If you are involved in a traffic accident here in the New Orleans area, in many cases, you will be filing two insurance claims: one claim for your personal injury or injuries, and a second claim for the property damage to your vehicle.

How long will it take an insurance company to process your claims and to pay you the compensation you need after an accident?

What if you’ve been seriously injured? What if an auto insurance company denies your injury claim or offers you less compensation than you genuinely need?

HOW MANY CRASHES AND INJURIES HAPPEN IN LOUISIANA?

It is not difficult to get into a traffic accident in Louisiana, and it’s not difficult to get injured, either. In 2017, more than 47,000 accidents involving injuries were reported in this state.

You are about to learn how the claims process works and why it might take some time to resolve a personal injury claim. You will also learn how to obtain the legal advice and help you may need.

In most cases, an insurance claim for property damage alone can be resolved quickly. An insurance adjuster will assess the damage, or you may be asked to take the vehicle to a reputable body shop for an estimate.

HOW SOON AFTER A CRASH CAN YOU BE PAID FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE?

Insurance should pay for your repairs or for your vehicle if it has been totaled. If you are properly insured, and if there is no dispute regarding insurance coverage or liability, you will probably be paid for a property damage claim in a month or possibly even less.

If you are involved in a crash in Louisiana, and if you are certain that you have not been injured and that only your vehicle has sustained damage, it is probably more expedient to handle the claim on your own without retaining an attorney.

However, if you have been injured in a collision, and especially if the other driver was at-fault, your case may take some time, and you are going to need an accident attorney’s help.

Sometimes an injury claim can be settled quickly, but most injury claims will take from one to two years to resolve.

Personal injury claims are inevitably much costlier to insurance companies than property damage claims, so insurance companies have more incentive to deny those claims or to avoid paying victims what their injury claims are really worth.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN AN ACCIDENT HAPPENS?

When an accident happens, there will not be a lawyer on the scene to advise you. To ensure that you are in the best possible position to make a property damage or personal injury claim, here is what you must remember to do – if you are not incapacitated – when an accident occurs:

1. If anyone involved even appears to be injured, summon medical help at once.

2. Call the police and make sure that you will be able to obtain a copy of their written accident report.

3. Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver or drivers. Try to get as much information as you can.

4. Take plenty of photos of the vehicles and accident scene. If there are eyewitnesses, try to get their names and contact information.

If you are injured by a negligent driver in this state, you will have two immediate priorities. The first thing you must do is seek medical attention immediately.

WHY IS A MEDICAL EXAMINATION IMPERATIVE AFTER ANY COLLISION?

Even if you don’t “feel” injured – and even if you feel spectacular – if you are involved in any traffic mishap, it is imperative to have a medical examination within twenty-four hours.

Why? Because some injuries are latent and/or hard-to-detect. You might feel fine in the first moments after a collision, but a latent or hard-to-detect injury can emerge days or even weeks later as a serious medical situation.

After you’ve been examined by a doctor or another healthcare professional, obtaining legal help is your next priority. Do not wait. If you’ve been injured, arrange as quickly as possible to meet with a New Orleans personal injury attorney to discuss your rights and options.

HOW CAN A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER HELP?

Your injury attorney will review the details of your accident and injury and will explain your rights and legal options. Let your attorney – who is a trained and experienced negotiator – handle the negotiations with the insurance company on your behalf.

Personal injury lawyers routinely handle these negotiations, and they know what it takes to win the settlement amounts that their clients need and deserve. They understand the tactics that insurance companies sometimes use to avoid or delay the payment of injury claims.

If there is no real dispute over coverage and liability, and if the insurance company is ethical and professional – like most Louisiana auto insurance companies – your injury claim can probably be settled in just several months.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE IF YOUR CASE GOES TO TRIAL?

But if there’s any dispute regarding liability, or if the insurance company refuses to make a reasonable settlement offer during the negotiations, your attorney may recommend taking your case to trial.

That does not happen very often in Louisiana. The overwhelming majority of personal injury claims are settled during out-of-court negotiations. But your attorney will exhaust every legal avenue if necessary on your behalf.

If your case does go to trial, that is when you will need some genuine patience.

Personal injury cases can get complicated legally for a number of reasons – for example, if you are suing multiple defendants for liability, or if a defendant is facing a criminal charge arising from the accident that injured you, your case will probably take more than a year to complete.

WHAT WILL IT COST TO LEARN MORE?

So, the answer to our original question – how long does a car accident claim take? – is “It depends.” If you are wondering how much it will cost you to learn more about your rights after you’ve been injured by a negligent driver, the answer is “Nothing.”

Most Louisiana personal injury lawyers will provide accident victims with a free first consultation and review of your case. You will learn where you stand legally and how the law applies in your own situation.

If you take legal action, you’ll pay no attorney’s fees until the attorney recovers a settlement or a verdict on your behalf.

If you’ve been injured, the best strategy is putting your case in the hands of a trustworthy and skilled personal injury attorney from the very beginning. That is your right.