

When you're involved in a serious car accident for which you're determined not to be at fault, you may be entitled to compensation for any expenses incurred after the event. Such costs might include repairs to your vehicle, repairs to other items of property that were involved in the accident, medical bills, and compensation for lost earnings. Depending upon the circumstances surrounding your accident, you may also be entitled to reimbursement for psychological pain and suffering.

The at-fault party's insurance company is typically responsible for paying out these damages. While smaller cases may be settled quickly without involving the court system, larger cases that involve tens of thousands of dollars in payouts may take significantly longer. Since the at-fault party's insurance company will likely retain a lawyer for the duration of the process, you'll need to hire a legal professional to ensure that you're given a fair hearing in court.

These types of negotiations usually conclude with the presiding judge supervising the agreement of a settlement between you and the at-fault party. Once the settlement has been finalized, the insurance company is obligated to pay it out in full within a pre-determined period of time. If the insurer fails to pay before the payout window expires, the entire settlement balance begins to accrue interest at a high rate. While the laws governing such arrangements vary from state to state, the payout window is usually fairly brief. Official payout windows of more than 30 days are uncommon.

However, the payout process is rife with loopholes and delays. Most states permit insurers to place "holds" or "releases" on settlement payouts. These usually take the form of specific conditions that the plaintiff must meet in order to take physical delivery of the settlement. Providers often take weeks or months to make the terms of these releases clear. To encourage a speedy payout, ask your lawyer to demand an expeditious release as part of any settlement deal. While you may have to sacrifice a portion of the settlement in return for quick payment, this may be worth it.

Due to their large size and official nature, settlement checks may take two weeks or more to clear into your lawyer's trust account. Once the full settlement amount has cleared, your lawyer will keep his agreed-upon portion of the settlement and issue the remainder to you by check. This may take another two weeks to clear.

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