As a pedestrian who sustained injuries in a traffic accident, you might wonder how long it will take to see compensation in your case. Injured victims like you often struggle with the financial impact of medical bills, time off from work, and other unplanned expenses. The sooner you can obtain money, the better.
Typically, the fastest way to secure compensation for your pedestrian accident damages is through a settlement. That’s an agreement to resolve your accident claim between you, the party who owes you money, and (usually) that party’s insurer. In an ordinary settlement, you receive money, and in exchange, you release those parties from future liability for your injuries and losses.
How long does it take to settle a pedestrian accident claim? The short answer is that it varies. Some cases take weeks to settle, others months, others years, and some don’t settle at all. Here’s an in-depth look at the timeline for settling a pedestrian accident case.
The Strength of Your Case and Skill of Your Lawyer
More often than not, pedestrian accident claims supported by compelling evidence and convincing arguments tend to settle quicker than those resting on shaky factual or legal foundations. That is why, as discussed above, your attorney might want to delay pursuing a settlement of your claim until after completing a thorough investigation and analysis.
The power of your claim typically depends on two variables: the evidence and your lawyer’s skill in exploiting it. Evidence consists of all information—from documents to witness statements to expert analyses—that a lawyer might use to prove why the pedestrian accident happened, who was to blame for it, and how much you should receive in damages. The most reliable way to secure a complete body of evidence for your claim is to contact an experienced pedestrian accident attorney immediately after getting hurt.
Evidence alone does not make your case. Presenting a winning claim takes the skill of a lawyer who is well versed in pedestrian accident law to interpret and present that evidence in the most persuasive manner possible. Look for an attorney with plenty of experience and a demonstrated track record of achieving favorable case results for pedestrian accident victims.
Whether the At-Fault Party’s Insurance Company Accepts Liability
In most pedestrian accident cases, the driver of the vehicle that struck the pedestrian, or some other at-fault party, carries insurance that may cover the victim’s injuries. For that reason, insurance companies usually pay the bulk of claim settlements in pedestrian accident cases, no matter how the victim’s lawyer presents the claim.
But insurers do not simply pay those damages automatically. Their businesses and profits depend on paying only the claims and amounts covered by their policies. That gives insurance companies a strong incentive to dispute liability whenever possible.
Insurance companies independently determine fault for a pedestrian accident and whether they agree to cover it. They employ in-house investigators and analyze their liability according to the insurance contract’s strict terms. Their findings do not always agree with law enforcement’s or the victim’s conclusions about what happened or who should bear responsibility.
Thus, the timing of a settlement will often depend, in part, on whether the insurance company decides that its policyholder caused an accident and that its insurance policy covers the harm the accident caused. If the insurer accepts liability, a settlement may proceed relatively quickly. But if the insurer disputes the existence or amount of liability, it can add time to the settlement process.
The Amount of Damages and the Funds Available to Pay Them
Liable parties who stand to lose lots of money tend to fight harder than those who don’t. And the more those parties fight, the longer the settlement timeline.
Two factors generally determine the amount at stake for a party who owes damages to the pedestrian accident victim: the size of the damages claim and the funds available to pay it.
You can predict a relatively short settlement timeline if:
- No one seriously disputes liability, and the amount of your claim significantly exceeds the amount of insurance available to cover it; or
- The amount of your claim is materially less than the cost of a court fight over paying it.
Conversely, you can predict a relatively longer settlement timeline if you have a large claim (one that well exceeds the cost of fighting it) and the at-fault party has ample funds to pay it through insurance coverage or assets. In that scenario, the at-fault party and its insurer have a financial incentive to try and reduce their liability to you by contesting your claim.
The Parties’ Settlement Negotiation Styles
Virtually all pedestrian accident settlements happen through negotiation between your lawyer, the at-fault party’s lawyer, and insurance representatives. Some negotiations are informal, consisting of phone conversations or exchanges of emails or letters between the two camps. Other negotiations have a more formal bent, such as when the parties participate in an in-person settlement conference facilitated by a court-appointed mediator.
Each party’s approach to those negotiations can affect the timeline for settling. Some parties prefer to engage in an extended give-and-take, trading offers and counteroffers that start far apart and only slowly find common ground. Others prefer a more direct route, proposing settlements that vary only slightly from the amounts and terms they want to achieve when negotiations end.
The timeline can also vary depending on the setting and method of negotiation. Trading calls and emails may take longer, for example, than holding a one-day settlement conference. But not always. Sometimes the parties will only agree to a settlement conference after failing to reach a consensus without the help of a mediator.
Always tell your attorney about your priorities for settling your pedestrian accident case. A skilled lawyer can often tailor a negotiating style to fit your preferences of when and how a case settles.
Whether Your Pedestrian Accident Claim Goes to Court
Taking a pedestrian accident claim to court will usually (but not always) lengthen the settlement timeline. That’s because once a lawsuit begins, the parties cede some control to a judge and courthouse personnel. Cases that land in court often follow a timeline set by a body of rules called the Rules of Civil Procedure, which can be slower than the pace the lawyers, insurers, and parties might set for the case if left to their own devices.
But that doesn’t mean that lawyers only bring pedestrian accident cases to court after failing to settle them informally. Filing a lawsuit can be a powerful motivator for at-fault parties, insurers, and defense lawyers to come to the table and start talking about how to resolve the case.
Sometimes a pedestrian accident victim’s lawyer will advise filing a lawsuit immediately to put pressure on the other side to take the claim seriously.
In addition, although the Rules of Civil Procedure can slow the pace of settlement negotiations, they can also force the parties to consider settlement. In some states, the Rules require parties to participate in mandatory settlement conferences overseen by a mediator.
At a minimum, the rules in every state always contain built-in milestones in the course of a case at which lawyers and their clients must take stock, evaluate their positions, and consider settling rather than continuing to fight.
The endgame of filing a lawsuit is a trial in which a judge or jury decides how the case ends. Taking a pedestrian accident claim to trial represents the ultimate relinquishment of control over its outcome—a prospect that many defense lawyers and insurance companies fear. That is why pedestrian accident lawsuits often settle on the eve of trial or even during the trial itself.
How can you facilitate settlement in your pedestrian accident case?
Many aspects of the timeline for settling your pedestrian accident claim are out of your hands. You rarely, if ever, control the availability of evidence or how other parties act. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to increase the likelihood of a speedy resolution of your case. Here are some suggestions for facilitating a favorable settlement of your pedestrian accident claim.
Hire a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Immediately
You control entirely one crucial aspect of the timeline for settling your pedestrian accident claim. The sooner you hire an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer who can advocate for your interests and begin building your case, the sooner a settlement can happen.
Waiting to hire a lawyer can only hurt your claim. For one thing, if you wait too long to hire a lawyer, you could inadvertently miss a deadline for taking legal action, losing your right to pursue your claim altogether. For another, a delay in hiring a lawyer can lead to evidence going missing and witnesses forgetting critical facts.
Once hired, a skilled pedestrian accident lawyer can quickly begin the process of collecting evidence and enforcing your rights. The lawyer can put at-fault parties and their representatives on notice of your claim. And the lawyer can advise you on how to make intelligent decisions that protect your interests and put you in a position to secure maximum compensation.
Never Try to Negotiate a Settlement By Yourself
At-fault parties and their insurance companies sometimes try to start settlement negotiations immediately after a pedestrian accident. They often do this by directly contacting the victim and offering a quick, cash settlement of the victim’s claim.
Injured pedestrian crash victims often want to take this money or negotiate with the insurer. It’s hard to resist grabbing at what can seem like a large sum at a time when you face mounting medical expenses and financial strain.
But as seasoned lawyers for pedestrian accident victims like you, we urge you to resist the temptation. An insurer or at-fault party will only make you an unsolicited settlement offer if they believe they have significant financial liability for your injuries and losses. It’s a sign that you are in the driver’s seat.
But the amount they put on the table will inevitably fall far short of what you deserve to receive and of what a lawyer could secure on your behalf through skilled negotiation. It’s like bait dangled to a hungry fish. They hope you will jump at it and give up your valuable rights before realizing you settled for a fraction of what a lawyer could have gotten for you.
Leaving negotiation with an at-fault party and its insurer to an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer might lengthen the settlement timeline in your case. But take it from a team that knows its way around pedestrian accident cases: trying to negotiate a settlement yourself is a costly mistake, and a lawyer can almost always do far better for you in the long run.
Contact a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Today
It’s natural to want to settle your claim for as much as possible, as soon as possible, after a pedestrian accident. The most reliable way to achieve that goal is to hire an experienced attorney to represent you.
Contact a skilled pedestrian accident lawyer today for a free consultation to get started.