In even the best situation, car accident settlements take several months to resolve. This time allows your car accident lawyer and the insurance claims adjuster to investigate the crash. They also need time to resolve factual or legal disputes between them and negotiate fair compensation for your injuries.
But sometimes, your car accident settlement drags on, and you are left to ask, “why is my car accident settlement taking so long to resolve?” In some situations, the delays are entirely normal and expected. In other cases, the lawyer and claims adjuster has encountered an issue they must work through to settle your case.
Negotiating a Claim Settlement
Before answering, “why is my car accident settlement taking so long to resolve?” you must first understand how insurers process claims.
Every state except New Hampshire requires vehicle owners to buy liability insurance. Even states that use no-fault insurance, like Massachusetts, require drivers to buy liability insurance for when the no-fault benefits run out.
When you pursue compensation from an at-fault driver, you almost always start by filing an insurance claim against their liability policy. This claim describes the nature of your claim and provides supporting documentation like:
- Crash reports
- Health records
- Medical bills
- Wage statements
The claims adjuster assesses the policyholder’s liability and whether the insurer must pay the claim, but the claims adjuster protects the insurer. The adjuster will deny the claim when they have any reason to do so.
Your lawyer’s job is to try to keep the claim on track. They do this by reminding the claims adjuster of the insurer’s legal duties under the insurance laws. If the insurer fails to deal with you in good faith, you potentially have a claim against the insurer in addition to your claim against the at-fault driver.
An experienced car accident lawyer will find ways to overcome claim denials so the claims adjuster can make a settlement offer. The lawyer will negotiate over the value of your claim to try to reach a fair settlement based on your losses.
5 Reasons Your Settlement Might Get Delayed
You might need to look at yourself, the insurer, and even your accident for explanations for “why is my car accident settlement taking so long to resolve?” Some reasons this process might get derailed include:
1. The Insurer Needs More Information
Occasionally, the insurer legitimately lacks essential information to process your claim. For example, a claims adjuster needs medical records from every doctor who treated your injuries. If any of your doctors fail to respond to a records request, the insurer will pause your claim until it receives those missing records.
But you should not provide any information the insurer could twist to deny your claim. Claims adjusters often imply that a recorded statement from you will help them investigate your case. They might even suggest that your case will settle faster if you call them to provide a statement.
A recorded statement poses a significant risk to your case. Insurers train their adjusters to ask tough or even confusing questions to try to get you to make admissions. Even a simple response like “I’m fine” when the adjuster greets you can get twisted against your interests.
You should speak to a lawyer if your claim slows down so you can determine whether the insurer has a valid reason for the delay.
2. The Insurer Is Playing Games
Sometimes, insurers do not have a valid answer to “why is my car accident settlement taking so long to resolve?” Instead, they may use a delay to pressure you into accepting a low settlement.
Insurers know you face mounting medical costs. They know your income has dropped due to missed work days or light duty. The adjuster knows that any delay in your case will only ratchet up the pressure on you. By delaying your settlement, insurers hope to frustrate you so much that you settle for less than your case’s value.
Lawyers serve two purposes. First, insurers do not play games with lawyers. They know a lawyer could advise you to file a bad faith insurance lawsuit for unjustified delays.
Second, the lawyer can advise you about the value of your case. Once you understand what you can reasonably expect, you are less likely to accept a sub-par settlement.
3. Liability Is Unclear
The insurer only needs to pay your claim if its policyholder bears liability for your accident. This means the insurer must agree that the policyholder acted negligently in causing your accident.
If liability is unclear, the insurer might slow down your claim while investigating. For example, if witnesses gave conflicting statements about whether the policyholder ran a stop sign, the insurer might need to gather additional information. A personal injury lawyer can advocate for you and your version of the accident to keep your claim on track.
4. You Had Unusual Losses
Unusual losses can slow down your claim. Suppose that you suffered an unusually severe injury from a relatively minor accident. An insurer might delay your claim while it consults experts who can verify that the accident caused your injury. Some reasons insurers deny or reduce claims include:
- Your accident did not cause your injuries
- Your injuries resulted from a preexisting condition
- Your treatment was not typical for your injuries
If you face any of these situations, you probably need a lawyer to help explain your medical records.
5. You Contributed to the Cause of Your Accident
Insurers will often slow down your claim if you played a role in your crash. States will adjust the compensation you can seek if you contributed to the cause of your injuries.
In some states, your compensation gets reduced by your share of the blame. So if you bear 20% of the blame, you can only get 80% of your compensation. In other states, you lose all rights to compensation if you played any role in the cause.
Fighting to Settle Your Case
Accident claims take time to settle. But when a claim takes too long, you might need to consult a lawyer to find out, “why is my car accident settlement taking so long to resolve?” To discuss your claim and the compensation you can seek, contact The Joel Bieber Firm.