How Long Will it Take to Settle My Case?
In Georgia car accident cases, the nature and duration of the medical care determines how long it takes to resolve your case. On this page you will find information on what to expect during the settlement demand phase of the case and in the litigation phase of a case. Understand that these timelines assume that you have a fairly common car accident case in Georgia involving straightforward injuries and each case is different.
Although over 85% of cases settle rather than go to trial, Georgia insurance companies are litigating more and more often so you do need to understand that sometimes our firm will suggest that you allow us to file suit to get fair compensation for your injury. Below is a timeline that outlines the process and what you can expect at each step of the way:
Stage 1: Medical Care
During stage one, you will meet with the attorney in person and lay out a general game plan for how things will go. Understand that actual timelines are determined by your medical care. Mr. Simon cannot prepare a demand to the insurance company until your medical care is finished and all of the bills and records are in. During stage one, Mr. Simon will:
- Contact the other insurer and discovery the insurance policy limits;
- Obtain the accident report;
- Interview witnesses if necessary;
- Preserve any critical evidence like police dash cameras, 911 calls, physical evidence, photographs;
- Coordinate how your medical care is being paid for through health insurance and med pay;
- Research necessary case law for your demand;
Stage 2: Preparing the Demand
Once your medical care is over, Mr. Simon will request the records from the doctor. It usually takes 45-60 days to get records back from a doctor after the request is made and you should expect it will take around one week for the lawyer to complete your demand package. In a plain vanilla car accident case, once the records are in, Mr. Simon will:
- Decide if a medical narrative is necessary;
- Prepare the demand package;
- Meet with you to go over value ranges and goals;
- Send the demand package.
30-60 days later, Mr. Simon will hear back from the insurance adjuster and the offer and counter-offer process will begin. It is his practice to keep you notified of progress in the negotiations. If the insurance company makes a reasonable offer, then a confirmation letter is sent. It will take around a month from the date of the settlement until the day you actually get a check in your pocket.
Who decides if it settles? You do. The Firm is there to advise you and guide you, but it is your case. It is true that over 85% of cases settle but each case is different.
Stage 3: Litigation
If Mr. Simon advises you to file suit and you agree, then it will take him around 30 days to prepare the lawsuit. For simple car accident cases, it will be filed in the home County where the Defendant lives, by law. In Georgia, the lawsuit does not truly begin until the Firm has the other driver personally served. Service means that the sheriff or an appointed server actually hands a copy of the lawsuit to the defendant driver or an adult they live with. Remember that in Georgia, you sue the other driver personally and the insurance company’s name does not appear anywhere unless there is an uninsured motorist case.
The defendant driver will generally give the lawsuit to his insurance company and that company will either hire a lawyer to defend the driver or have their employee lawyers at a captive law firm represent the driver. In Atlanta, you will find that State Farm, Allstate, Liberty Mutual, Geico, Nationwide, Zurich, Travelers and several other insurance companies actually own entire law firms that do nothing but litigate cases for them. That is one reason why insurance companies do not mind litigation costs. They are internalized and controlled costs.
Once the lawsuit is served, the Defendant has 30 days within which to answer. If they fail to and don’t fix it within another 15 days, they are in default and admit most everything in the lawsuit, which makes your case easier. Normally, an Answer is filed and the defendant will send a ton of written questions to your lawyer for you to answer.
Stage 4: Discovery
Discovery lasts six months in the Georgia state courts. During this time the parties discover information about each others case by sending written questions called Interrogatories, by sending requests for the production of documents and by requesting that you admit certain things.
After the written discovery is answered, you can expect the insurance company to take a sworn statement from you with a court reporter present. This statement is called a deposition. It can last for 3-4 hours, depending on the situation, and your life is an open book throughout this process. Meanwhile, the Firm will depose the defendant and any other necessary witnesses and prepare medical evidence and exhibits. In practice, discovery in Georgia can drag on for 8-10 months.
Stage 5: Trial Preparation
If the parties are not too far apart, they may choose to mediate their case. They meet with a neutral mediator and make a brief opening presentation to each other. The licensed Georgia mediator then takes the parties into separate rooms and explores issues with each to see if there is common ground on settlement numbers.
Mediation is not mandatory unless ordered by the Court and if it fails, then it is on to trial. In Georgia the time to get to a jury trial can vary from around 10 months to 2 years, depending on the County and the Judge. It is rare for a case to go on longer unless the lawyer is lazy.
Trials on basic car accident cases in Georgia last around two days and you must be present for the trial.
Although most cases settle, a good number get litigated and tried. Just because a case can settle, does not mean that it should. A case should settle when fair value is offered and if not, the case should go into litigation.
Copyright © 2014 by Christopher M. Simon, All Rights Reserved