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.