Truck accidents can cause major damages, and reaching a reasonable settlement can take time. Nearly all cases will take at least months, while some can take years to resolve.
This statement isn’t meant to be discouraging. You should still do everything you can to maximize the potential size of your payout; the more money you fight for, the easier the transition will be back toward a semblance of normal life.
At the same time, be aware that you may have to make arrangements as you wait out the process. For instance, you may need an agreement to delay payment to medical providers – preferably with the help of your Atlanta truck accident lawyer.
If you have questions about a specific case, you should schedule a free consultation with a truck accident lawyer in Atlanta. Call 404-800-1156 or contact us online to schedule a free case review with an attorney at the Rafi Law Firm today.
To help you anticipate how long a typical case might take to resolve, it helps to look at all of the factors that can affect it. The following 11 factors influence the length of a hypothetical truck accident case. Note that this is only general information.
Size of Payout
Truck liability insurance policies have huge minimum coverage values. For vehicles traveling between states, a semi-truck has to have at least $750,000 per accident. Vehicles hauling oil and gasoline need $1 million in coverage. Those hauling certain hazardous substances need at least $5 million.
Vehicles traveling within Georgia have lower minimum requirements. They go as low as $300,000 for certain commercial vehicles hauling non-hazardous general goods.
Even still, there’s lots of money at stake. If your accident involves injuries and other damages that approach the $10,000 mark or higher, both insurers and your attorney will apply extra levels of care to the process. Every penny will be reviewed and verified. Some forms may be read through by multiple people multiple times.
The act of being extra cautious has to do with “due diligence,” a concept that requires people in any business trade to provide a minimum standard of care. When there’s more money on the line, more due diligence is expected. That’s why you need an experienced Atlanta truck accident lawyer on your side.
Status of Your Medical Condition
The second-biggest factor that will affect how long your truck accident case takes is how long your medical care will take. You and your attorney will want to wait until you are completely or nearly completely healed before you estimate the final cost of your medical treatment. By then, your prognosis should be much clearer.
If you make an estimate too early, it could turn out to be wrong. You may think you are going to be fully healed in a month, but it turns out that you need an extra surgery and six more months of rehabilitation. This can mean thousands of extra dollars in medical bills.
Changing the amount of insurance money requested to repay medical bills is difficult. Asking for more money after a settlement has been arranged is almost impossible.
By waiting, you and your attorney can be more sure of the final medical costs, including projected future treatment costs. This lengthens the possible duration the case will take, but also decreases the chances that you will have uncovered costs once an agreement or trial verdict is reached.
Clarity of Fault
Every truck accident will involve an investigation. Accidents that have higher levels of damages will be investigated more thoroughly.
Accidents that have complex causal factors will take longer to complete than ones where the cause-and-effect relationship was clear. Questions that may come up during the investigation include:
- Was either driver speeding?
- Did the actions of a third driver set off the chain of events?
- Did the truck driver make a mistake, or was the situation unavoidable?
- Did an outside factor, like road construction or the weather, affect the situation?
- Was the truck driver’s initial positive drug test result after the accident a false positive mistake or a verifiable result?
A huge component is whether or not the injury victim (plaintiff) was partially at-fault for the accident.
Being accused of fault throws a wrench in the investigation. Georgia Code § 51-12-33 states that plaintiffs who partially caused the conditions that led to their accident will have their claim reduced by their assessed percentage of fault. If the plaintiff is at least half (50%) at-fault, they cannot claim any damages.
So, if an accident victim is accused of being 10% at-fault for an accident causing $100,000 in hospital bills and other damages, the maximum they can claim is $90,000.
Insurance companies will use this law to their advantage to reduce or deny coverage for a claim. Any time it’s even remotely possible that a claimant is 1% at-fault, insurers will investigate the accident much more thoroughly in search of evidence that can reduce their bottom line.
In turn, your Atlanta truck accident attorney will have to work harder to defend you. In the worst-case scenario, your attorney will fight to reduce the percentage of blame using all legal strategies available. This process increases the odds of a higher settlement but adds to the overall timeline.
Number of Defendants
This factor relates to the complexity of the investigation and the clarity of fault. Simply put, the more people who are being accused of fault, the more complicated and lengthy a case will be.
“Multiple defendants” may not even mean other drivers involved in the wreck. The contractor who made the trailer available, the maintenance company in charge of inspecting the truck’s braking systems, and other third parties could be accused of fault.
Each potentially at-fault party adds to the investigation.
The Amount of Available Evidence
Cases with either an extremely high or extremely low amount of evidence will take longer to investigate. Those with low evidence will require extra work to settle the question of fault or calculate all damages. Those with high evidence will take longer, since requesting all of the evidence and analyzing it will take more work.
Lengthy Police Investigations
Most police investigations for traffic accidents are closed relatively quickly, but those involving deaths or other complicating factors will take longer.
Police reports are seen as some of the strongest forms of evidence in a civil case, even if they aren’t always considered the final word. Therefore, insurers and the plaintiff’s attorney will wait until the case is concluded and a report is filed before closing their own investigations.
Wording of the Insurance Policy
Was the accident covered? Are the claimed damages covered? These questions have a huge impact on the truck accident case.
When the text of a policy makes it clear that a type of loss is covered, the claim will be resolved more quickly. When the text makes it unclear or makes it seem as if a type of loss would not be covered, there will be much more back-and-forth between parties.
Your Willingness to Settle for Less
Insurance companies will usually make claimants wait several weeks or months before they receive their first settlement offer. In cases with a lot of damages at stake, this initial offer will commonly be small. Insurance companies hope that claimants will take the money and close the case, saving them time and money.
It’s always in the best interest of accident victims to refuse the first offer if it’s not enough to cover all of their losses. While it may be tempting to settle, settling puts you in a legal bind where you cannot – except in extraordinary circumstances – request more money down the line.
Complexity of Negotiations
No matter how big or small a truck accident investigation gets, negotiations for the case will go at their own pace.
Sometimes, insurance companies and attorneys can find common ground quickly, which makes reaching a final settlement a matter of crunching numbers and getting all the paperwork out of the way.
Other times, the plaintiff’s lawyers and insurance lawyers will have major disagreements on fundamental issues, meaning every interaction takes longer and requires more back-and-forth correspondence.
Usually, when negotiations go badly, the lawyers involved will request a mediation session to smooth things over. These meetings can be highly productive, but they are also more costly than writing letters, faxing forms, or holding phone conversations.
The Case Proceeds to Trial
When an insurance company refuses to offer a reasonable settlement for an injury victim’s damages, the victim is left with no choice but to file a civil complaint, otherwise known as a lawsuit.
Lawsuits can be a tool to convince the other side to settle, but they can also progress to the point of a jury trial. Injury victims shouldn’t be afraid of going to trial since the Rafi Law Firm has a history of winning big cases in court. But they should be aware that a court case takes quite a long time.
Atlanta Truck Accident Lawyers Fight for Fair Compensation – No Matter How Long It Takes
Having a case that takes a year or longer can be tough for truck accident victims, but it represents a choice. They have the choice to get taken advantage of by insurers – companies that are literally paid to cover the type of losses they have suffered – or to fight for a reasonable settlement offer that pays for all or most of their losses.
Rafi Law Firm can provide experienced legal guidance and representation for your truck accident case. We are willing to fight for our clients for as long as it takes to get them the highest possible amount of compensation for their losses. If we don’t win anything, we don’t get paid. We represent clients whose cases we believe in.
Find out more about your legal options during a free discussion with an experienced truck accident lawyer in Atlanta. Call us today at 404-800-1156 or contact us online to schedule your free, no-obligation case review.