Why Is My Car Accident Settlement Taking So Long in Chicago?

Posted on December 29, 2023

“Why is my car accident settlement taking so long?” is a valid question many accident victims ask when medical bills, lost income, and other accident-related expenses are piling up, yet the settlement process seems to be moving at a slow pace. Factors like the length of your medical treatment and recovery, the insurance company’s tactics, and determining fault can significantly impact the timeline of your car accident settlement. Here’s a closer look at these factors, along with what you can do to expedite the process in Chicago.

Man reporting and insurance agent filling claim form near broken car outdoors. Why is my car accident settlement taking so long

The Car Accident Settlement Process in Illinois

Most car accident cases in Illinois are resolved through an insurance claim settlement with the at-fault party’s insurer before reaching trial. As an accident victim, it’s normal to worry about how long your settlement process is taking. However, understanding the answer to the question, “Why is my car accident settlement taking so long?” requires that you have an idea of the entire settlement process.

The Steps Involved in the Settlement Process

When another driver caused your accident in Illinois, you’ll file a third-party insurance claim with the driver’s policy. The insurance company will investigate the accident. If you have a legal representative, he or she will conduct independent investigations. The evidence your auto accident attorney helps you gather can determine liability and damages, and challenge erroneous conclusions from the insurance company’s investigations.

You can send a demand letter to initiate the negotiation process once you’ve established the full extent of your damages. The letter will contain information related to your crash and injuries, including how much you’re seeking. The insurance company may provide a counteroffer that’s lower than your initial demand. Your attorney and the insurance company may go back and forth before reaching a fair settlement.

Legal Considerations in Chicago

If you can’t reach a fair settlement, you have the legal right to file a personal injury lawsuit in court to seek full compensation. You’ll need to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations that applies to your case to preserve your right to pursue compensation.

The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Chicago is two years from your accident date. If you’re seeking damages from the local municipality or government, for example, if inadequate traffic signs in Illinois caused your accident, you have one year to file a lawsuit with the Court of Claims or a notice of your claim with the Court of Claims and Attorney General. After providing the notice of your claim, you’ll have up to two years from the accident date to file a lawsuit.

Illinois applies a modified comparative negligence law. Under the law, your settlement could be reduced according to your percentage of fault for the crash. For example, if you’re entitled to a settlement of $100,000 in Chicago but are found to be 30% responsible for the accident, you’ll receive a final settlement amount of $70,000. You can’t receive a settlement if you’re more than 50% liable for the accident.

Factors That Can Impact the Settlement Timeline

The time it takes a car accident victim to get a settlement check is unique to each case. An auto accident attorney can review the facts of your case and estimate when to expect your settlement check. Nevertheless, there are some common factors that can make the insurance claim settlement process take longer.

Insurance Company Delays and Tactics

Insurance companies are typically primarily concerned with protecting their bottom line and own interests. They’re looking to pay as little as they can on claims. They can use delaying tactics to wear injury victims and pressure them into settling for less.

A common delaying tactic insurance companies use is asking for additional documentation that may be excessive or irrelevant. They can also disagree with the extent of your injury to drag out the settlement process.

Disputes Over Liability

When you’re involved in a crash with clear, established fault, your car accident claim could be resolved quickly. However, in most cases, determining liability requires thorough investigations. These investigations may be time-consuming and include attorneys and the police gathering different forms of evidence, working with accident reconstructionists, and contacting and interviewing eyewitnesses.

Conducting thorough investigations to establish fault is especially important in Illinois, where the comparative negligence rule could lead to a reduction of your settlement according to your percentage of fault. Liability investigations can prolong the car accident settlement process in Chicago. When there are multiple parties involved in your accident, determining who’s at fault and to what degree can be more complicated, further lengthening investigations.

An insurance company can contest liability during the negotiation process as a way to delay or deny your claim or reduce the settlement amount it has to pay. These circumstances may require additional investigations and prolonged negotiations, further increasing the time taken to reach a settlement.

Medical Treatment and Ongoing Healthcare Needs

Medical care requirements are a common factor in delayed car accident settlements. Severe injuries need more treatment and documentation. The higher medical bills they cause entitle a victim to a larger settlement. As a result, an insurance company will likely want to negotiate with the severely injured victim even more. All these issues will extend the settlement timeline.

Severe injuries necessitate a thorough evaluation of their long-term effects on an accident victim’s life and the future expenses. Your auto accident lawyer will most likely advise you to wait until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) or somewhere close to that before considering settling your case. When your doctor says you’ve reached MMI, it means the medical treatment received has stabilized your condition to the point where it’s unlikely to improve significantly, even with additional treatment.

You, your lawyer, and the insurance adjuster will have a clearer picture of your future limitations when you reach MMI. At that point, your future medical requirements could be calculated more accurately, helping ensure your settlement fully accounts for all expenses resulting from your injuries. Depending on your injuries, you could reach MMI in days, weeks, or years, affecting the length of your settlement.

How to Expedite the Car Accident Settlement Process

The car accident settlement process can be tedious and frustratingly slow. Luckily, there are a few steps that can expedite the process.

Seek the Help of an Experienced Attorney

An experienced auto accident attorney in Chicago can help you speed the settlement process in Illinois in several ways. He or she will review your case, dispel common myths about accident cases, and explain your legal rights, options, and what you can do to fast-track your settlement. High familiarity with the laws applicable to your case and the delay tactics that insurers commonly use enables an experienced attorney to aggressively fight for you and respond to and counter the companies’ tactics to prevent needless delays.

An attorney will help you navigate the legal system and ensure you follow all the procedures properly. Your attorney will ensure all legal paperwork is filed promptly and correctly within the deadlines applicable to your case. That helps you avoid missed deadlines and other filing mistakes that can delay the settlement process.

Your car accident lawyer will help you gather evidence and expert opinions, if necessary, to build a strong case and justify your claim. These preparations put you in a stronger negotiating position and can help speed up the process.

Provide Clear and Accurate Documentation

When making a car accident claim as the injured victim, you’ll need to prove the at-fault party caused the accident that resulted in your injuries and that you suffered actual damages. The insurance company won’t just take your word for it. It will require a proof of damages.

The availability and accuracy of your documentation can affect the settlement timeline. When you’re proactive in collecting, organizing, and providing documentation, you establish your claim’s strength and credibility and make the settlement process smoother.

Documentation related to your accident that supports your claim includes:

  • Medical records
  • Police reports
  • Witness statements
  • Photographs
  • Proof of lost wages
  • Expert reports

Obtaining some of these documents can be challenging. You can consult with a car accident attorney to ensure you get all the necessary documentation.

Open Communication With Insurance Companies and Legal Parties Involved

Poor communication can lengthen the settlement process. Keep an open line of communication with your lawyer, the insurance adjuster, and any other parties involved. Always be calm, composed, and respectful, even when being assertive, as hostility and other negative reactions can hurt settlement negotiations. Keep lines of communication productive by cooperating with your lawyer and the insurance company and responding promptly to reasonable requests for documentation or information.

A car accident attorney will be crucial in helping keep communication open and productive and letting you know when requests and demands from an insurance company are unnecessary, only serving to frustrate the process.