How Long Does it Take to Get Compensation After a Car Accident in Georgia?

Key Points:

  • The length of medical care, how much insurance is available, and who was at-fault in the auto accident can all impact how long settlement and compensation will take.
  • Most insurance adjusters will not make a fair settlement offer until they are convinced you can beat them in court.
  • In most cases that do not require court approval or a payment structure, reimbursement usually occurs within 30 days or less after a formal settlement agreement or verdict.

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Questions Answered:

Not only are car accidents traumatic, but they also create a financial burden for victims. So, it’s natural to wonder how long it will take for you to receive money, known as compensation, from the insurance company or responsible parties.

contingency fee basisMany things can impact how long it takes to get compensated after a car accident. Most personal injury cases, but not all, settle without a lawsuit or legal action being filed. Cases that settle without a lawsuit usually settle more quickly. Cases that require a lawsuit may still settle before reaching trial, but they generally take longer for many reasons.

Knowing how long it takes to receive compensation may ease the burden during this hectic and inconvenient time. This article will guide you through common circumstances that may impact the time it takes to settle and receive payment after being injured in a car accident.

Other questions, like how to handle costs for automobile repairs, rental cars, medical bills, lost pay and other financial hardships associated with car accidents, are covered in other articles on this website.

What factors tend to increase the amount of time a car accident case takes to settle?

The duration of medical care and the last date of treatment. Waiting until you have finished your medical care and treatment can help ensure you receive the full value for your case. The insurance company is unlikely to pay a full, or even reasonable, settlement until the extent of your injuries, physical condition and all medical costs are known. If the insurance company makes a quick settlement offer while you are still recovering, watch out.  Your case may be worth much more, or it is a case with low insurance limits.

The amount of available insurance coverage. When there is significant insurance coverage available in a case, it can actually take longer to settle. There is less pressure on the insurance company when the amount of available coverage is larger than the cost of your medical bills and other damages. For example, say you have a severe injury with $80,000 in medical bills, and the insurance policy limit is $100,000. Insurance companies know that serious injury cases with $80,000 in bills are likely to end up in a jury verdict higher than the policy limit. If so, the insurance company might have to pay above the policy limits unless it had already (quickly) offered to pay out the entire policy.

Compare this to a case involving a minor injury with $10,000 in medical bills and a $100,000 insurance policy. The insurance company knows that it is unlikely your jury verdict will exceed the policy limit. So, there is very little pressure on the insurance carrier and adjustor to settle quickly.

If who’s at fault is clear. If the negligent driver admitted to fault or the police issued a traffic ticket, which the driver paid, a case could move quicker. However, the insurance company is likely to resist paying your claim if you are partially or fully to blame. Additional investigation, witness statements, 911 audio recordings and surveillance videos from nearby businesses may all help prove who was at fault. The more proof presented, the longer the case may take to settle, and the more likely it may end up requiring a lawsuit. That is, if your attorney determines the case can be won at trial.

The insurance company or defense attorney. Some insurance companies have a reputation for fighting every case or making settlement offers far below the normal range for the type of accident, injury, or amount of medical bills. It may take a lot of negotiating to get the case to its full settlement potential. Often, when the insurance company is stubborn, a lawsuit must be filed.

Payment for the defense lawyer. Private law firms and defense attorneys are paid by the hour. It can get quite expensive to defend a personal injury case.  However, insurance companies with in-house attorneys can drag out the amount of time it takes to settle. If the insurance company doesn’t have to hire more expensive outside lawyers, they may unnecessarily drag out the case.

A case against the local, state or federal government. If the at-fault driver was at work for a government agency when the crash occurred, certain notices must be filed and time periods must elapse before the government agency is required to pay your claim. There are likely to be strict notice and reporting requirements that must be filed, or your claim could be denied or dismissed. Do not expect a case against a government agency to settle quickly.

When Medicaid or Medicare is involved. If some or all of your bills were paid by Medicaid or Medicare, you will likely have to reimburse some or all of those payments. This means that a portion of your settlement may need to be set aside to pay the lien. Most medical liens are negotiable, but it will increase the time it takes to receive all of the money from your settlement.

What things may make the insurance adjuster settle my car accident case faster?

police report for legal accident evidenceQuickly presenting evidence that proves you will win on liability (fault). After an accident, you will need the police report, photographs of the damage to the vehicles, pictures of your injuries, any necessary witness statements or other evidence. The at-fault driver’s insurance adjuster will review this evidence and decide whether the case could be won. If they expect to lose in court, the insurance company will be less likely to discount the amount being offered. The sooner evidence is presented, the faster the insurance company can decide not to fight your case on liability (fault).

The insurance company and adjuster have all of your medical records, bills and lost wage documentation. Most insurance adjusters will not make a settlement offer until they have all medical bills, records and proof of any lost pay. Insurance adjusters use these records to set the amount or limit they are willing to offer. They must then get approval from their superiors at the insurance company to settle the claim.  Larger claims or cases usually require more and better documentation.

Giving the insurance company enough information to set a reserve. A case reserve is the amount of money an insurance company must set aside to pay your claim. If the adjuster sets the reserve too low, it can take time and effort to get the case re-reserved to a level that the insurance company can pay. This is a good reason to let the adjuster know as soon as possible how severe your injuries are.  On the other hand, reserves may be limited by the amount of the insurance policy.

You are dealing with a “good” insurance company. A high-quality insurance company is more likely to make a reasonable settlement offer and not drag out the process. However, this will still only occur after the full amount of your medical bills and physical recovery are known. Many low-budget insurance companies that insure high-risk drivers have a reputation for making settlement offers much lower than fair value. This can cause the case to take longer.

Your case has large damages and a low insurance limit. Some cases settle quickly because the value of the case is much greater than the available insurance. In these situations, the insurance company may offer to pay its policy limit even while you are still receiving medical treatment. Sometimes the case settles quickly in response to a time-limited demand. But this is generally only effective when the damages are clearly greater than the amount of the insurance coverage. When a properly drafted time-limited demand (often called “Holt Demands”) is sent, and the insurance company is notified that the case is likely to be larger than policy limits, there is pressure on the insurance company to settle.

How long does it take to receive money after a car accident settlement?

If you and the other party agree to settle your case in or out of court, the settlement agreement will contain the terms and conditions of payment.

The payment terms will determine how and when the at-fault party must compensate you. Typically, payment will be made in one of two ways:

  • Lump-sum payments are usually paid within 30 days of the date the settlement is agreed upon.
  • Periodic payments require the responsible party to make monthly or semi-monthly payments over a specific period until the agreed-upon settlement amount is paid in full.

Settlements requiring court approval, in Georgia, may take two to four months. Most cases involving minor children or incapacitated adults require probate or state court approval.

Be careful when agreeing to a settlement. When you settle, you typically waive your right to pursue additional compensation from the other party again. Therefore, the amount you agree to should consider not only the expenses and losses you have already suffered but also expenses you are likely to suffer in the future.

These potential costs can include ongoing medical needs, rehabilitation costs, decreased future earnings and other financial hardships that may occur due to your accident or injuries.

How long does it take to receive compensation after I win in court?

judgement at court quoteIf your case goes to trial before a judge or jury, you might have waited weeks, months or, in some extreme cases, several years.

When the court announces a verdict and judgment in your favor, the defense typically has 30 days to file an appeal. If they appeal, it is unlikely that you will receive any payment until the appeal is over. Fortunately, most cases are not appealed.

After a verdict and judgment, most insurance companies pay within a matter of a few weeks to a month. If the insurance company or defendant fails to pay, you may take additional legal action to collect against the parties you sued. However, insurance companies rarely let this happen, and almost always pay the judgment fairly quickly.

Should I deal directly with the at-fault driver or business?

Sometimes an at-fault party may offer to reimburse you for an accident without involving an insurance company or lawsuit. Perhaps you are considering this if you’ve been involved in a fender-bender where no or minor injuries were suffered. Or if you are dealing with a business (often a small company) that wants to deal directly with you, without making an insurance claim.

In these scenarios, the responsible parties likely agreed to compensate you for a certain amount in return for you not taking legal action against them.

Resolving your dispute in this manner may seem enticing. You are promised compensation on the spot, or usually within a few days, and you do not need to find a personal injury attorney. However, you should be cautious about accepting such an offer.

If you agreed to be paid at a later date, your arrangement should be reduced to writing and signed. But, if you are not paid accordingly, you may have to file a lawsuit for breach of the agreement. To make matters worse, you will probably not be able to collect from the at-fault driver’s insurance company if a claim was never submitted.

If you are asked to sign a document before you receive the agreed-upon compensation, be sure to read it carefully or have an attorney review it. You should be fully aware of the agreement’s terms and what legal rights—if any—you have to pursue additional compensation later.

When should you accept a quick settlement offer from an insurance company?

It is not uncommon for an insurance adjuster to contact you within a few days of an accident. They may offer to send you a check to “pay your medical bills” and settle your case.

Unless your injury and damages were minor, you’ll want to be careful and consider turning down the offer. This is because once you accept the settlement, you may not be able to receive more money in the future. If you need additional medical care, the at-fault driver and the insurance company will no longer be required to pay.  Additionally, early on, you may not fully understand whether you will completely recover from the injury. This could mean leaving a lot of money on the table.

You can always accept the offer later. It is highly unlikely that the offer will be permanently withdrawn. In fact, it may be increased.

If you want to take a chance and settle your case quickly, demand that the insurance company provide a check within a set time. Also, explain you will be hiring a lawyer if they do not pay you. Generally speaking, our advice is not to settle your case without consulting with an attorney. Insurance institute studies have shown that people who hire a personal injury lawyer receive, on average, three-and-a-half times more money—even after the law firm has been paid.

What if I settle or win my case, and I am not paid?

A settlement agreement, properly drafted, is a binding contract. If you won a verdict or judgment in court or entered into a settlement agreement and the other party fails to pay you, you may be able to enforce your judgment with a collection action or your settlement with a breach of contract action.

If you win, you may be entitled to not only the compensation initially awarded but also:

  • Interest
  • Court costs
  • Attorney’s fees, if you hire one to collect the judgment or file the collection lawsuit

Do I have to pay attorney’s fees if I do not receive a settlement or win a lawsuit?

Contingency Fees: Money should not be a barrier to you exercising your legal rights. Most personal injury lawyers handle car accident cases on a contingency fee basis. This means you do not have to pay your attorney unless compensation is recovered on your behalf.

What happens if I lose in court?  Many people are frightened about the prospect of filing a personal injury lawsuit because they fear the expense if they are not successful in settling their case or winning a verdict in court. Fortunately, Georgia does not have a “loser pays” system. This means, in most cases, if you lose in court, you do not pay the opposing side’s attorney fees. However, a few years ago, Georgia enacted an Offer of Settlement statute that allows a party to make a settlement offer that, if not accepted, could result in payment of the fees and costs of the other side.

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Article Summary

The amount of time it will take before you are compensated for your injuries depends upon many important factors. Who was at fault, how much money is available through the insurance policy, the extent of the damages, the insurance company defending the at-fault driver, and whether the case can be settled out of court can all impact the timeline.

Before moving toward settlement and compensation, it’s critical that you understand your injuries fully, so you are aware of your costs for full treatment, as well as how those injuries will change your life in the future.


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