The amount of time it takes to settle your car accident claim typically depends on the severity of the damages and injuries. For instance, if your accident resulted in just a few minor injuries, it could be settled in a couple of months. However, it might take a while to settle in the event of permanent physical or mental impairment, severe injuries, or loss of earning capacity. In addition, you might end up in civil court if your claim is disputed.
Keep reading to learn more about the factors that can affect the length of your car accident case in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Insurance Laws
Unlike most other states, Pennsylvania is a no-fault state. If a driver is involved in an accident, they can seek compensation from their own insurer, regardless of who is at fault. Every driver must have the following insurance coverage, according to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department:
- $5,000 of medical benefits coverage to cover you or your passengers' medical bills, regardless of fault
- A bodily injury liability coverage of $15,000 for one person and $30,000 per accident that pays for the other party's medical bills if you are at-fault
- Liability coverage for $5,000 for any damage you cause to property in the event of an accident
Your insurance coverage can influence the amount of time it takes to settle your car accident claim, including increased coverage for medical benefits and protection against uninsured drivers. In most cases, your claim can be resolved quickly if your medical bills and property damages do not exceed your coverage or the at-fault driver's.
However, you could be stuck waiting for your case to be resolved if your accident was unclear, you suffered severe injuries, or you were facing expensive medical bills.
When Can You Seek Compensation From the Responsible Party?
Unlike most states, Pennsylvania has a no-fault policy that restricts when you may sue another driver. However, it is one of only a few states that offers drivers a choice between a full tort or limited tort policy in a no-fault state. There are higher premiums associated with full tort coverage, but drivers can sue liable parties without as many restrictions.
The driver is entitled to recover out-of-pocket medical bills and expenses under limited tort policies, but he is limited in how much he can seek for pain and suffering. If your injuries are classified as "serious injury" according to your insurance policy, however, you may be able to sue for these damages.
Seeking a Settlement
It may be possible for you to receive compensation if you have been injured in a car accident as a result of someone else's actions. In an insurance claim, you could receive compensation for:
- Property damages – This can include vehicle damage, laptop damage, jewelry damage, etc.
- Past and future medical expenses – Surgeries, medications, therapies, mobility aids, extended nursing care, and more are included in this category.
- Pain and suffering – You may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering if you suffer a permanent or debilitating injury.
- Lost wages – This may cover back pay, awards for reduced earning capacity, and living expenses.
- Wrongful death – You may be able to obtain an insurance settlement for the death of a loved one after they were injured in a car accident. This can help cover funeral costs, burial expenses, and more.
If your claim is denied or your insurer offers you a poor settlement, you may be able to file a lawsuit in civil court. However, your ability to obtain damages for pain and suffering depends on whether or not you carry a full or limited tort policy.
Understanding Car Accident Lawsuits in Pennsylvania
It is important to understand how Pennsylvania lawsuits are handled before fully understanding how long an average car accident case takes. In general, the litigation process follows the following path, although it may vary slightly from case to case:
Filing the Claim
Plaintiffs initiate a lawsuit by filing a formal complaint with the court. Depending on the complexity of the case, the preparation of the complaint may take a couple of days to weeks.
Service of Process
A copy of the complaint must be served on the defendant after it has been filed with the court. It usually takes a couple of weeks to complete this process. In some cases, however, it may take several months for the defendant to be served if they try to avoid being served.
Defendants who receive lawsuits must file a response with the court within a specific timeframe. Usually, this response is provided within a month of service.
The discovery phase of a lawsuit begins as soon as the defendant responds to the plaintiff's complaint. This phase involves both parties requesting and exchanging evidence such as documents, photographs, and videotapes. The discovery phase of a Pennsylvania lawsuit generally takes the longest. It is not uncommon for the exchange of evidence to take up to twelve months.
Settle or Trial
Your case may go to court if a settlement is not agreed to before or during discovery. A trial is usually scheduled a few weeks after the discovery phase has concluded. Typically, court proceedings last only a few days.
An appeal may be filed if one party disagrees with the trial's outcome. Legal proceedings could be delayed for several years by such an appeal.
Factors Affecting the Settlement Process
As Pennsylvania car accident injury lawyers, one of the most common questions we hear is: "How long will my car accident case take to settle?" Several factors influence the time it takes for your case to be resolved, but each case is unique, and it all depends on the facts of your case. The following factors may play a role in how long your Pennsylvania car accident case takes to settle:
How Did the Accident Happen?
It is important to note that the facts of the accident and the level of clarity (or unclearness) regarding fault play a key role in how long it takes to resolve a car accident case in Pennsylvania. To have a viable claim, the car accident must be caused by someone else, not you.
For example, if someone rear-ends you, the fault is usually clear. However, it's a different story if the accident happened at an intersection and you're fighting over who ran the red light.
You're more likely to settle your case sooner if the accident was clearly someone else's fault.
How Long Will You Need Medical Treatment?
We cannot value and settle your case until we know the full extent of your injuries and damages. It won't be possible for insurance companies to pay some now and some later. To value your claim correctly, we must wait until your medical treatment is over or your condition stabilizes, whichever comes first.
Due to this, your case will take longer to settle if you suffer severe injuries and spend a long time in treatment.
What is the Amount of Insurance Coverage?
Case settlement times can also be affected by the amount of insurance coverage available. There's a good chance you'll settle your Car Accident claim much faster if the defendant has minimal coverage and your injuries are obvious and serious.
In these situations, you may be able to pursue a second claim against your own insurer if you have Underinsurance Coverage on your own policy.
In contrast, if you have severe injuries and your insurance coverage is adequate, your case may take longer to settle.
Can you reach a settlement agreement with the insurance company, or does your claim need to be litigated?
Lastly, whether a settlement can be reached without litigation can impact the time it takes to resolve a Pennsylvania Car Accident Claim.
There are instances in which the insurance adjuster will offer a fair settlement based on an evaluation of the claim. Other times, the adjuster makes a lowball offer without being willing to negotiate. Generally, this varies from one insurance company to another or one adjuster to another.
In some cases, we can be lucky and negotiate a fair resolution, while in others, we must litigate, which can significantly lengthen the process.
We usually attempt to resolve cases pre-suit at KaplunMarx Accident & Injury Lawyers. Still, we always recommend my clients reject lowball offers and litigate if the insurance adjuster is unfair. Our skilled team is not afraid to take on the insurance company in court to get you the compensation you need.
Learn More By Contacting a Philadelphia Attorney for a Free Case Review
There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to car accidents. Get a personalized review of your case by a Philadelphia car accident lawyer rather than comparing it to the averages. You can find out how long it may take to get a settlement check by speaking with a Pennsylvania car accident lawyer. Having a lawyer could also prevent you from accepting a settlement that is less than what you deserve.
Many insurance companies offer low initial settlement amounts in the hope that the claimant will settle the case quickly without submitting a counteroffer. Before accepting a settlement, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. In addition to getting you the most money for your injury, our PA personal injury lawyers also want you to receive payment as soon as possible. Please allow us to assist you in resolving your car accident case as efficiently and successfully as possible.
Call KaplunMarx Accident & Injury Lawyers at 215-939-4895 today.