Your car accident could leave you in a difficult financial or medical situation. You might need medical treatment, physical therapy, and medication. But you might also need to wait for the at-fault driver’s insurer to review and settle your claim.
Fortunately, Georgia’s insurance regulations set out some aggressive time frames for claim settlements. While insurance companies have many strategies to circumvent these time limits, understanding their limitations can give you a rough idea of how long a car accident might take to settle.
Here is some information about how long your car accident will take to settle in Augusta, GA.
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The Claim Settlement Process
Georgia uses a fault-based auto insurance system. This means that the insurer for the driver who caused the crash must pay claims for accident victims up to the policy limits.
In Georgia, car owners must purchase bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage that pays up to $25,000 per person or $50,000 per accident to injured accident victims.
To claim your share of the insurance benefits, you must file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s carrier. You can also file a claim with your auto insurer. Keep in mind that your insurer will forward the claim to the at-fault driver’s insurer.
The insurer will investigate your claim and accept or deny the claim. If the insurer accepts the claim, it will offer compensation to settle the claim. You and your lawyer will negotiate with the insurer to get a fair settlement.
If the insurer rejects the claim, you and your lawyer can try to overcome the denial. You can also file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. The insurance company will defend the at-fault driver in court.
Your case could still settle after you file a lawsuit. In some cases, you’ll need to file a lawsuit to push the insurer to make a fair settlement offer.
Timeframes for Settling an Insurance Claim
Under Georgia insurance regulations, insurers must take certain actions after you file your claim.
Within 15 days after receiving notice of your claim, the insurance company must communicate with you to acknowledge your claim and provide proof of claim forms. You will use these forms to describe the basis for your claim and the amount of your loss.
In a typical case, you and your lawyer will fill out the claim forms and return them to the insurer with evidence to support your story. You can include copies of medical records, medical bills, and wage statements. These documents will help the insurer evaluate your economic damages from the accident.
After receiving your completed proof of claim forms, the insurer has 15 days to accept or deny the claim. The word “completed” is key.
The insurer’s time limit does not start until it has all of the necessary documents to process your claim. The insurer can delay the time limit by asking you for more information.
If the insurer accepts the claim, it has ten days to issue a payment. If you reject the insurer’s settlement offer, the ten-day time limit gets extended. The ten-day time limit only runs when you and the insurer agree on a settlement amount.
Optimistic Time Frame for Settling with an Insurer
Adding all of these periods together, you could have an insurance settlement check in as few as 40 days after starting the claim. This assumes that you have all of the records you need to support your claim and send them to the insurer within a day of receiving the proof of claim forms. It also assumes that the insurer did not ask for additional documentation.
A Realistic Timeframe for Settling with an Insurer
Insurers do not make money by settling claims quickly. Dragging out the claim settlement process allows the insurer to investigate the claim before paying it. It also creates pressure on you to accept the first — and lowest — settlement offer.
A more realistic timeframe for settling a car accident claim would fall between two and three months. This builds in the time for you to collect all of the documents you need to support your claim and negotiate a fair settlement with the insurer.
The Litigation Process
If you cannot settle your case with the insurer, you may need to file a lawsuit. Insurers do not like to pay lawyers to lose cases. If the only dispute between you and the insurer is over the value of your claim, filing a lawsuit can jumpstart negotiations.
Insurers also know that jurors sympathize with accident victims over insurance companies. If you litigate your case, the insurance company could get hit with a damage award that’s far more than the settlement it would pay.
The Average Time Frame for Settling a Lawsuit
Lawsuits can get settled at any time before the jury returns a verdict. However, lawsuits usually settle at a few key stages.
Immediately after you file the lawsuit, the insurance company must decide whether to pay a lawyer to respond to the claim. Lawyers cost money and insurers do not like to add to the cost of a case that they ultimately plan to settle.
During the discovery process, your lawyer will exchange documents with the insurance company’s lawyers. You and the at-fault driver may need to give depositions. These depositions will give a preview of your trial testimony.
As the insurer reviews this evidence, it may decide to settle the case instead of letting a jury decide the outcome.
At the end of the trial, the insurance company will have a full view of the case that will be considered by the jury. Settling the case before the jury returns a verdict could allow the insurer to escape a big damage award.
Litigation takes time. An injury case could take 18 to 24 months to reach trial. But the case could settle at any time during the litigation.
Speeding Up the Settlement Timeframes
In many situations, having an experienced injury lawyer can accelerate settlement. An injury lawyer knows how to document a claim to minimize the risk of denial.
Insurance companies usually avoid playing games with lawyers. While they might try to manipulate you into taking a low offer, they know a lawyer understands the true value of your case.To discuss the settlement value and timeframe for your car accident case in Augusta, contact Hawk Law Group for a free consultation.