After a serious car accident, you'll have plenty of things on your mind. Once you've sorted through the event's immediate aftermath and sought medical treatment for your injuries, you'll need to worry about getting your car repaired or purchasing a new one. This will probably require you to engage in a sustained exchange of information with your auto insurer's claims department. Eventually, it may also necessitate a lengthy and stressful period of negotiations.
Depending upon its policies, your insurer may choose to pay off the body shop that repairs your vehicle. On the other hand, it may ask you to cover your repair costs and submit a detailed accounting of the charges to its claims department. In this case, your vehicle's repair costs will become part of your "accident settlement." If your vehicle was totaled in the accident, the resale value of the car will almost certainly be bundled into your settlement as well.
Unfortunately, your settlement can take weeks, months or even years to come. In many cases, this time frame is directly proportional to the total cost of the accident. If you sustained relatively minor injuries and property damage, your settlement check could come within just a few weeks. If your accident was more serious and necessitated a lengthy physical recovery, your settlement could be delayed by many months. The slow pace at which some medical institutions compile and issue their bills is usually the cause of this "holdup."
However, financial disputes between you and your insurance company may also serve to delay the issuance of your settlement check. If you're enrolled in an expensive program of physical therapy or claim to have suffered psychological damage as a result of your accident, your settlement may take years to arrive. Ironically, your settlement is likely to be further delayed by your decision to retain a lawyer. In addition, your lawyer may be willing to make unpleasant compromises in the service of expediency.
If your lawyer urges you to accept an expeditious but inadequate settlement, you may refuse to do so. If he or she presents the settlement as a "final offer" that isn't likely to be repeated or exceeded, you have the right to bypass him or her and negotiate directly with your insurance company's claims department. Since your lawyer may be working on multiple cases at once, this might actually speed the claims process along. However, your "fired" lawyer may still have the right to bill you for his or her services.