Understandably, you want to settle your personal injury case as quickly as possible. However, rushing to settlement could reduce the amount of money you receive for your claim.
Before you agree to a quick settlement with the insurance company, it is in your best interest to consult with a personal injury lawyer.
Each personal injury claim is unique.
Many factors impact how long it could take to settle your case. A personal injury lawyer works to settle your case as quickly as possible without jeopardizing your right to maximum compensation for your damages.
It can be frustrating for a victim when a personal injury case takes longer to settle than the victim expects. Understanding some of the issues involved in a personal injury case can help.
Let’s review some of the factors that impact a personal injury case’s length and the steps in settling an injury claim.
Four Factors That Impact the Length of a Personal Injury Case
Many factors affect how long it takes to settle a personal injury claim. However, the top four factors are:
1. The Duration of Your Recovery
The severity of your injuries could require multiple surgeries and months of therapy and recovery. If so, your claim could take more than a year to settle. On the other hand, if you sustained minor injuries that heal in just a couple of months, it could take less than a year to settle your claim.
The length of your recovery and the severity of your injuries directly impacts how long it takes to settle your injury claim.
You never want to settle a personal injury claim before your doctors release you from care. Settling a claim before reaching maximum medical improvement or MMI usually results in a lower settlement agreement amount.
MMI is the point at which no further medical treatment is expected to improve your condition.
It could be that you recovered fully from your accident injuries. You could have sustained a permanent impairment. You cannot know until your doctor completes your treatment plan and prepares a prognosis.
If you sustained permanent disabilities, the value of your personal injury claim increases. You are entitled to compensation for damages associated with a permanent disability such as:
- Loss of future income
- Decreases in earning potential
- Ongoing medical and personal care
- Loss of quality of life or enjoyment of life
- Emotional and mental suffering
- Ongoing physical pain and suffering
You do not want to leave money on the negotiating table by settling your claim too early.
2. Whether Liability is Disputed
If the other party accepts full liability for your accident, you might settle your injury claim soon after you complete medical treatment. Unfortunately, disputes about liability are common. For example, an insurance company admits that its insured caused the car accident. The only matter to resolve is the value of your damages.
However, if the insurance company disputes liability, the attorney must conduct a comprehensive investigation to prove that the other driver caused the crash, which takes time. The attorney must provide evidence, such as eyewitness testimony, videos, physical evidence, and expert opinions, to prove how the crash occurred and that the other driver’s action directly led to the cause of the accident.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, a thorough investigation could take a year or more to complete, especially if the case involves multiple parties or specific areas of law.
Blaming the victim for the cause of the accident is a common insurance tactic used to limit the company’s liability. When this occurs, it can take longer to settle the claim because your attorney must fight the comparative fault allegations.
If the insurance company is successful, comparative fault can reduce the amount of money you receive for your personal injury claim.
3. The Type of Personal Injury Case
The type of personal injury case can also impact how long it takes to settle your claim.
Some personal injury cases involve complex areas of law that can lengthen the time it takes to investigate and resolve a claim. Examples include claims involving medical malpractice, product liability, bad faith insurance practices, government entities, and commercial vehicles.
Cases that require the assistance of expert witnesses, involve multiple parties, or involve federal laws tend to take longer to settle.
4. The Need to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Most accident claims and injury cases settle through negotiations or mediation. However, that is not always the case. Some parties cannot reach a settlement regardless of the time spent in negotiations. If your claim cannot be resolved through settlement negotiations, it might be necessary to file a lawsuit.
Filing a lawsuit adds to the time it takes to resolve your case. Lawsuits are subject to deadlines, and there are specific phases that must be completed before a case can proceed to trial.
The general steps in a personal injury lawsuit include:
- Filing a complaint
- Receiving an answer and possibly a counterclaim or third-party claim
- Responding to the counterclaim
- Settlement negotiations
- Pre-trial motions and conferences
- Selecting a jury
In addition to the mandatory deadlines in a lawsuit, the court’s schedule can impact the time it takes for a lawsuit to come to trial. If the court’s schedule is backed up, it could take two years for a lawsuit to proceed through the phases and come to trial.
Even if you win your lawsuit, it does not mean you receive your money immediately. The other party could refuse to pay the judgment, which requires additional legal action to pursue the judgment. The other party could also appeal the verdict, which could take several more years for the appeal to work its way through the appellate system.
Do Not Delay in Seeking Legal Advice
There are deadlines for filing injury claims and lawsuits. Talking with a lawyer as soon as possible can help you protect your right to receive the compensation you deserve when another party causes your injuries through negligence, errors, or other wrongdoing.
Your lawyer wants to get you the compensation you need and deserve, but your lawyer cannot control all factors in your case. The type of case and other factors involved in the case often set the pace of the case.
Having an attorney involved as soon as possible can be beneficial. Your lawyer has the chance to begin the investigation sooner and might be able to exert control over some factors while the case is in its early stages.