It’s impossible to say exactly how long it will take to settle a specific drunk driving accident case in Horry County. There are many factors that affect the process of resolution, and the time frame can differ from accident to accident.
The Process of Settling a Drunk Driving Accident Case
There are several steps a case must go through before a settlement or court judgment occurs.
Filing a Claim
If the at-fault drunk driver is the only defendant in your case, you’ll file a claim against that driver’s insurance company for your damages:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
In a drunk driving case, however, there might be more than one defendant. South Carolina dram shop liability laws allow you to file additional claims against a bar, restaurant, or social host that served alcohol to the driver on the day or night of your accident. Filing multiple claims takes longer and is best handled by an experienced car accident attorney who can file damage claims much more quickly and efficiently than you can on your own.
Investigating Your Accident
The police report and/or the insurance company’s investigation report of your wreck could contain inaccuracies or omit important factors in the crash. In such a case, your attorney can call in an independent investigator/accident reconstructionist to firmly establish the drunk driver’s liability for your damages. Your lawyer can also obtain results of the driver’s field sobriety tests to prove intoxication.
Reaching Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
The severity of your injuries will determine how long it takes you to reach MMI. Until you do, your doctors and lawyer won’t know how high your medical bills are going to be. If you file and settle a claim before reaching MMI, you might not receive enough compensation to cover your medical expenses. You’re most likely to get fair compensation by waiting until your doctors feel you’ve recovered to the extent that you’re going to, no matter how long it takes. Depending on certain facts, the statute of limitations only allows you two or three years to file a lawsuit if the insurance company denies your claim or offers a low settlement.
Evaluation of Your Claim/Demand Letter
Once you’ve reached MMI, your attorney will organize and present your medical bills/evidence, calculate your lost wages, put a dollar amount on your present and future pain and suffering, and send a demand letter to the drunk driver’s insurance company for a reasonable amount of compensation.
The drunk driver’s insurance company is likely to counter with a lower offer than the one demanded. At this point, your attorney will begin negotiations with the insurance company’s lawyers. This process could require medical testimony/affidavits from doctors and other expert witnesses, so the time required for a successful negotiation is hard to predict.
Filing a Lawsuit
If the insurance company does not offer a reasonable award after negotiation, your attorney may file a personal injury suit and take your case to court. Once the suit is filed, the insurer might finally offer a reasonable award, or the case could go to trial, so there’s no way to know exactly how long this procedure might take.
Once a settlement or trial verdict is reached, releases must be signed by all parties before the insurance company can issue a check and forward it to your lawyer, who will deduct the following expenses before forwarding the check to you:
- Previously agreed upon attorney fees and court/filing fees
- Any costs related to your case such as expert fees and/or depositions fees and other agreed upon costs
- Outstanding medical bills/Medicare or Medicaid costs
- Insurance deductible amounts
- Unpaid child support/taxes
Your attorney will do everything possible to expedite your payment, which could reach you within a few weeks after your case is settled, but no one can predict with any accuracy exactly how long your settlement process will take. It really depends on:
- The strength of your evidence
- The seriousness of your injuries and the amount of medical bills
- Time required to reach MMI
- The number of defendants in your case
- Whether the insurance company accepts or denies your claim
- Negotiations with the insurance company
- The duration and outcome of your trial, if any
Some cases might be settled within a few months while others could drag on for years.
Have You Been Injured In A Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Area Car Accident?
If you've been injured in a car accident you should speak with a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Myrtle Beach, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.3165 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach, Charleston, North Charleston, or Florence office locations.