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How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take in California

Car accident on the side of the road

In our experience, the car accident settlement timeline in California can vary widely in duration, with an average resolution time of approximately 12 to 18 months. Factors such as the case’s complexity, severity of injuries, and insurance negotiations play very large roles in shaping the timeline

Simple cases with clear liability may settle faster, while more intricate cases, especially those involving significant injuries or disputed liability, may extend the process of settling your case to a couple of years.

What you can do to speed the process up is to hire an experienced car accident lawyer. 

Legal professionals bring expertise to navigate complexities, negotiate with insurance companies, and strengthen your case. From handling disputes to streamlining the car accident case process, their assistance significantly enhances the likelihood of a favorable outcome, ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve.

General Car Accident Settlement Timeline in California

Auto accident settlements in California involve a series of steps determining how long it takes to settle a car accident claim. We’d love to be able to give you the time it takes for each element below, but each can take weeks or even take several months, depending on your situation, the evidence available, and the defendant. 

From the incident to settling, let’s look at the key stages to understand better what to expect during this process and how long it will usually take to settle. 

Immediately After the Accident

The moments directly following a car accident are critical and can significantly influence the outcome of your settlement. One of the priorities is seeking prompt medical attention, even if injuries seem minor. 

This ensures your well-being and establishes a key link between the accident and any resulting injuries, strengthening your case during negotiations. Simultaneously, filing a police report is essential. The report provides an official account of the incident, documenting key details that can be pivotal when settling the claim.

If you don’t have this information in place, it can be harder to rely on other evidence available, and would mean we need more time to build out your case. 

Consult With an Attorney

Seeking legal advice from a law firm early in the settlement process will significantly enhance your chances of a favorable outcome and speed up your process. In addition, consulting with a car accident attorney provides you with a clear understanding of your rights and the potential value of their injury claims.

Our attorneys are adept at navigating the complexities of insurance negotiations, ensuring you don’t settle for less than you deserve, and also moving the timeline along.

We know how insurance companies work; we’ve dealt with countless numbers of them. If you were to try to handle them on your own, it would either take much longer or you will accept their initial very low offer.

Additional reading: should i get a lawyer for a car accident that wasn’t my fault

We will assign you a dedicated Torrance car accident lawyer if you’re local to the area to help speed up your case.

Submitting a Demand Letter

Submitting a demand letter outlines your case’s details, including the extent of injuries and damages and a specific settlement amount you find fair. 

It serves as an official document that signals the beginning of negotiations. The demand letter communicates your position, the value of your case, and demonstrates your preparedness to pursue a legal resolution if necessary. 

There are various legal intricacies to this letter; more than than is obvious on the face of it. And so, completing this can be daunting to someone inexperienced, inevitably delaying the time for a car accident settlement to be completed.

Negotiate a Settlement

Negotiating a settlement is a pivotal stage, where both parties work towards reaching a mutually agreeable resolution. This phase involves back-and-forth discussions, with the insurance company countering your initial demand.

It’s a delicate balance of assessing the full extent of your damages, including medical expenses, property damage, and any other losses. Your personal injury lawyer, if involved, plays a large role in navigating these negotiations, ensuring your interests are protected.

Sometimes, we hear of individuals advocating for themselves excellently and getting a much higher settlement check than originally offered. However, these cases are rare since the easy choice is to just accept the offer and move on.

But, in doing this, yourself, you will delay closure much more than if you let an experienced attorney fight for you, instead, especially if you’re dealing with injuries after the incident.

Additional reading: what happens when you reject an insurance settlement offer 

File a Personal Injury Claim

If negotiations reach an impasse and a fair settlement remains unknown, the next step is to file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit involves submitting a formal complaint to the court, outlining the details of the case and the relief sought. This legal action signifies a shift from negotiations to a more structured legal process.

Once the lawsuit is filed, both parties engage in legal proceedings, and a judge oversees the case. Filing a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean going to trial; many cases are resolved through continued negotiations, mediation, or settlement discussions during the legal process.

As you might expect, how long this takes depends on the congestion within the court system. California’s judicial system is notoriously backlogged, in our experience, making it even more imperative that you don’t delay in making a claim.

Additional reading:  California car accident statute of limitations

Discovery Process

The discovery process is like peeling back layers to uncover information and prevent any last-minute shocks during a trial. It’s all about making sure both sides know what they’re getting into. Imagine it as a detective gathering clues before solving a case.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Written Interrogatories: These are basically a fancy way of saying “written questions.” Each side gets to ask the other party questions, and they have to respond in writing. It’s like sending a questionnaire to get all the facts straight.
  2. Document Requests: Think of this as asking for evidence. Each side can request specific documents, like emails, contracts, or reports, that might help their case. It’s like asking someone to hand over their files so you can see what they’ve been up to.
  3. Depositions: This is where things get a bit more intense. Depositions involve face-to-face interviews, usually in a lawyer’s office. The person being interviewed has to answer questions under oath, meaning they’re legally bound to tell the truth. It’s like a mini-trial before the main event, where lawyers grill witnesses to see how they’ll hold up in court.

How long discovery takes depends entirely on the efficiency of the plaintiff’s and defendant’s legal counsel. Naturally, as the plaintiff’s counsel, we’d like to resolve this as fast as possible. Just keep in mind that the defendant’s side won’t necessarily be in any rush.

This is where having an experienced San Bernardino car accident lawyer on your side is essential to speed up the legal process.

Mediation or Arbitration

When negotiations hit roadblocks, parties may turn to alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation or arbitration. In mediation, a neutral third party, the mediator, helps facilitate discussions between the involved parties.

The goal is to reach a voluntary agreement that satisfies both sides. Mediation is often less formal than court proceedings and allows for more direct involvement in decision-making. On the other hand, arbitration involves a neutral arbitrator who reviews the case evidence and makes a binding decision. 

Trial or Settlement

As the car accident settlement process progresses, the final stages involve either a trial or a negotiated settlement. In reality, most cases are resolved through settlements, where both parties agree on terms without going to court.

Settlements offer more control over the outcome, and the parties typically negotiate and agree upon the terms. However, the case may proceed to trial if an agreement cannot be reached. Trials involve presenting evidence, arguments, and witnesses to a judge or jury who will decide.

Again, going to trial can delay the entire process, but you’re also more likely to get a better compensation offer if your hired attorney feels this is likely. Agreeing to an out-of-court settlement will obviously bring a swifter outcome.

Why is My Car Accident Settlement Taking So Long?

Car accident settlements can sometimes become prolonged, leaving many wondering about the reasons behind the unexpected delays. Several factors contribute to the extended timeline, and understanding these elements is essential for individuals seeking resolution.

Here are specific reasons why your car accident settlement might be taking longer than anticipated:

  • Disputed Liability: When there’s a disagreement about who is at fault for the accident, it often leads to prolonged negotiations or even legal action. Resolving disputes over liability requires thorough investigation and can significantly extend the settlement process.
  • Amount of Damages Claimed: Larger claims, which often involve substantial medical expenses, property damage, and other losses, require meticulous documentation and proof.
  • Complex Injuries: Cases involving severe or complex injuries often take longer to settle. Extensive medical treatment, ongoing care, and the need for a comprehensive understanding of the impact on the victim’s life contribute to the extended timeline.
  • Insufficient Evidence: Incomplete or insufficient evidence can hinder the settlement process. Building a strong case requires thorough documentation, and the absence of key evidence may lead to delays as parties work to gather necessary information.
  • Insurance Company Delays: The practices and efficiency of the involved insurance companies can impact the timeline. Delays in processing claims, extended investigations, or complex internal procedures can contribute to a lengthier settlement process.
  • Uncooperative Parties: When the involved parties are uncooperative or resistant to negotiations, settling becomes challenging. This can result in a prolonged back-and-forth and may even lead to the necessity of legal proceedings.
  • Legal Proceedings: While trials provide a formal resolution, they are inherently more time-consuming compared to negotiations. Legal proceedings can stretch the settlement timeline by months or even years, depending on court schedules and the complexities of the case. 

Partner with Our Expert Accident Attorneys for Your Settlement

Our expert accident attorneys at Feher Law specialize in guiding individuals through the complexities of the settlement process. With a comprehensive understanding of the factors discussed, we can efficiently navigate negotiations, advocate for your rights, and expedite the resolution process.

Going at it alone can work, but it is much slower and you most likely will settle for less than you deserve.

Contact us today at (866) 646-6676 for a free case evaluation and take the first step towards a successful settlement agreement.


Our team is standing by and ready to assist you. Consultations are completely free and confidential. We will help you determine if you have a case.

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The average car accident settlement in California varies widely and depends on factors such as the severity of injuries, property damage, and liability considerations. Settlements can range from a few thousand dollars to substantial amounts, often influenced by the unique circumstances of each case and the accident injuries. 

The timeline for receiving a car accident settlement payment can vary. Once a settlement is reached, it typically takes a few weeks to a few months to receive payment. Delays may occur due to administrative processes, insurance company procedures, or other logistical factors.

The decision to accept a car crash settlement offer depends on various factors, including the adequacy of the offer, the extent of injuries, and potential future medical expenses. Consulting with an attorney is advisable to assess the offer's fairness and ensure it adequately covers all present and future damages.

Determining the fairness of a car accident settlement offer involves assessing various factors, including medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and potential future costs. Seeking legal advice and consulting with an experienced attorney can help ensure that the offer adequately addresses all aspects of the damages incurred, providing a comprehensive and fair resolution.

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