It’s a common misconception that only major car accident victims are eligible for personal injury settlements. Whether you’re in a minor fender bender or a serious multi-car crash, you always have the right to sue for damages after a car accident.
In fact, you don’t even have to be injured to sue for a car crash. You can also file a lawsuit to recover property damages, or seek a non injury accident settlement.
While most personal injury cases are resolved through a private settlement, sometimes it’s necessary to take your case to court. You may need a judge to determine who is at fault for the accident, or to award damages when neither side can come to a settlement agreement.
Going to court is never fun, but when the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement agreement your attorney shouldn’t be afraid to take your case to court.
Car Accident Lawsuit Process
When you and your attorney reach the point when you’re ready to file a lawsuit against the other driver’s insurance company, here’s what to expect.
File the Complaint
Your attorney will put together a formal complaint against the other driver’s insurance company (the defendant) and file the complaint with the county court, officially beginning your lawsuit.
Serve Papers to the Defendant
Your attorney will arrange for a courier to serve a copy of the complaint to the defendant immediately after filing the complaint in court. Depending on the situation, it could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to serve the papers to the defendant.
Defendant Will Answer the Complaint
Arizona law dictates that a defendant residing in the state must file a written answer or response with the court within 20 days of the date of service (i.e. when they received the complaint). Out-of-state defendants are allowed 30 days to file a written answer or response.
If you’re wondering why court cases take so long, this is it. The discovery process can take anywhere from a few months to a year or longer to complete, as each side will request and exchange information for potential evidence to use in trial. This includes depositions to collect testimony from the drivers, eyewitnesses, and expert witnesses.
Once the discovery phase is complete, the trial itself should be fairly quick. Most car accident trials take one or two days to complete, then it’s up to the judge or jury to deliver a verdict and award damages.
Keep in mind this is an abbreviated version of events, so we’re glossing over all of the little things the defendant may do to stall your case (a common tactic in car accident lawsuits).
For example, the defendant may file a motion to dismiss the case before they even file a written response with the court. The defendant can also file a motion for summary judgement after discovery is complete, which essentially asks the judge to make a judgement on the facts at hand before going to court.
This abbreviated process also doesn’t take appeals into account. You may win your case and walk away with a favorable judgement, but the defendant has the right to appeal the court’s decision to a higher court.
Of course, the flip side to this issue is that you have the right to appeal the court’s decision if you don’t like the outcome.
Given the lengthy process and the innumerable possibilities to prolong the case, it’s no surprise that car accident lawsuits that go to trial can take well over a year to conclude. The good news is you can always reach a private settlement at any stage before the case actually goes to trial, so there’s always hope you can reach a speedy, favorably conclusion if you don’t have the patience to go to trial.
How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?
It’s impossible to guess how long a personal injury case will take to reach a settlement, though an experienced personal injury attorney may be able to offer an educated assessment after reviewing the facts of your case. Even then, there are a number of factors that could speed up your case or stall it, so take any estimate you receive with a grain of salt.
Generally speaking, most car accident cases settle after discovery is complete but before the trial begins.
Once the insurance company has all of the facts at hand from the drivers, eyewitnesses, and expert witnesses, it should be pretty easy for them to determine their chances of winning or losing the case at trial. As long as the evidence is in your favor and both sides can agree on terms for damages, a settlement at this point is highly likely.
That said, uncovering evidence that swings the case during discovery can result in a settlement agreement much sooner.
For example, if the other driver’s blood results come back and show they were driving under the influence, determining fault and liability is no longer an issue. Similarly, if your attorney uncovers video evidence from a traffic camera that proves the other driver broke the law, the case will quickly swing to your favor.
Once both sides reach an agreement for a settlement, it generally takes 2-6 weeks to sign the proper forms and process everything before your attorney receives the settlement check. From there, your attorney just needs to take out their fees and pay any medical liens against the case before transferring the remaining funds to you.
What to Expect From a Car Accident Settlement
There are plenty of damages calculators available online to estimate how much you can sue for in a car accident, but the best course of action is to discuss your case in person with an experienced personal injury attorney. It’s easy to calculate economic damages from your medical bills, property damage, and lost income, but it takes a seasoned professional to determine non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
There’s often a multiplier applied to personal injury cases based on the severity of your injuries. The average case involves a multiplier of 1.5x to 5x economic damages, though severe car accidents may demand higher multipliers.
Receive Help With a Car Accident Settlement in Arizona
An experienced personal injury attorney can assess your case and apply a proper multiplier to give you an accurate estimate of your car accident settlement based on similar cases in Arizona. Our personal injury team at JacksonWhite has been helping Arizona families recover compensation for car accidents for over a decade.
Call our Personal Injury team at (480) 467-4392 to discuss your case today.