Iowa Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline
Ask many Americans to find Iowa on a map and they’ll probably point somewhere near Kansas and mumble something about Chicago. But this gem of the Midwest has a lot to offer: a 99 percent literacy rate, low cost of living, and gorgeous, serene scenery. In fact, the only negative thing one could say about Iowa is that residents and visitors have to deal with the Midwestern winters, and if you’re really unlucky, with a few over-enthusiastic tailgaters from a Hawkeyes game. If a crash ensues from either of these two nuisances, knowing how the Iowa car accident settlement process and timeline work is important.
Do I Need to Report a Car Accident in Iowa?
Iowa law requires drivers involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to a person must report the accident by the quickest means possible – in most cases, a phone call to the local law enforcement agency. Furthermore, Any accident in Iowa that caused death, injury, or property damage of $1,500 or more must be reported on an Iowa Accident Report form, unless your local law enforcement agency files their own report. The penalty for not filing a report within 72 hours is suspension of your driving privileges.
Iowa Car Insurance Laws
Iowa drivers must show proof of financial responsibility after an accident. This means drivers don’t necessarily have to have insurance. They can prove responsibility in a number of ways:
- Having insurance
- Paying for the other party’s damages
- Posting a bond
If you do handle things informally, such as paying for the other driver’s damaged vehicle, be sure to consult with a lawyer and have a release of all claims signed by the other driver – it is akin to a receipt and protects you from them claiming they were not compensated.
If you decide to obtain insurance instead of dealing with the hassles of bonds or cash payments, Iowa requires insurance companies to sell a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage:
- $20,000 for liability for bodily injuries per person,
- $40,000 total for liability for injuries if more than one person is injured, and
- $15,000 in coverage for liability for others’ property damage.
How Do Car Accident Settlements Work in Iowa?
Though it may not seem like it from watching television shows or the news, nearly all legal cases settle before trial. Settlements are an informal wrapping up of a case for a mutually agreeable remedy, at which time the parties drop the pending lawsuit.
Why settle? Many damages, such as auto repair or medical bills, are easily calculable. Plus, the cost of fighting over those damages in court is risky, as either side could end up with a verdict they are unhappy with. A settlement simply allows the parties to control the outcome.
In Iowa, there is not a statewide requirement for settlement conferences – it is instead left to the discretion of local courts to make their own rules and procedures. For example, Linn and Johnson Counties have required mandatory settlement conferences in civil cases since September 19, 2011. Even if your local courts do not require formal conferences, expect your attorney to discuss settlements with you and the other party before proceeding to trial.
What is the Average Car Accident Settlement in Iowa?
The short answer is that there is none – every case differs: a case involving a fender bender is going to settle for less than a drunk driver killing an entire family.
When coming to a settlement, the parties and their attorneys will consider:
- Insurance coverage (insurance companies won’t pay more than policy limits)
- Car repairs
- Medical bills (past and future)
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages from time away from work
How Long Do I Have to File a Car Accident Lawsuit in Iowa?
There are two different time limits (Statutes of Limitations) for filing your case in Iowa: an injured party has two years from the date of the car accident to file a lawsuit for personal injury and five years to file for property damage. This is measured from the date of the accident, so even if insurance claims, denials, and attempts to settle take time, you and your attorney will still need to watch that calendar.
Talk to an Iowa Attorney About the Car Accident Settlement Process
A settlement is typically binding and final. If you're not careful, you could end up with an insufficient amount to cover medical bills and expenses down the line or waive claims altogether. Avoid these mishaps and get some peace of mind from an experienced Iowa car accident attorney before signing anything involving your claim.
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