If you were recently injured in a Tennessee car accident that was caused, entirely or partially, by another party you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Navigating the claims process and/or legal system, however, in order to obtain that compensation can be challenging for a victim. Understandably, most victims know very little about the steps required to recover damages in a car accident case. As a result, a victim may be left feeling confused and frustrated as the weeks, then months, go by without seeing any compensation. If you are the victim, you may find yourself wondering “Why does it take so long to settle a car accident lawsuit?” Because no two car accidents are exactly alike, it is best to consult with an experienced Tennessee car accident attorney if you have specific questions about your case or to get an idea how long your case will take to settle. In the meantime though, learning a bit more about the steps involved in a car accident lawsuit may help you understand why it often takes a significant period of time before a lawsuit can be settled. With that in mind, the following steps are common to most, though not all, Tennessee car accident lawsuits:
- The scene of the accident. At the scene of a collision a victim should try to obtain names and contact information, as well as insurance information, for all parties involved when possible. Names and contact information should also be gathered for any witnesses. Finally, a victim should try to document the scene by taking pictures of the crash if injuries allow or come back at a later time if they do not.
- Submitting to a medical examination. The victim of a car accident should always have a thorough medical examination done as soon after the crash as possible even if the victim does not appear to be injured. The reasons for an examination are twofold. First, many serious injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI), do not always show obvious symptoms right after the collision. In fact, it can be days before the symptoms appear; however, by that time the victim can be in serious danger of permanent, even fatal, injury to the brain. The second reason why it is important for a victim to have a thorough examination done right after the accident is to show a relationship between any injuries ultimately suffered by the victim and the cause of those injuries – the collision in this case.
- Retaining an experienced car accident attorney. There are a number of reasons why a victim should not try to handle a car crash lawsuit without the assistance of an experienced Tennessee car accident attorney by his/her side. The most important of those is usually the fact that the victim could significantly devalue his/her case, thereby losing out on compensation to which the victim is entitled.
- Follow-up treatment. Treating injuries suffered in the collision is usually what causes the delay in settling a car accident case. As a general rule, the more serious the injuries suffered by the victim, the longer it will take to treat those injuries. The claim/lawsuit cannot be brought to a conclusion until the victim reaches “MMI.”
- Reaching MMI. “Maximum Medical Improvement,” or MMI, is the point at which a victim’s physician has determined that further treatment will not significantly improve the victim’s injuries and/or prognosis. MMI does not mean a victim’s injuries have completely healed, only that continued treatment will not change much at this point. Because the value of a car accident lawsuit depends, to a great extent, on the severity of injuries suffered by the victim, the out of pocket expenses incurred by the victim, and the future prognosis, settlement negotiations should not begin until a victim has reached MMI.
- Preparing a demand. Once the victim has reached MMI, the attorney will put together a demand package that provides the defendant with a figure for which the victim is willing to settle the case.
- Negotiating a settlement. The victim’s attorney and the insurance adjuster or council for the defendant’s insurance company will then negotiate back and forth until the parties reach an amicable settlement amount.
- A note about negligence. The preceding steps are assume that the defendant has accepted responsibility, or “admitted negligence,” in the collision. If the other party has not accepted responsibility an additional step must be added in to debate the issue of negligence. Ultimately, if the defendant will not agree to accept responsibility the case will have to proceed to trial which can add months, even years, to the time table for conclusion.
It can take months, even years, for a victim to reach MMI if the victim suffered moderate to severe injuries. It can also take months for the parties to reach an amicable settlement amount. Therefore, it can take a considerable amount of time to settle a car accident lawsuit; however, rushing a settlement typically means the victim will receive considerably less than he/she deserves.
If you are the victim of a Tennessee car accident, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee car accident attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.