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Car Accident Settlement Process: Timeline, Demand Letter, and Payouts

Updated April 1, 2024 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Car Accident Settlements: What to Do After an Accident

New cars are full of the most modern technology and safety features: backup cameras, lane keep assistance, automatic parking, smartphone integration, automatic emergency braking, even Wi-Fi in some cases. Even with all of these amenities in the latest cars, driver negligence still occurs on the road every single day. In 2018 alone, Indiana had 873 car-related fatalities and 47,482 non-fatal car accidents.

Every person involved in a car crash is impacted, whether that be emotionally, mentally, physically, or financially. Car crashes bring burdens and cause harm due to negligence. Having experienced lawyers to help you through the process of car accident settlements can shift worry about finances aside, allowing you to focus on your wellbeing and recovery.

When you get into a car accident at the fault of another driver’s negligence, you may be eligible for compensation to cover a multitude of expenses, including:

  • Hospital bills
  • Medical expenses
  • Property damage
  • Lost income
  • And much more…

Compensation for your expenses and difficulties may be possible through car accident settlements.

What Is a Car Accident Settlement?

Settlements are an agreement between a victim and a negligent party or their insurance company. The opposing party is asked to pay compensation upon negotiation. Settlements (as opposed to court cases) usually save both parties time, money, and effort.

A car accident injury settlement process differs from a court verdict. The car accident settlement can be reached either before a court case or even in the midst of one. Deciding whether to keep a personal injury lawsuit as a settlement or go to trial can be a tough decision that depends on the victim and the case. Consulting an experienced attorney can help make that decision easier.

Car Accident Settlement Process

Auto accident settlements can get you the compensation you deserve out of a car accident. There is no set equation for what your settlement payout may be, yet there are steps you should take to form your claim and negotiate a settlement.

  1. After the Accident

  • Stay calm and assess the situation

Make sure you and those in the car with you are safe. By Article 26 of Indiana State Law, you should provide the assistance you are able to. Seek medical attention immediately if there is anyone who is seriously injured.

  • Call the Police

Making a police report can help document your case. Let them know of any injuries you or others may have. Stay at the scene and cooperate with the officer(s).

  • Collect Evidence

Indiana has a comparative fault system. In other words, Indiana is an at-fault state, meaning the person at-fault for the accident takes responsibility for the damages. Gathering evidence at the scene may include taking photographs and videos right after the accident, any physical evidence, and witness statements.

Document whatever you can. Write down your account of what happened and note any key details and damaged property.

Future evidence for the settlement includes medical records that resulted from the accident and police reports.

  • Collect Information

Gathering information will help quicken the timeline of your settlement. You may share your information with the other parties. Make sure you do not apologize or take any fault for the accident. Information to collect includes:

  • Insurance information
  • Name and phone number of people involved
  • Vehicle information (make, model, license plate)
  • Service/reference number of the police report and police officer information
  • Names and contact information of witnesses, if possible
  • Contact Your Insurance Company

Do not sign anything yet, but give your insurance company an accident report.

They will help you navigate the settlement and, if necessary, a court case in order to receive compensation.

  1. Sending a Demand Letter

Once the first step is complete, it’s time to draft, write, and send a demand letter to the insurance company. A demand letter is a professional document, typically written by a lawyer, to request payment or another demand that corrects the opposing party’s fault. In a personal injury case specifically, a demand letter, also known as an insurance claim letter, is meant to present the facts about the car accident in order to persuade the insurance company to pay compensation. Indiana auto insurance laws state that Indiana is an at-fault state, meaning the driver responsible for at least 51% of the accident is liable to take responsibility for damages. Find out how to write a demand letter for an auto accident settlement below.

  1. What to Expect From a Car Accident Settlement

The potential outcome after the negotiation is reaching a settlement agreement. To do this, both parties must agree to settle. Many auto accident civil disputes end before a court trial needs to be held. If the defendant agrees to the financial proposal, the settlement is reached and the conflict is resolved.

If the conflict is not resolved, meaning one or both parties want to pursue and defend their case, then it will go to trial. Moving from settlement to trial can be taxing and expensive.

How to Write a Demand Letter for an Auto Accident Settlement

Writing a demand letter is an important step in your settlement process for a car accident. There should be three main components:

  • Relevant facts
  • A list of damages
  • Statement of fault

The demand letter should include a description of the accident. If any injuries were involved, it should contain details of the injury along with any medical treatments, a list of medical bills, and other receipts pertaining to the car accident.

The letter further needs to discuss the liability of the accident (the fault of the insured) and a settlement demand. The demand should explicitly state expected car accident settlement payouts. You want to make sure that the demand is polite and direct. Remember, this is a formal document, so be as objective as possible.

Your car accident settlement letter should be both clear and concise. Write out in detail what you expect from the opposing party, including

  • Compensation amount
  • Any other non-monetary compensation (i.e. repairs)
  • A deadline to meet your expectations

Being concise jumps right to the point. Being direct in your letter shows that you are serious about this settlement. You want to include all of the details in a concise manner, especially since you will have proof of incident via your evidence.

Keep hard copies of receipts, photographs, financial statements, and personal statements (which you will need to write out), and the demand letter. If you need to move to a court case, having hard copies at hand, especially when they match up to your demand letter, can strengthen your claim.

Demand letters are typically written by an attorney. Speak with your attorney about the best way to write and send your demand letter.

How Insurance Companies Respond

After you send a letter to insurance companies, there are four main responses that can happen.

  1. They accept your demands and pay: you’ll receive your compensation and resolve the settlement.
  2. They make a counter-offer: if this is the case, you can continue negotiation or move the claim to court. If they counter with a low-ball offer, say $10,000 for a $30,000 medical expense, write back, make a counter-offer, and do not sign the settlement until you are all healed. Do not settle for an unreasonable amount. This is where working with an experienced attorney will really help in the negotiation process.
  3. They deny your claim and refuse to pay: This is rare and only happens if there is a lack of evidence or a problem with the process.
  4. They do not respond: write a follow-up letter and speak with your attorney about next steps.

An Indiana Car Accident Settlement Process: Settlements vs. Court Cases

Negotiating a settlement is only possible if both parties agree to the settlement. Auto accident settlement timelines vary from case to case, though most car accident lawsuits take at least one year to complete if taken to court.

Car accident lawsuit process and timeline

There are five general litigation steps in auto accident lawsuits:

  1. Complaint: file a complaint and send it to the defendant.
  2. Response: the defendant must respond to your complaint (generally within a month).
  3. Discovery: evidence from both parties is analyzed, lasting between a few months to more than a year.
  4. Trial: a common jury trial may take a couple of hours, yet can take longer.
  5. Appeal (if necessary): if one of the parties is unsatisfied with trial results, an appeal may take months or even years.

At any point, the parties can decide to negotiate a settlement. As for a timeline for a car accident settlement process, you can expect anywhere between a few months to several years depending on the case and how much time is spent in any of the steps listed above.

Car Accident Settlements

In Indiana, you are able to recover both economic (special) and non-economic (general) damages. Unfortunately, there is no equation for your settlement amount. Every case is different and calculating compensation varies on:

  • Severity of the injury
  • Severity of the accident (fender bender versus serious injury or death)
  • Medical treatment
  • Available insurance
  • Long-term effects
  • Property damage
  • Your motorist coverage
  • Your percentage of fault in the accident
  • How many people were involved

Settlement Timeline

A personal injury settlement is the fastest way to resolve legal disputes. Though each case is different, settlements usually take one to three months on average.

Statute of Limitations

There are deadlines for filing a lawsuit. In the state of Indiana, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident. There are exceptions, but negotiating a settlement or going to trial should be done as soon as possible because of this strict deadline.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

If you have further questions about pursuing a personal injury settlement, contact the Indianapolis auto accident attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. For car accident settlement examples, check out our past case results and download our WKW Car Accident App. For your free case evaluation, call us at 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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Let WKW put our experience to work for you. Contact us for your free case evaluation.


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