How Long Will My Vehicle Damage Claim Take After a Car Accident?

How Long Will My Vehicle Damage Claim Take After a Car Accident?


How Long Will My Vehicle Damage Claim Take After a Car Accident?

After a car accident, if you are only making a claim for damage to your vehicle -- meaning you are asking the at-fault driver to pay to have your car fixed or to reimburse you for its "actual cash value" -- the process will almost certainly take less time than it would if a personal injury claim were involved. But when might a vehicle accident claim get resolved? Let’s take a look at some possibilities.
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Settlement of a Vehicle Claim Before a Lawsuit Is Filed

Many vehicle damage accident claims can be resolved through the insurance process, without a lawsuit ever being filed. If all parties (meaning the drivers and their respective car insurance companies) fundamentally agree about
  • who was at fault for the accident (or the apportionment of fault)
  • the extent of the vehicle damage, and
  • the cost to get the vehicle repaired, or
  • where applicable, the "actual cash value" of a vehicle that has been declared a "total loss"
Early resolution typically also requires the absence of potentially contentious issues such as whether the vehicle had any pre-existing damage that the accident may have worsened. Finally, if the at-fault driver doesn't have adequate insurance coverage in place, that can extend the resolution process.
But if there really is nothing to argue about in terms of liability and losses, and the at-fault driver's policy can cover all losses stemming from the accident, a vehicle damage claim can be resolved via settlement within the first 30 to 90 days after an accident. That means the insurance company cuts the vehicle owner a check to cover repairs or replacement of the vehicle, the vehicle owner signs a release, and the matter is resolved.

Discovery and Motions

In the unlikely event that a lawsuit is filed -- this is a rare occurrence when no one was injured in the accident -- the parties must adhere to specific timelines for gathering information that could lead to evidence at trial. This is called the "discovery" phase, and it includes sworn testimony from parties and witnesses (depositions) and the exchange of written questions and answers (interrogatories). During this phase, disputed issues becomes clearer, in terms of how the accident happened and the nature and extent of the damage actually caused by the accident.
For example, if it turns out that the damaged vehicle’s driver was speeding, changed lanes quickly without signaling, stopped abruptly, or ran a stop sign or stoplight, those facts would suggest that the plaintiff may well share the fault -- or even bear complete responsibility -- for any damages.
The discovery phase usually lasts from six to 12 months following the lawsuit’s filing. After the discovery process.


Shortly after discovery is completed, most courts schedule the parties for what is called “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR), typically mediation, to encourage them to reach resolution with the help of a neutral third party.
In a vehicle damage case, a mediator can help the parties see how successful their arguments and evidence might be to a judge or jury, including on issues such as:
  • whether the plaintiff was partially at fault
  • the likelihood that some or all of the alleged damage predated the accident, and
  • whether the amounts claimed for repair or replacement of the damaged vehicle are excessive.
The mediation process itself may last between a few hours and a couple of days. If successful, the claim may be resolved and the lawsuit dismissed within less than a year after the accident.

Small Claims Court and Civil Trials

If a vehicle damage claim does end up in court, chances are it will be in small claims court, which is a branch of the civil court system where disputes involving a relatively low amount of money are heard and resolved (Check out Nolo's 50-State Chart on Small Claims Court Dollar Limits to see the rules in your state.) Small claims court cases proceed quicker and less formally than regular civil lawsuits. Parties usually represent themselves, and argue their side of the case to a judge (not a jury), who will typically consider the evidence and issue a ruling on the same day.
Very few vehicle damage (non-injury) cases ever reach the trial stage in regular civil court (outside of small claims court). Trial is expensive and time-consuming, and the outcome is uncertain. Parties sometimes can wait as long as two years or more before their property damage case gets to trial. Especially where no injuries and obvious vehicle damage occurred, your claim stands a very good chance of being resolved well before trial.


How Does Insurance Affect a Car Accident Case?

How Does Insurance Affect a Car Accident Case?


 How Does Insurance Affect a Car Accident Case?

The short answer to this question is that the amount of available car insurance coverage is a critical component of any car accident case. Read on to get an understanding of why this is true, and how things might play out in the real world.
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If the person who hit you doesn’t have any car insurance or only has a minimal amount of coverage, then it doesn’t matter how good your case is or how badly you are hurt, you just aren’t going to get much compensation for your injuries unless one of two possible situations exists.
  • First, if you carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, then you can make a claim against your own insurance company for the full amount of your damages, less any money that you receive from the defendant’s insurance company. That is usually the only real alternative if the defendant doesn’t have enough insurance. But, unfortunately, not everyone carries uninsured and/or underinsured motorist coverage, and once you've exhausted the limits of any UIM coverage you do have, you're likely out of options.
  • Second, it is possible that the person who hit you has enough assets to cover your car accident damages, including medical bills and lost income. But from a realistic standpoint, people who don’t have car insurance -- or who only have the minimum amount of car insurance -- almost never have any extra money sitting around to pay off a personal injury claim.
Let’s look at an example of how the amount of available insurance can affect a car accident case. Let’s say that you get hit, that it is definitely the other person’s fault, and that you are seriously injured, to the extent that your lawyer advises you that $1,000,000 would be a very fair settlement. As long as the defendant has $1,000,000 or more of automobile insurance coverage, your case will proceed normally. Your lawyer will prepare your case, make a demand, and hopefully settle the case without having to go to trial. (Learn more about The Role of Insurance in Settling a Personal Injury Claim.)
But let’s say your lawyer writes the defendant’s insurance adjuster to ask about available insurance coverage, and the adjuster tells your lawyer that the defendant only carried $100,000 in liability insurance. In that case, your million dollar settlement with the defendant just turned into a $100,000 settlement.
The only way that you are going to be able to get proper satisfaction for your injuries is if you have a significant amount of underinsured motorist coverage. If you have $1,000,000 or more of underinsured motorist coverage, then, once again, your case will proceed normally. Your lawyer will settle with the defendant for the policy limits and then file a claim against your own insurer. You will then litigate the underinsured claim against your own insurer.
But let’s say that you only have $250,000 or $500,000 of underinsured motorist coverage. In that case, once the adjuster is convinced that this is a million dollar case, your insurer might just pay you the policy limits. If that happens, then your case is over, and, unfortunately, you only recovered 25 or 50 cents on the dollar for your injuries.
So it's easy to see how the amount of available insurance coverage can play a crucial role in any car accident case. The possibility of getting hit by someone with no car insurance -- or with only a minimal amount of car insurance -- is a real risk. In order to avoid this circumstance, anyone who can afford it should consider carrying a significant amount of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

How Long Will My Rear-End Car Accident Claim Take?

How Long Will My Rear-End Car Accident Claim Take? 

Recovering compensation for injuries and property damage resulting from rear-end vehicle collisions means the injured person has to prove 1) that the other driver was at fault, and 2) the extent of the resulting “damages,” meaning injuries, lost income, and other losses. But how long will this process take?
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While personal injury claims resulting from a rear-end collision can be resolved at almost any point between the time of the accident and the moment a judge or jury renders a verdict at the conclusion of a trial, resolution is most likely to occur during specific phases in the life of a claim. Let’s take a look at some possibilities.

Resolution Before a Lawsuit Is Filed

The rear-end car accident claims most likely to be resolved without ever filing a lawsuit -- that is, during “early settlement” -- include those in which all parties fundamentally can agree about what happened and the resulting damages.
This usually means that:
  • injuries are minor or at least not susceptible of worsening over time
  • the claimaint did not have any pre-existing injuries that the accident is alleged to have aggravated
  • the driver who rear-ended the stopped vehicle was undisputedly the only person at fault, and
  • the at-fault driver was covered by insurance at the time of the accident.
This kind of “clear liability” case still must be supported by evidence of liability and damages, such as:
  • written statements of eyewitnesses
  • photos of the accident scene, damage to vehicles, and injuries
  • medical reports from doctors
  • medical bills
  • estimates and/or receipts for repairs of vehicle damage, and
  • proof of lost earnings for any work absences caused by the accident.
In such instances, there really is nothing to argue about in court. That usually becomes clear within the first 30 to 90 days after an accident, during which time settlement would be likely. That means the insurance company representing the at-fault driver writes a settlement check to the injured person, who in turn signs a release giving up any future right to sue over the accident. Learn more about The Role of Insurance in Settling an Injury Claim.

Resolution During Discovery and Motions

After a lawsuit is filed, during the “discovery” phase of the case, the parties must adhere to specific timelines for gathering information that could be useful at trial -- that includes documents; sworn testimony of parties and witnesses (depositions), and written questions and answers between the parties (interrogatories). During this phase, disputed facts become clearer, both in terms of how the accident happened and the nature and extent of injuries and property damage actually resulting from the accident.
For example, if it turns out that the person who was rear-ended (the “plaintiff”) appears to have changed lanes abruptly and slammed on the brakes just before being rear-ended, giving the defendant’s vehicle insufficient time and distance to stop, that fact would suggest that the plaintiff may well share the fault -- or even bear complete responsibility -- for any resulting injuries or damages.
The discovery phase usually lasts from six to 12 months following the lawsuit’s filing. After the discovery process, evidence may show that the plaintiff has fallen short of proving facts that support the required elements of the case. The defendant then may seek to have the case dismissed by various formal motions to the court, such as a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment. If these motions are denied (meaning the lawsuit is not dismissed), the defendant could become very motivated to settle rather than press on.


Shortly after discovery is completed, most courts schedule the parties for what is called “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) -- typically in the form of mediation -- to encourage them to reach a resolution with the help of a neutral third party. The mediator can help the parties understand the most likely outcome if the case goes to trial -- how a judge or jury probably will decide -- and manage expectations accordingly.
In a rear-end car accident case, a mediator can help the parties see how successful their arguments and evidence might be on such issues as:
  • whether the plaintiff was partially at fault
  • if the plaintiff’s injuries were indeed caused by the accident
  • whether the defendant was distracted by texting and did not see the plaintiff stop
  • the fact that the road was slick from a hard rain, requiring a longer following distance to stop safely, or
  • whether the tread on the defendant’s tires was below the legally required minimum depth.

What Are Interrogatories?

What Are Interrogatories

What Are Interrogatories?

In the course of a personal injury lawsuit -- such as a one stemming from a car accident -- after a complaint and answer are filed with the court, the discovery stage begins. During discovery, the plaintiff (the person filing the lawsuit) and the defendant (the person being sued) exchange information regarding the facts of the accident, the plaintiff's injuries, and other aspects of the case. Along with depositions, one of the main ways that this is done is by the use of interrogatories.
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Interrogatories are a written set of questions (although they’re not always phrased as questions) that one party in a lawsuit sends to the other. The other party must respond to the questions in writing and under oath, within a certain time frame.

What Kind of Information is Exchanged?

In a car accident case, it’s likely that the parties have differing accounts of how the crash occurred. So car accident interrogatories will usually center around specific factors -- distracted driving, speed, drug/alcohol use -- that might have contributed to the crash. In that way, interrogatories will allow each party to hear the other side’s story in order to best prepare their own case.
Let's look at some examples to get a better idea of what to expect.
Interrogatories sent from the plaintiff to the defendant, or vice versa, in a car accident lawsuit might include:
  • State, in your own words, how the accident occurred.
  • Provide the year, make, and model, and current registrant of the vehicle you were driving at the time of the accident.
  • Provide the company, address, and policy number for any automobile insurance policy of the vehicle involved in the accident.
  • How fast were you going at the time of the accident?
  • Within the past 10 years, have you been involved in any other automobile accidents (as the driver)? If so, please provide the date, nature of the accident, and any related legal outcome.
  • Provide the names and addresses of any known witnesses to the accident.
  • At the time of the accident, were you taking any medications? If so provide the name of the medication, dosage, and last dose taken prior to the accident.
  • List every traffic violation you’ve had in the past 10 years.
  • In the 24 hours prior to the accident, had you consumed any alcohol? If so, please list the type, amount, and time consumed.
  • State the exact location where the accident occurred.
  • Where were you coming from, and traveling to, when the accident occurred?
  • Please list any photographs, sketches, reports, or diagrams regarding the accident that you have knowledge of, including their current location.
The defendant will likely also include interrogatories about the plaintiff’s injuries and relevant medical treatment, as well as any potential pre-existing injuries to the same areas of the body.

Interrogatory Limits, Response Times, and Objections

You can't send an unlimited number of interrogatories to the other side. Usually, each side is limited to around 25 interrogatory questions -- that's the rule in most civil cases in Texas, for example, unless the court approves more.
The time for sending your response to interrogatories also varies from state to state. In New York, you have 20 days to respond if you were served by mail, while in California you usually have 35 days.
If a party believes that an interrogatory isn’t relevant to the case, or is too vague, there are legal grounds under which they can object. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement on a certain interrogatory (or a proper response to it), or if a party doesn’t respond within the given time (without a valid reason,) the court will intervene.

Auto Accidents

Auto Accidents


Auto Accidents

If you've recently been in an auto accident, you may be concerned about working with insurance companies, recovering from any injuries you suffered, and repairing your car. But if you were the victim in an automobile accident, you should also be thinking about whether an auto accident lawyer can help you recover money to pay your accident-related bills and compensate you for pain and suffering.
When an accident is serious enough to cause fatal or severe injuries, or if alcohol was involved, the state will probably prosecute the driver who was at fault. But for all other car accidents, you, the other driver, and your insurance companies may be left to deal with medical bills and car repair expenses. Often these issues are ultimately resolved in court.

Causes of Automobile Accidents

There are many causes of automobile accidents. Among the more common:
  • Distracted drivers, including drivers who are talking on the phone or texting, rubbernecking other accidents, fiddling with music, looking at the scenery, and paying attention to other passengers
  • Drowsy drivers, including those who have been behind the wheel for more than two hours, those who are driving late at night or after a heavy meal, and those who have taken medicines that may cause drowsiness
  • Impaired drivers, even if the driver isn't over the legal blood-alcohol limit
  • Speeding
  • Driving aggressively, including tailgating, failing to yield the right of way, yelling or making rude gestures at other drivers, ignoring traffic signals, and changing lanes frequently
  • Weather, including rain, snow, fog, ice, sleet, and wind

If You Are an Automobile Accident Victim

Victims in an automobile accident may include the car's driver, passengers, by-standers, and even the spouse of an injured person.
All auto-accident victims may be able to recover money from the other driver, the owner of the car, and even the driver's employer to pay for the damage to your car, your current and future medical bills, and any permanent injuries you may have suffered. You may even be able to get punitive damages, which are designed to punish the other driver for his or her action.
If you are contacted by the other driver's insurance company, you do not need to provide them with any information other than your basic contact information. Nor should you feel pressured to provide them with an immediate description of your injuries. A personal injury lawyer who handles auto accident injuries can help you negotiate with the other driver's insurance company or decide whether your case should be heard in court.

When To Hire A Personal Injury Attorney

When To Hire A Personal Injury Attorney

When you've been in a car accident, you have a lot on your mind. Aside from any emotional turmoil and stress, you have to deal with your injuries, damage to your vehicle, handling your claim, and any other issues.
Lawyers can help you deal with the process of your claim and reduce your stress in the process. The following information will help you determine whether hiring an attorney is the right choice for you.

Property Damage

One of the biggest losses after an accident is the loss of property. Your vehicle may be heavily damaged and, in some cases, be considered a total loss.
It's typically the car insurance company's prerogative to either:
  • Deem your car a total loss.
  • Pay for repairs.
First, you'll need to determine whether your coverage will pay or whether the other company will pay. For instance:
  • If you are at fault, you'll seek reimbursement through your own policy.
  • If you are not at fault, you'll generally seek payment through the other insurer.
  • In some cases (e.g., if you live in a no-fault state, or you were in a hit and run), you may seek compensation from your own car insurance company.
Regardless of the company from which you're seeking payment, you might find their initial claim offer is insufficient to fully cover your repair or replacement costs.
If you don't have the energy or knowledge to pursue a more substantial claim, you need the services of an attorney to ensure you get what you deserve.

Personal Injury

If you are injured as a result of an accident, you need to get the proper medical care right away. If you delay, it can be harder to prove your injuries resulted from the car accident.
Your payment for care will depend on the coverages in your policy. If you are not at fault, your bills will be paid for by the other driver's liability coverage. If you live in a no-fault state, however, you can seek payment from your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to get your bills without the delay of negotiation between companies.
You can also seek payment from:
  • Medical payments coverage, if it's included in your policy.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage, if you have it and you were hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver (or were in a hit and run accident).
  • Your health insurance policy.

When You Need a Personal Injury Attorney

As you seek reimbursement, remember that it's extremely common to get pushback on these expenses. Insruance companies try to avoid paying more than they need to and will check to make sure all the expenses are valid. Keep all of your documentation and receipts. If you continue to have trouble getting your medical bills paid, seek the counsel of a personal injury attorney.
Attorneys have experience working with insurance providers to get the highest possible settlement amounts for clients.
They also have experience getting compensation for general damages that are difficult to determine, such as:
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Mental anguish.
For example, if you've lost your vision due to an accident resulting from another driver's negligence, a personal injury lawyer can help you get general damages in addition to the actual costs of your medical bills.

Statute of Limitations

If you have been injured or you have lost any type of personal or business property due to an accident, don't wait to get the help you need and deserve.
You have only a short amount of time under local, state, and federal law to file your claim and protect your rights. This time limit is called the statute of limitations, and varies by state.
If you feel you need an attorney to navigate your claim, contact one without delay.
Having the help of an experienced attorney can leave you free to concentrate on healing and moving on with your life.

Accidents Caused by Defective Roads

Defective Roads

Accidents Caused by Defective Roads
There are situations where driver error is not the only cause of an accident. A defective highway or street may cause or contribute to motor vehicle accidents. Sometimes the governmental entity is held liable for a single car accident that occurs on defectively designed streets and roadways. This is the case both in urban areas and on more rural roads.
Poor maintenance and inadequate signage may also be a contributing factor to an accident. For example, the shoulders of roadways must not present an unreasonable risk of harm to traveling motorists. Liability may arise where the shoulders of the roadway have not been properly maintained. When there is ongoing construction there is a duty to warn motorists of any danger presented by such construction projects. Inoperable traffic lights, improper signals and traffic control devices that are not visible may serve as a basis for liability for the responsible entity.

State Roadways

The roadway itself has to be designed to certain specifications and standards. The standards are updated and changed from year to year. Without an expert experienced in highway defect cases, it is almost impossible to know what standard applies. In Texas, the state is not required to update highways to modern construction standards. To successfully recover against a public entity for a street or highway defect you must be able to prove that: (1) the thing that caused your damages was in the custody of the entity at issue; (2) the roadway was defective or created an unreasonable risk of harm or injury; (3) the entity had actual or constructive notice and did not fix the problem within a reasonable length of time; and (4) the defective or unsafe condition was the legal cause of the victim’s injuries.
There is no legal requirement that the roadways be in perfect condition and not every imperfection or irregularity will give rise to a highway defect claim. Each case must be evaluated on its own merit. That is why retaining an experienced lawyer is extremely important.
Some states have enacted legislation to place a limit on the amount an injured party can recover against a political subdivision or governmental entity. In Texas, there is a cap on damages of $250,000 for a State or city entity and a $100,000 cap for a county entity.