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December 7, 2023

How Long Does it Take to Settle a Car Accident Claim in California?

Legally reviewed by: Jessica Anvar Stotz, JD, MBA

Short answer: As we head into 2024,  most California car accidents can settle in approximately 1-6 months. In more severe accidents where liability is disputed and the case goes to trial, it can take well over a year.

Navigating the aftermath of a car accident can be a daunting process. One of the most common questions we hear is, “How long will it take to settle my car accident claim?” The answer, like many things in law, is: it depends.

Settlement timelines can fluctuate due to a myriad of factors. The severity of the accident, the clarity of liability, and the extent of injuries sustained can all impact the timeline. The completeness of the discovery process, which involves the exchange of potential evidence, can also affect the duration.

Also, the willingness of the parties to compromise and the cooperation of the insurance company can either expedite or prolong the settlement process. While many car accident claims can be settled in just six to eight weeks, others can take several years to resolve.

How Long Do Most California Car Accidents Claims Take to Settle?

Complexity of case Length of Time to Settle
Simple Approximately: 1 – 6 months
Moderate Approximately: 6 – 12 months
High Approximately: 12 – 24 months+

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What Makes Car Accident Cases Settle Quicker?

Here are some reasons why car accident cases might settle quicker:

Minor Injuries

Cases with minor injuries or little damage often settle quicker as they require less investigation and medical treatment.

Clear Liability

When it is clear who was at fault in the accident, the settlement process can be expedited23.

Willingness to Settle

Both parties’ willingness to settle can speed up the process. This is often because settlements are faster, more efficient, less expensive, and less stressful than going to court.

Complete Discovery

If all necessary documents and evidence are readily available, it can speed up the settlement process.

Uncontested Damages

When the damages are not disputed by the parties involved, it can expedite the settlement process.

Cooperation from the Insurance Company

Insurance companies often make quick settlement offers to save work and money.

Legal Representation

Having a lawyer can often speed up the process as they understand the legal procedures and can effectively negotiate with the insurance company.

Note that these are general factors and the specifics of your situation could be different. We always recommend consulting with a professional if you have specific questions about your situation.

how long does a car accident lawsuit take

What Makes Car Accident Cases Take Longer to Settle?

Here are some reasons why car accident cases might take longer to settle:

High Case Value

If the case is worth more, insurance companies will often try to limit the payout, which can prolong the settlement process.

Difficulty in Establishing Liability and Proving Negligence

If it’s challenging to establish who was at fault in the accident, it can delay the settlement.

Serious Injuries

Cases involving serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment can take longer to settle.

Disputed Liability

If the parties involved dispute who was at fault, it can extend the settlement process.

Multiple Drivers and Cars Involved

When there are extensive injuries, multiple drivers and cars involved, and a question of who was at fault, it can delay the settlement.

Incomplete Discovery

The discovery process, where each side requests and exchanges information that can serve as potential evidence at trial, can take time. If discovery is not complete, it can delay the settlement.

Length of Medical Treatment

The longer the medical treatment, the longer it may take to reach a settlement.

Collection of Medical Bills & Records and Other Evidence

Gathering all necessary documents and evidence can be a time-consuming process2.

Negotiations & Litigation

Negotiations between the parties can take time, and if the case goes to litigation, it can significantly extend the settlement process2.

Paying Outstanding Bills

Settling any outstanding bills related to the accident can also delay the settlement.

how long does a car accident settlement take

Settlement Examples

Here are some examples of car accident settlements:

Simple Car Accident Settlement Example

A simple car accident settlement might involve minor injuries and damages. For instance, a person might receive a settlement of around $10,000 for back pain caused by a car accident.

Moderate Car Accident Settlement Example

A moderate car accident settlement could involve more significant injuries and damages. For example, the average car accident settlement for a moderate injury claim in California is $50,054.

Complex Car Accident Settlement Example

Complex car accident settlements usually involve serious injuries or fatalities, and the settlement amounts can be quite large. For instance, in one case, a client who was paralyzed by a city utility vehicle received a settlement of $120 million.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a car insurance company have to settle a claim in California?

In California, insurance companies are required to settle claims within 85 days of their filing date. During these 85 days, the insurance firms have further time limits for acknowledging your claim and deciding if they will accept them or not. After the review, the insurance firms make their final decision within the 85-day timeframe.

Should I take the first settlement offer I get?

It’s generally recommended that you should not accept the insurance company’s first settlement offer. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. The first offer is often lower than what your claim is actually worth.
  2. It might come too early to capture the complete picture of your losses, i.e., before you’ve fully recovered from your injuries, and before you have an understanding of the fair value of your claim.
  3. The first offer is usually just a starting point for negotiations.

The insurance adjuster handling your claim works for a company whose priorities revolve around minimizing the insurance company’s financial exposure. Before agreeing to a settlement with the insurance company, it would be in your best interest to speak to an attorney. They can help you understand the full extent of your injuries and the impact they may have on your life, making it easier to determine what your claim is worth.

How do I know I’m getting a good settlement offer?

Determining whether a settlement offer is good can be complex as it depends on a variety of factors. Here are some key considerations:

  • Liability: Consider the chance of prevailing on the issue of liability.
  • Extent and Severity of Injuries: The more severe the injuries, the higher the potential settlement.
  • Costs of Treatment: Consider both past and future likely costs of treatment.
  • Recovery: Whether you are likely to fully recover or have fully recovered.
  • Insurance Policy Limits: The at-fault driver’s policy limits can affect the settlement amount.
  • Property Losses: Any property losses incurred due to the accident.
  • Income Losses: Consider both past and future income losses.
  • Non-economic Losses: These include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.

A good settlement is one that both parties can agree on. It should be fair and reasonable, taking into account the circumstances surrounding your case and the potential outcomes of going to court. An attorney can help you determine what a good settlement offer is, or they might make one on your behalf.

Connect with a California Car Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident in California, it’s crucial to connect with a knowledgeable and experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. They can help you navigate the complex legal landscape, protect your rights, and ensure you receive the compensation and justice you rightfully deserve.

LawLinq, a lawyer referral service based in California, is here to help you connect with the right legal professional for your case. Our network of attorneys specializes in car accident claims and understands the complexities of the California legal system. They can guide you through the process, from filing your claim to negotiating with insurance companies, and even representing you in court if necessary.

The timeline for settling a car accident claim can vary greatly depending on the specifics of your case. Having a lawyer, however, can often speed up the process as they understand the legal procedures and can effectively negotiate with the insurance company. Connect with an experienced car accident attorney through LawLinq, at no cost- contact our team today to get started.


About the Author

Jessica Anvar

California Consumer Litigation Attorney Jessica Anvar, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lemon Law Experts California’s leading lemon law firm. She has multiple years’ worth of experience working with both state and federal lemon laws. Her practice focuses exclusively on consumer protection cases. Ms. Anvar received her J.D. from Loyola Law School. She also earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Loyola Marymount University. Jessica is very active in her local legal community and has helped thousands of clients across the state of California. She has an outstanding record as a true advocate for consumers.

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