Everyone knows how traumatic a car wreck can be, but not everyone realizes that the aftermath can be just as stressful. The process of recovering from the accident can be costly and time-consuming, and is often overshadowed by the challenging legal process that follows. An experienced Lafayette auto accident lawyer can help you navigate the process of a car accident settlement and help you understand how long it will take.
Blaine Barrilleaux is a car accident attorney in Lafayette, LA, who has been helping clients with car wreck and personal injury settlements for nearly 20 years. Here, he breaks down what to expect in most car accident settlements. For advice on your specific situation, call Blaine or speak with your attorney.
What Is a Car Accident Settlement?
Before we dive deeper into the car wreck and personal injury settlement process, let’s take a quick look at what exactly a settlement is.
A car accident settlement is a legally-binding agreement between two parties:
- The at-fault party agrees to pay the injured party an agreed-upon amount for injuries and damages caused by the accident.
- The injured party agrees not to sue the at-fault party, and to drop any existing lawsuits.
You can reach a car accident settlement by filing a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company or by filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Filing an Insurance Claim
Filing an insurance claim is usually the first step to take after a car accident. You’ll generally file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company, but if they’re uninsured or have insufficient insurance, you may want to file a claim with your own insurer.
Naturally, car insurance companies will try to pay as little as possible, so it’s a good idea to consult a lawyer from the very beginning to help you prove who was at fault and what injuries and damages you incurred.
Car insurance companies in Lafayette, LA are required to pay claims within 30 days of an agreement being reached. But the negotiation process to get to that point can linger for months, depending on how strong your case is and how much the insurance company fights against paying.
If you’re unable to reach a fair settlement with the insurer, the next step is often filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Filing a car accident lawsuit is a more involved and lengthy process than filing an insurance claim, often resulting in greater legal expenses. A bare-bones breakdown of the process is as follows:
- The Complaint Process:
- The other driver will be served an official complaint, or notification of the lawsuit. This can take a few days or several months, depending on how easy it is to find the other driver.
- The other driver must answer the complaint within a specific timeframe, usually between 10 and 30 days.
- The Discovery Process:
- Both sides will compile and review the evidence in the case. This can take from a few months to a year, but will sometimes take longer if a case is especially complicated.
- The actual trial will usually only takes a day or two.
- Potential Complications:
- Appeals: if the defendant appeals the trial’s outcome, it can add years to the process.
- Motion to dismiss: A defendant can file a motion to dismiss the case as soon as they receive the complaint.
- Motion for summary judgement: Either party can ask for a summary judgement before a trial begins if there is overwhelming evidence that they are in the right.
If the prospect of filing a personal injury lawsuit is overwhelming, don’t worry. The majority of car accident cases are settled before ever going to trial, so in most cases you can expect the settlement to take a year or less.
Each situation is different, however, so talk to your attorney about what variables you can expect in your particular case.
How to Prepare for the Car Accident Settlement Process
Car accident settlements are stressful to navigate even at the best of times. But if you’re not prepared beforehand, trying to prove fault and injury can become next to impossible.
At the Accident
The first thing to do after a car accident is to make sure you and your travelling companions are safe. Move your vehicle out of the way of traffic, if possible, and call 911 if you need to.
Document everything you can at the scene, so you’ll be able to give a clear, detailed picture of the event after the fact. This includes:
- The other driver’s name and insurance information
- Photos of the accident scene
- Locations of the vehicles
- Traffic, road, and weather conditions
- Damage to the vehicles
- Witness contact information (including and emergency personnel on the scene)
Even if the accident seems minor, it’s a good idea to file a police report so you have an official statement of what happened on record. In some cases, you’re legally required to file police reports for car accidents that occur in Lafayette, LA.
After the Accident
Many of the expenses associated with a car accident come days, weeks, or even months after the collision itself. Keep detailed notes of the following:
- Medical expenses
- Doctors’ notes about any medical treatment received
- Loss of wages
- Other accident-related expenses
The costs associated with car collisions are often spread out over time, so it’s vital to keep good notes as you go along, rather than trying to remember specifics later.
That’s also why it can be helpful to consult with a car accident attorney from the beginning since they will have a firm grasp on what information will be helpful to keep track of.
How Can a Lafayette Auto Accident Lawyer Help?
Only you can decide whether you’d rather take an early settlement offer to get the process over with or wait it out in hopes of a more favorable outcome. But an experienced attorney can help you:
- Weigh the pros and cons of filing an insurance claim versus suing
- Calculate a fair settlement amount
- Navigate legal red tape, such as statute of limitations and other timelines
- Help you present your case clearly and effectively
- Negotiate with the other party for a fair settlement
No one can predict exactly how long a car accident settlement will take, but consulting a Lafayette auto accident attorney will help you get a ballpark idea depending on your specific situation.
In Pain? Call Blaine
If you’ve been in a wreck, we can help you navigate the settlement process and fight for fair and just compensation. Contact us to schedule a free consultation with a car accident attorney in Lafayette, LA.