If you’ve been in a car accident and are waiting for an insurance settlement, you’re probably frustrated by how long the process is taking. Most people expect their car accident claim to resolve quickly, but the reality is that settlements can drag on for months or even years.
It’s normal to feel impatient about receiving compensation so you can move on. But there are several legitimate reasons why insurance companies take so long to pay out on claims. Being aware of these common hold-ups can help you better withstand the slow slog.
Insurance Company Delays
One of the top reasons car accident settlements take time is delays caused by the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Insurance providers don’t make money by quickly paying out large claim settlements. So they have a financial incentive to prolong the process and minimize how much they have to pay.
Common negotiation tactics used by insurance adjusters include:
Insurance companies almost never make a fair offer upfront. More likely, their first offer will be unreasonably low compared to the value of your damages and injuries.
By making a low initial offer, the adjuster is hoping you will either accept it or counter with a smaller number than you originally wanted. This starts the negotiations unreasonably low before you even begin debating over a fair settlement amount.
Requests for Additional Documentation
Insurers will also stall the process by claiming they need more documentation to verify injuries, losses and expenses. While some additional paperwork is normal, they may drag their feet reviewing records or keep asking for redundant information.
This constant back and forth over paperwork bogs down the claims process. But insurance companies know this technique may eventually wear down an impatient claimant.
Conducting Lengthy Investigations
Insurance adjusters will spend weeks or months thoroughly investigating the accident circumstances and severity of damages. This is not only to verify losses but to uncover any evidence that might allow them to deny or minimize the claim.
While it’s reasonable for insurers to investigate legitimate uncertainties, they often prolong the process unnecessarily just to delay settlements.
By using these common tactics, insurance companies can stall the process for months before they even make a serious offer. Unfortunately, this is simply part of their business model. But being aware of these techniques can help you avoid getting taken advantage of.
The nature of your injuries and required medical treatment will also impact how quickly your car accident claim settles. More serious, complex injuries understandably take longer to resolve fairly for several reasons:
Assessing Full Medical Costs
Severe injuries often require months or years of ongoing medical treatment. Your doctors may not be able to predict upfront what full course of treatment will be needed or how much it will all cost.
Your settlement needs to cover both current and future medical expenses related to the accident. But it’s difficult for insurance companies to make a fair offer until your treatment is mostly complete. This unfortunately slows down the process.
Unpredictable Recovery Time
Some accident injuries like broken bones or cuts have a predictable recovery time. But other trauma like head injuries or soft tissue damage can have uncertain, long-lasting symptoms.
It is hard to quantify future pain and suffering when even physicians cannot put a timeline on when or if you will fully recover. This makes it difficult for insurers to assess adequate settlement amounts.
The more serious your injuries, the more complex it gets for insurance companies to calculate fair compensation. And this uncertainty means the claims process drags on longer.
Multiple Parties Involved
Most straightforward car accident claims only involve your insurance company and the at-fault driver’s insurer. But accidents can also be more complicated with multiple vehicles and insurance providers involved.
Adding more parties to the equation tends to complicate and delay the settlement process for a few reasons:
Multi-vehicle crashes make it more challenging to investigate and agree on who was at fault or proportionate liability. Each insurer wants to protect their own policyholder from full blame.
Without clear fault established, the insurance companies cannot decide how to apportion damages or which policy will pay out your claim. These liability disputes add months or years to the process.
Negotiations Between Insurers
Even after liability is determined, the involved insurers then often negotiate payment amounts and responsibility between themselves. Each company wants to minimize their payout.
It takes a lot of back-and-forth between the insurers before they come to agreement on who will pay what portion of the total settlement. You unfortunately get stuck waiting in limbo during these drawn out negotiations.
Backlogged Court System
Another settlement delay arises if your claim cannot be resolved through insurance negotiations alone. The case gets handed over to the sluggish court system.
Lawsuits are meant to help accident victims receive fair compensation when an insurer refuses to settle reasonably. But opting for a courtroom decision also guarantees an even slower process due to overburdened courts.
Judges and attorneys alike are saddled with crushing caseloads. It can take months or years just to get a court date, then even longer for a final judgment. Navigating this congested legal system will keep you from a swift settlement.
Tips to Expedite Your Settlement
It’s frustrating to have your life on hold waiting for compensation that seems like it will never arrive. However, there are a few things you can do to help speed up an excessively delayed settlement:
Be Organized with Documentation
One of the main ways insurance companies stall settlements is by claiming they need additional documentation. Don’t let your disorganization hold things up.
Keep thorough, orderly records related to:
- Medical reports and bills
- Collision repair estimates
- Lost income documentation
- Ongoing expenses from the accident
Having this evidence organized and easily accessible can help prevent delays related to requests for more paperwork.
Hire an Experienced Attorney
Most insurers will try to take advantage of unrepresented claimants who don’t know their full legal rights and options. An adept personal injury attorney has the negotiation skills and tenacity needed to expedite stalled claims.
They know how to effectively deal with common insurance company delay tactics, force action on unreasonable delays, and maximize your settlement amount. This expertise can help speed resolutions that may have dragged on indefinitely without representation.
Negotiate in Good Faith
Making unrealistic demands or refusing reasonable offers prevents forward progress on settlements. Have honest discussions with your attorney about fair compensation amounts based on your documented losses.
Being open to credible counteroffers keeps negotiations moving. Offer flexibility showing you aim to reach an equitable settlement, not milk the process. Your good faith can influence insurers to resolve the matter reasonably.
Consider Settlement Over Lawsuit
Lawsuits should be a last resort if insurance negotiation fails, because they will add months or years to the process. Weigh if it’s better to compromise and settle for less (with quicker payment) rather than pursue maximum compensation through lengthy litigation.
There are pros and cons to both options. Discuss with your lawyer whether settling or suing will get you fair compensation faster in your specific case. Just know that lawsuits will inevitably increase delays.
It’s unfortunately quite common for car accident claims to take months or even years to resolve through insurance settlements or lawsuits. But being aware of the main hold-ups can help you manage expectations and avoid unnecessary frustrations.
Keep pushing for the best settlement your claim deserves. But also be prepared for a lengthy process, especially if injuries are severe or multiple insurers are involved. Consider hiring an attorney to expedite stalled negotiations.
Remaining patient and organized will help you withstand the long road to settlement and continue focusing on your recovery in the meantime. The insurance process may be slow, but don’t let it stop you from moving forward.