After a car accident, the trauma of your personal injuries is likely something you want to forget as soon as possible. The disruption that your injuries and damages cause, make the need to reach a resolution great, and the sooner you can get back to life as usual, the better. How long resolving an auto accident case will take, depends on so many factors. Although your car accident lawyer can never guarantee a successful resolution, nor can they predict how long it will take, being familiar with the factors that affect resolution, can make it easier to get through.
What does it mean to “settle” a case?
Settlement is when the parties of a lawsuit come to an agreement to resolve their disputes and dismiss their claims against one another. Generally, settlement involves the defendant, or the defendant’s insurance company, paying the plaintiff money in exchange for the plaintiff releasing the defendant from all liability regarding that matter. Cases can be settled virtually at any point. This includes even before actual litigation begins, with the filing of the lawsuit.
Factors that affect resolution
Accident cases typically follow the same track, with a few exceptions. There are particular steps that are common to most accident cases. The length of time it make take for each step can vary. But, factors such as the nature and extent of your injuries, and the efforts needed to prove your losses, nearly always play a role in determining how quickly your auto accident case can be resolved.
Nature and extent of injuries
The nature and extent of your injuries can have an effect on how long it may take to resolve your case. The more complicated or serious the injuries are, the more time it will take to investigate and gather proof relating to those injuries. The more people that were injured, the more time it will take to gather evidence. Another factor is whether or not your injuries have “matured.” Depending on the nature of your injury, it may take a while for the injury to fully manifest itself. The only way to truly obtain full recovery, you need to wait until you have fully recovered, or at least been released from your doctor’s care.
Proving your losses
Once your injuries have been assessed, the next step is to obtain documentation to prove the losses you have sustained. This will include not only medical records and bills for your medical expenses, but also evidence of any other out-of-pocket expenses and lost wages, as long as they are a result of the auto accident. Many people do not realize how long it can actually take to gather your medical records. Some health care providers can take months to provide such documents. But, without this evidence, it is impossible to begin negotiating a settlement of your auto accident claims.
Legal issues that can affect your auto accident case
Aside from the legal issue of damages, there are two very common legal issues that frequently cause delays in litigation of an auto accident case. Those two issues are liability and causation. That is, who is responsible for the injuries, and did that guilty party’s conduct actually cause your injuries. These issues can often be complicated and the facts are not always black and white.
Proving a theory of liability
The simple fact that the other person was driving the car that hit yours, doesn’t automatically make that person at-fault for the resulting auto accident. In some situations, the other driver will try to shift some, if not all, of the blame on you. For example, there are defenses known as contributory negligence of assumption of risk, which may create a real issue of liability in your case. If those defenses are raised, the resolution of your case may be further delayed. It is important to have as much evidence as you can to support your theory of liability, including witness testimony, if possible.
Proving causation of injuries
You might assume that, if your neck and back are hurting immediately after an auto accident, that is evidence enough that your injuries were caused by the other driver. That is not always the case, however. If the at-fault driver can establish that any aspect of your injury was pre-existing, then proving your injuries will become very problematic. Sometimes, there are even questions as to how serious your injuries truly are. In some auto accident cases, experts are required to prove that a particular accident would actually lead to the type of injuries you claim to have sustained.
If you have questions regarding car accidents, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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