This is a very common question asked by most victims injured in car accidents in Tennessee. Understandably, most people want to collect their compensation and put the crash behind them as soon as possible. However, it is in your best interest to understand what is involved in a car accident case because it often directly relates to the length of time it takes to resolve it.
If you are looking to settle your case quickly, the insurance company will make you an offer at the very beginning of your case. They hope you will accept that offer because it will usually be low, and you might not yet be aware of the extent of your injuries. If you do accept the offer, your case can be resolved within weeks; however, you will no longer be able to collect additional money for your injuries at a later time. This is why it is prudent to be patient and not settle too quickly.
Factors That Affect the Time to Settle Your Case
The length of time your case may take to be resolved often depends on the following factors:
- The extent of your injuries. You never want to settle a car accident injury claim until you recover completely or reach a point of maximum medical improvement. This way, you will know the full extent of your injuries and feel confident that you won’t face additional problems or a future surgery. Although your recovery can take six months or more, which adds time to your case, it is in your best interest to wait until you know the cost of your medical bills, lost wages, and the result of your pain and suffering.
- The cooperation of the insurance company. Some insurance companies are more willing to be flexible than others when it comes to negotiating a settlement. Larger insurance providers have a legal team dedicated to reducing the cost of a claim and negotiating with a plaintiff’s attorney. Smaller insurers may have a large volume of outstanding claims, taking longer for each claim to be addressed by an adjuster. Still, other insurers require several layers of internal review and approval by multiple parties before an amount can be disbursed, especially if the claim is over a certain value.
- The litigation process. If you decide to pursue a car accident injury lawsuit, there are steps you’ll need to take that will affect the length of time it takes to settle it. After the lawsuit gets filed and the other party gets 30 days to answer, the discovery phase of the case begins. This is the fact-finding process that involves interrogatories (RULE 33.01) where each side gets to ask questions in an effort to collect information from each other about the case. Depositions (statements under oath) will then be taken, and witnesses and medical providers will also be deposed. This process can be lengthy and frustrating but needed in order to strengthen your case. Following this process, the court will typically require mediation. If the case isn’t resolved at this point, a trial date will be set.
- The details of the case. There are many factors involved in an individual case that can add to the timeline of the claim. For example, claims involving government entities may take longer than claims between two drivers and their insurance companies. If there are gaps in the documentation of the crash (such as a missing police report or unavailable witness), the case may take longer to settle. Also, an accident involving a commercial trucking company, delivery truck, or other major corporation may require an extensive investigation, adding to the overall timeline of the case.
- The percentage of fault. It may take some time to clearly establish liability in your case. It is important to be patient throughout this process since liability is a major factor in the amount you may receive in your case. Under Tennessee’s modified comparative negligence system, a claimant’s settlement will be reduced by his percentage of fault for the accident—and if a party is more than 51 percent at fault, he will not be entitled to any damages.
What to Consider Before Settling Your Case
A settlement is only one way to conclude your case. If you are not satisfied with the amount you are offered, you may decline the settlement and take your case to trial. While there is the potential for a higher settlement by going to trial, there is also more risk involved. If the insurer makes a strong case to the jury, you may be denied any amount at all for your injuries—and even if you are successful at trial, the defendant has the ability to appeal the decision, forcing you to go through the process all over again. For this reason, many victims would rather accept a settlement that will provide for their losses than go to trial.
A good settlement in your case will provide payment for:
- Your out-of-pocket costs. A settlement should at least provide for any costs you have incurred as a direct result of the accident. This includes all of your past medical bills, any medical treatment you may need for your injury in the future, and any property damage that was sustained in the crash. You should also have the total amount of your lost wages from the days of work you missed due to the accident, including any benefits (such as bonuses, commissions, and opportunities for advancement).
- Your future. In many accident cases, the victim will never be able to make a full recovery. You may only be able to work part-time or be unable to earn a sustainable living at all. Nerve damage, paralysis, and other permanent injuries can prevent you from engaging in the activities you formerly enjoyed, effectively changing both your life and your lifestyle. An injury can also make some options impossible for you, such as affecting your ability to have children or to care for the children you already have.
- Your pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is not just an amount for physical discomfort, but for the emotional effects of your injuries. Did the circumstances of your accident cause extreme emotional anguish? Are you seeing a therapist or psychologist on an ongoing basis to deal with the trauma of the accident? Did the accident cause facial disfigurement, loss of quality of life, or place a strain on your relationships with family members? Any one of these effects can be considered in a pain and suffering award.
Most Tennessee personal injury cases are resolved within nine months to a year and a half. While this may seem like a long time, your compensation may be higher after getting through medical treatment and going through all the proper litigation steps to prove your case.
Would You Like More Information About Car Accident Cases in Tennessee?
For help learning more about the car accident injury claim process, request a free copy of our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.