How Long Does a Car Accident Claim Take in Florida?
Car accident settlements tend to take one to two years after the filing of a lawsuit. However, some cases settle sooner while others take longer. For instance, a simple case with a lower value may settle within a few months after brief negotiations with the insurance company.
On the other side of the spectrum, a complex case worth a vast amount of money may settle on the eve of the trial after several years of litigation. Alternatively, the case may settle in the appeals process, which adds several years to the litigation.
Most car accident cases settle before trial. At Rosen Injury Law, we investigate claims and gather the evidence we need to win in court. As a result, insurance companies need to cut their losses and settle without the astronomical expense of a trial and appeal.
The length of time for your case depends on at what stage it settles.
Pre-Lawsuit Settlements (One to Three Months or more) in Florida
The quickest settlements happen when you come to an agreement with the insurance company without filing a lawsuit. Pre-lawsuit settlements for car accident claims in Florida are sometimes more manageable because it is a no-fault state.
However, no-fault only applies to economic damages. When you have sustained a severe injury with extensive general damages, settling the case without going to court is far rarer.
What Is No-Fault Car Insurance in Florida?
Florida’s no-fault car insurance law requires each motorist’s insurer to pay their full economic damages. As a result, when the brunt of the damages fall into this category, it can be easier to settle a claim without going to court. Because the insurance company has less at stake, it is sometimes more likely to settle without the expense of a legal defense.
On the other hand, sometimes insurance adjusters claim that you are entitled to nothing above the economic damages paid by your insurer. For instance, they may claim you have no general damages or that you are at fault for the collision. Therefore, you are entitled to nothing.
Alternatively, the adjuster may claim you have partial fault. Under Florida’s comparative negligence law, your settlement from the defendant’s insurer is reduced by the percentage of fault you contributed to the accident.
For instance, suppose the opposing insurance company’s adjuster claims you were 40% at fault for the accident. If true, you are entitled to just 60% of your general damages, a low figure.
A personal injury lawyer can intercede here and insist you are entitled to a settlement and negotiate for a higher figure.
However, if the insurance company continues to balk, you’ll need to take them to court to win a fair settlement.
What Are Economic Damages?
Economic damages consist of the accident’s direct financial cost to the plaintiff. Because there is a clear line between the injury and a specific dollar figure of loss, economic damages are the easiest to calculate.
Economic damages include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
- Lost income
- Property damage
Because Florida is a no-fault state, your insurance company bears responsibility for paying 100% of these damages. It makes no difference who is at fault. Your insurer must pay your medical costs and compensate you for any lost income.
While this sounds easy, sometimes your insurance company offers too little. The insurance adjuster may quibble about what expenses related to the accident, for example. If you need help collecting the full amount from your insurance company, contact Rosen Injury Law immediately.
What Are General Damages in Florida?
Florida’s no-fault car insurance rule offers no provision for general damages. To receive them, you must file a claim with the opposing insurance company. They may refuse to pay general damages or offer only a portion of what you deserve.
General damages include the intangible impacts of the injury. Though there are no medical bills or income statements to correspond to general damages, they are genuine losses for the sufferer. They include the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Negotiating With the Insurance Company Pre-Lawsuit
After injury accidents, the insurance companies investigate the claim and render a decision. This generally takes about 30 days. If your damages are only economic and your insurance company pays them in full, you have received your total compensation.
However, most injury victims have pain and suffering and other general damages. To ensure you are receiving all the damages to which you have entitlement, consult a personal injury lawyer, who can evaluate your case and determine if the claim’s decision is fair to you.
If not, your lawyer may open negotiations with the insurance company. Depending on the case, these negotiations may take several weeks to months.
When the insurer refuses reasonable terms, you must take the case to court to receive what is fair. Under Florida law, you have two years from the injury or your awareness of it to file a lawsuit.
There is no reason to delay filing a lawsuit if negotiations go nowhere. Each day you delay only increases the time before you receive the compensation you need.
Settlement During Discovery (Six Months to Two Years From Filing the Lawsuit)
Filing the complaint starts the court process. First, your personal injury lawyer draws up the complaint, which describes what occurred and delineates the laws under which you are bringing suit. Then, after the initial court appearance, the discovery process begins.
During discovery, each side must reveal the evidence it has gathered to the other. There can be no surprises. The court bars lawyers from using evidence at trial that it failed to disclose during discovery.
Each side must also disclose evidence favorable to the opposition. For example, if the defendant has a witness statement helpful to the plaintiff, it cannot hide this evidence; it must disclose it to the plaintiff’s legal team.
Settlement negotiations occur throughout the discovery process, and the parties can come to terms at any point. Often, sharing evidence motivates one or both sides to settle the claim.
The first stage of discovery consists of document discovery. During this time, the lawyers must exchange all documentation related to the case. Also, lawyers may seek evidence from third parties.
Lawyers then prepare written questions for the other side’s witnesses. These include requests to affirm or deny material facts and interrogatories, which are more open-ended questions. This process refines what each witness will attest to at trial. As a result, lawyers gain a clearer understanding of the other side’s strengths and weaknesses. Often, this enhanced understanding induces settlements.
Discovery culminates with depositions. Depositions are face-to-face interviews of opposing witnesses. Lawyers use these sessions to develop additional evidence for their claims and tie down witnesses to their stories. In addition, what occurs in depositions often motivates settlements.
Insurance companies recognize that depositions are an expensive proposition. However, up until they occur, the defense has relatively low legal costs.
Once depositions start, the insurer will become responsible for hefty fees. As a result, many cases settle before depositions. When the defense fees depositions are unlikely to help its case, it is motivated to settle rather than pay their high cost.
If insurance companies refuse to settle pre-depositions, Rosen Injury Law finds ways to motivate them after depositions. Our legal eagles ask the difficult questions that force the other side to reveal valuable evidence. Also, we pin them down to a fact pattern that makes their liability clear.
At the same time, our legal team meticulously prepares our witnesses for their depositions. They fully understand how to answer questions and prevent defense lawyers from shaking their confidence. As a result, when depositions are over, defense lawyers leave disappointed.
Because of poor results from depositions, the defense is often motivated to settle soon after their completion.
Settlement Conferences in Florida
Settlement conferences bring both sides together in one room to hash out a deal. Post-discovery settlement conferences often succeed because all of the evidence has been gathered and disseminated. Both sides have a complete understanding of the case, and the result of a trial seems more certain.
Judges often order settlement conferences before a trial. This is an attempt to bring the sides together without calling a jury. At this stage, lawyers have a good idea of how a trial will end. As a result, these conferences tend to end in a settlement when the insurance company is willing to provide a reasonable settlement. However, when the defense refuses to offer a fair number, it’s advantageous for the plaintiff to opt for a trial.
Few personal injury cases go to trial. Insurance companies would only dig their financial hole deeper.
But a small number of cases do wind up before a jury. Though the cases have arrived at trial, some settle before the jury reaches a verdict.
Personal injury appeals may be based on overturning the jury’s verdict or reducing the award. The appeals process is long and arduous. When the defense loses at trial, their chances of success are limited. As a result, they may be willing to settle the case during the appeals process.
Personal injury cases usually end in a settlement. On average, settlements occur within one to two years after the filing of a lawsuit. During this time, lawyers complete discovery and gain a full view of the case. With expenses mounting, insurance companies become more motivated to settle. At this point, they know they are likely to lose at trial, and continuing to litigate makes the matter more expensive.
Rosen Injury Law helps Florida car accident victims attain the compensation they deserve. We fight hard, so our clients can collect every penny they are entitled to. Contact Rosen Injury Law for a free consultation.
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