After a car accident, you could face financial difficulties. You need medical treatment for your injuries, but those injuries might prevent you from working. As a result, you might incur debt or even forgo necessary treatment or therapy.
If you file an injury claim, you expect to receive a settlement check quickly. After all, you will submit documentation of your accident and injuries with your claim. An insurer should process your check so you can move forward with your life.
Here is a summary of the rules that govern how long it takes to get a settlement check for a car accident in Los Angeles.
Automobile Injury Claim Processing
To answer the question, the time to get a settlement check will vary from case to case. California provides some deadlines for insurers to accomplish steps in the claim process. But it also allows some leeway in cases where the insurer needs additional time to investigate.
California uses a fault-based insurance system. Vehicle owners must carry at least $15,000 in bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage to register a vehicle.
When you have a car accident, you file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer. You will submit proof of loss forms that document your injuries and the expenses associated with them.
For example, you will include copies of bills for medical examinations, surgery, treatment, therapy, and medication. You will also document the wages you lost due to excused absences or a change in job duties.
The insurer assigns a claims adjuster to your claim. The adjuster investigates your claim by looking at two issues:
If the adjuster finds that the insurer bears liability for the accident, it determines which of the damages fall under the BIL coverage. The insurer will offer a settlement by determining which of your damages were reasonable and necessary.
Time Frames for Claim Processing
California insurance regulations tell insurers how long they have for each step of the process.
As a baseline, California requires insurers to act in good faith to effect a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement when you prove the insurer’s liability. This means the insurer must deal with you honestly. It cannot mislead you, unreasonably delay your settlement, or use arguments that have no legal or factual basis.
When you file a claim, the insurer has 15 days to:
- Acknowledge receipt of your claim
- Provide you with the forms and instructions for your proof of loss
- Begin investigating the claim
If you file your claim online, you will usually receive the receipt, forms, and instructions immediately.
After receiving your proof of loss, the insurer has 40 days to decide whether to accept or deny your claim. This usually means the adjuster must get a copy of your accident report, talk to its policyholder, and review any additional evidence it needs to determine liability.
The insurer gets some flexibility since it can extend the investigation time in 30-day intervals. To do this, the insurer needs to send you a letter explaining why it needs more time.
The insurer can also accept your claim but offer a below-value settlement. If it does that, you and your injury lawyer will need to negotiate for a better settlement. The insurer can reduce your settlement because of:
- Overpriced treatment
- Unnecessary treatment
- Pre-existing injuries
The insurer can also reduce your claim if you share fault for the accident. For example, if you bear 20% of the fault for an accident, you can only recover 80% of your losses in California.
If you agree to settle your claim, the insurer has 30 days to send you a check.
Realistic Timeframes for Settlement
California’s insurance regulations suggest you could have a settlement check in as little as 85 days. But this rarely happens. Insurers know you need money and will take advantage of every delay. But with an experienced personal injury lawyer’s help, you can be assured that the insurance company won’t take advantage of you.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA
If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles car accident lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.