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Why does it take so long to settle automobile accident claims in New Mexico? Car crashes are traumatic experiences that most of us would like to forget as quickly as possible so that we can move on with our lives. However, if you've been injured in a car accident, you may be unable to move on and live a normal life. When you most need financial help, the settlement process sometimes seems to slow to a crawl. What's going on?
Several factors influence how long it takes for a settlement to be reached. However, a study by the Department of Justice
revealed that the median car settlement for auto tort cases was reached in 12 months. Of course, your case could take much longer or much shorter than that. But this average should give you a reasonable timeline.
So, what could cause an automobile accident claim to take longer in New Mexico?
The first and most important action you can take to help ensure your case runs quickly and smoothly is to hire a lawyer.
When Should You Contact a Lawyer?
It's essential to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after you've been injured in an auto accident. Not only can they assist you in knowing what to expect over the coming months, but they can help you avoid common pitfalls that unwary victims sometimes face.
For example, sometimes insurance companies will quickly move to make a seemingly generous settlement offer soon after an accident. Unfortunately, signing a settlement too early could mean that you're not going to be fully compensated for your treatment, lost wages, and other related expenses. Settling too early could leave tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table.
Your lawyer will also help you collect documentation that will be important during the process. This includes:
- The accident report from the investigating officer at the scene of the accident
- Verification of any lost wages resulting from injuries from the accident
- Copies of medical bills and other records that validate your injuries and the cost of treating them
- A list of out-of-pocket expenses, such as for prescription medicine or medical equipment not covered by insurance
- Evidence of pain and suffering caused by the accident
- Additional support documents such as witness statements, pictures of your injuries or of the crash site, or anything else that might support your case.
Once this information is collected, and the fundamental facts about your financial losses are gathered, the next step is to file a claim letter.
When Should a Claim Letter be Sent?
In New Mexico, personal injury claims must be pursued within three years of the date of the accident. Property damage, like that done to a car, must be pursued within four years. Claim letters, also known as demand letters or packages
, should be sent before these periods of time, known as the "statutes of limitations," expire. After that date, it becomes far more difficult to pursue your claims. Courts nearly always dismiss a case if it was filed after the expiration of the statute of limitations.
So, three years from the date of the accident would be too long to wait before sending a claim letter.
At the other end of the spectrum, you don't want to settle too quickly. Fast settlements may feel good in the short term, but they can lead to regret if they don't ultimately end up covering your entire medical treatment or lost wages or leave you with less than you deserve for your pain and suffering.
How Quickly Do Insurance Companies Pay?
Many insurance companies won't want to delay the settlement process. Instead, some will try to settle soon after the accident, before your injuries are fully tallied and before their costs accordingly rise. Unlike other states, insurance companies in New Mexico don't have a specific deadline by which the law requires them to settle an insurance claim.
Instead, state law requires insurance companies to settle claims "reasonably promptly." How long "reasonably promptly" takes will vary based on the facts of your individual case.
Factors that increase the complexity of the case will cause insurance companies to take longer before settling. Such factors include:
If an insurance company appears to be excessively dragging its feet,
- More severe injuries resulting in higher costs or a longer recovery time
- Higher claim totals
- The specific insurance company you're dealing with (some are faster than others)
- Whether or not you or your lawyer files a lawsuit
or if your injuries are severe, your lawyer may decide to file a lawsuit. When filing a lawsuit, the objective generally isn't to take the case to trial.
Instead, filing a lawsuit indicates the seriousness of the situation to the insurance companies. The filing of the suit itself and the pre-trial conference after the discovery phase are inflection points that ramp up the pressure on the insurance companies to settle. As the trial's start date grows closer, insurance companies become more willing to compromise, even if it's just to avoid the expense of the trial.
Ultimately, we wish there was a general answer to how long this process will take. If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing you can do is contact a lawyer. Your lawyer will help ensure that the necessary steps are taken to get you the best possible settlement. They'll also be able to assess your current situation and give you a much better idea of exactly how long the process will take.
Here at Kane Personal Injury, we know this can be a stressful and painful time in your life. We're here to help. If you want to get a better sense of how long this process might take or need a trusted advisor to help guide you, we're here to help.
Please note that this article was created for advertisement purposes, and it does not constitute any contractual legal relationship, nor imply one.