How Long Does It Take to Settle a Car Accident Case in California?

by Staff Blogger | March 6th, 2023

Car accidents can be a traumatic and life-altering experience for those involved, and settling a car accident case can be time-consuming and complex. In California, the length of time it takes to settle a car accident case can vary greatly, depending on factors such as the case’s complexity, the willingness of the parties to settle, and the court’s schedule if you are filing a personal injury claim.

This can result in an unpredictable timeline for resolution, with some cases being resolved quickly and others taking several years.

It is crucial for those involved in a car accident to understand the claims process and what to expect in terms of the timeline. Seeking the assistance of California car accident attorneys at Berg Injury Lawyers can ensure that your car accident case is handled efficiently and effectively and that you receive the compensation you deserve in a timely manner.

The Car Accident Case Process

Filing a car accident claim in California follows a standardized process with built-in timelines. The California Department of Insurance (CDI) outlines deadlines insurance companies have to receive, investigate, settle, and payout for a claim.

The following are typical steps you take when filing a compensation claim and the accompanying timeframes:

Notify the Insurance Company

The first step in a car accident case is to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. Once you file, the insurer has 15 calendar days to issue an initial response acknowledging their receipt of the claim. They must inform you of the start date of their accident investigation and provide instructions for sending additional documentation to prove your claim.

Negotiate with the Insurer

After sending documentation of your damages to the insurer, the insurance company has 40 days to accept or deny your claim. If they need more time to process the claim, they may request an extension with a detailed letter explaining why.

If the insurer is allowed an extension, they must provide you with a status update in writing every 30 days until they resolve your claim. By law, insurers cannot offer unreasonable low settlements or deny your claim without providing written reasoning for the decision.

Receive Your Settlement Check

If you and the insurance company agree on a settlement amount, they must pay your claim within 30 days[HP1] .

In total, insurance companies typically can take no more than 85 days from the receipt of your claim to deny or settle a claim (15 days to acknowledge receiving the claim, 40 days to accept or deny the claim, and 30 days to pay). In most cases, you can expect your settlement check about 6 weeks after you settle.

What Affects the Timeline of the Case?

Many factors influence how long it takes to settle a personal injury case, including the willingness of the insurance company to settle, the complexity of the case, and ongoing litigation.

Complexity of the Case

Complex car crash cases can take longer to settle than straightforward claims. For instance, crashes involving more than one party or commercial or government vehicles take longer to investigate because of the number of parties who may be accountable.  

It may take longer to settle if your case involves catastrophic injuries such as disfigurement or a spinal cord injury. The potential settlement for this type of case is much higher, which means the insurance company requires evidence such as medical records, diagnostic test results, and estimates of future medical needs to agree on a payout.

Insurance Company’s Willingness to Settle

When an insurance company refuses to settle for a fair amount, the next step is to send a demand letter stating your intent to file a lawsuit.

The newly passed SB 1155 outlines several changes to how demand letters are used in car accident claims. It requires claimants to allow between 30 and 33 days for the insurer to respond to a demand letter and provide detailed reasoning for taking the case to court.

Involvement in Any Lawsuits

If you move ahead with a lawsuit, you will extend the timeline for your settlement. The court process has several phases, and you must abide by its schedule and timelines for personal injury cases.

For example, if your case requires expert witnesses, you must disclose them in accordance with the rules for the county in which your lawsuit was filed. The same holds true for discovery; You must also complete the discovery phase of gathering evidence and answering interrogatories in accordance with the rules for the county in which your lawsuit was filed.

A lawsuit can result in higher compensation; however, it typically takes several months to years to receive a settlement.

Start Your Claim with an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer

Ultimately, the timeline for settling a car accident case in California can be difficult to predict, but with proper guidance and support, it is possible to reach a resolution.

Our attorneys have been helping clients get compensation for car accidents for over 40 years and will use our experience to win you a fair settlement as quickly as possible.

Contact us for a confidential, free consultation with a member of our legal team who will discuss the circumstances of your car accident and its impact on your life, family, and finances.