How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take? A Guide on All the Steps

An estimated 6 million car accidents happen every year in the United States of America. So, the odds are, you’ve either been in one, or at least know someone who’s been in one.

Car accidents have many unfortunate consequences, for which the solution is sometimes a lawsuit. But how long does a car accident settlement take? Well, it all depends on a number of factors, including the lawsuit process and the circumstances surrounding it.

Here’s a general outline of what you can expect.

When it All Begins

At the time of an accident, your first priority should be to make sure everyone involved gets the appropriate treatment for their injuries.

That being said, after this is taken care of, feel free to take photographs, talk to witnesses, and jot down the number and make of the other car or vehicle involved. Keep an eye out for surveillance cameras and such, as that will definitely serve as evidence if you do decide to take it to court.

At the hospital or clinic, make sure to keep records of the injuries as well as any medical bills that may incur. These will be essential to any claim you make.

After the actual accident, you have a choice of either choosing litigation or settling it with the other party yourself. If there is a dispute of who caused the accident or the extent of damages you’re entitled to, your next step should be to find yourself a good attorney to represent you.

Understanding the Car Accident Lawsuit Process

The lawsuit process is set in motion after the plaintiff files for one. Here is a head’s up for what to expect.

Submitting a Copy of the Complaint

After the plaintiff hires an attorney, they draft a complaint. A copy of this is then served to the defendant. In the case of a hit and run situation, this step may be a little more difficult to accomplish.

The Response

Upon a perusal of the complaint, the defendant will then draft and submit a response. They may choose to deny all claims, part of the claims, or request a negotiation. Depending on state laws, the defendant will have approximately a month or so to respond.

Exchanging Evidence

During this time, both parties will request and submit evidence and other information to each other. This process is called “discovery”. Discovery can generally be expected to last for at least a few months.

This may include interrogations, depositions on both sides, exchange of medical records and more. If one party is able to sway the other, the case might be settled at this point itself.

A Car Accident Trial

Depending on the court proceedings a court trial can last anywhere between two days to several months. However, for the most part, car accident cases tend to be decided within 3-4 days.


The court will then pass a judgment dictating the decision of the court. Here is where fault will be determined, damages ordered and other formalities sorted out.

An Appeal

If either of the parties is not pleased with the outcome, they may then choose to file an appeal. However, in the absence of an appeal, the lawsuit process will end at the final judgment of the trial court.

Factors That May Prolong the Process

Along the way, you may find a few factors that prolong the entire process. For example, the defendant may file for a motion to dismiss the case against themselves before it goes to trial.

The Role of the Defendant

Additionally, if the defendant flees and becomes hard to track down, it would also extend the period involved. A difficult defendant actually has the potential to prolong any case, just out of spite.

The Insurance Companies

Another factor is the part played by either party’s insurance company. They may require certain formalities and information that delay the court process or even the negotiation between two parties.

Procedure for Settlement

Whether you take it to litigation or not also affects the time-frame. For example, litigation itself may last around a year or so. A negotiation or mediation is highly subjective, depending on how agreeable the other party is to your terms and requests.

The Complexity of Your Case

If your case is more complicated, regarding the nature of the accident and the cause, the court may take a longer time to analyze the facts and evidence before it comes to a verdict. Not every situation is cut and dry, and so this depends entirely on how black and white or grey your situation really is.

So, How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take?

Now as discussed, the answer is highly subjective and can only be answered on a case-by-case basis. However, you should expect a settlement via litigation to take at least a year.

The earlier you initiate it, the earlier you can expect it to come to a conclusion. It is smarter to not delay filing a lawsuit, in case of any statute of limitations that may apply. Also keep in mind that laws regarding personal injury vary from state to state, and these may either delay or quicken up the process for you.

And as for how long does a car accident settlement take through negotiation? Well, that all depends on the parties’ ability to communicate and compromise.

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