For your question of how long your vehicle damage claim takes after an accident, the answer is it depends. If you are only making a claim for the damage and no injuries are involved, the claim process is a matter of just a few days. The process consists of asking your own insurance company or that of the at-fault driver to reimburse the cost of repair or replacement of the vehicle.
Many vehicle accident claims are easy to resolve when no lawyers or lawsuits are involved. If all the parties are agreeing on the cause of damage, the extent of damage and how the issue should be solved, the insurance company will issue a check for the actual cash value of the vehicle or repair depending on the circumstance. The duration of resolution will also depend on the vehicle’s condition, whether or not there was pre-existing damage that could have worsened by the accident.
In the absence of adequate car insurance coverage, the collision or comprehensive coverage of one or both parties will cover the damage. However, no-fault car insurance will not usually cover the vehicle damage. In a nutshell, considering the type of damage and the extent of the case, your claim will be processed within 30 to 90 days of the accident. The vehicle owner will receive a check, sign a release and the matter is closed.
If the damage claim ends up in court for some reason, it may take longer to resolve. Chances are minor claims will be heard and resolved in the small claim courts. Only major claims will face trial in higher courts. In the case where a lawsuit is filed, which is highly unlikely in minor accidents and damages, the parties are required to follow certain timelines for submitting evidence and other documents. This so-called ‘discovery’ phase includes the testimony and hearing from witnesses as well as interrogations. The reason and extent of the damage are uncovered during this phase. It may take as little as six months to as long as 18 months to resolve.
A ‘mediation’ phase on the other hand is an opportunity for alternative dispute resolution granted by the court. It encourages the parties to reach a resolution with the help of a mediator, usually the insurance company or a personal injury lawyer like New Jersey car accident lawyer. The outcome of this phase depends on factors such as the responsibility of the plaintiff, the extent of damage and the claim amount. The mediation phase may last as little as a few hours to a couple of days.
If the claim is unresolved even after mediation, the case may end up in court, especially small claims court which is a brand of the civil court system that handles disputes involving lower amounts of money. Such cases are quickly processed than conventional civil lawsuits. Parties usually represent themselves in small claims court and present their side of the story to the judge. The judge typically takes a couple of hours to issue the ruling.
If you are in doubt about the appropriate way to file a claim, ask a professional lawyer like the car accident attorneys in New Jersey who are experienced in this field. You will also get answers to specific questions, including
- When to file a claim?
- When it is smart to go to small claims court?
- What amount is right for your case? and so on.
Of course, the thought of making the process complicated may still feel drudgery. But don’t despair. Some lawyers may be willing to offer this information as a part of free initial consultation with no commitment or obligation.