The length of time that will be involved in settling a personal injury claim will depend on the type of settlement you want and how much time you’re willing to invest in your case. If you want a low settlement and are willing to accept the first offer, then you can have your claim settled in weeks. The insurance claims adjusters are more than happy to settle quickly at a low amount.
However, very few people say that they want to settle their injury claims early for an unreasonably low sum of compensation. If you want to reach a more fair and adequate settlement, there are a few things that you need to do, and patience will be required.
Determine How Long Your Injury Claim Will Take
The first thing that you need to do is establish the full sum of your medical expenses and back up your claim with evidence in medical records. You will have to clearly express the nature of the injury, any continuing problems associated with that injury, and any future medical care that may be necessary.
To come up with an accurate number, you will be expected to take the necessary steps to reach your maximum medical improvement, meaning that there are not going to be unexpected complications or permanent disabilities. To reach maximum medical improvement can take a very long time, measured in months instead of weeks. In rare cases, it may take a year or more.
It will then take a few months to obtain all of the medical records, employment records, and other items of evidence to prove the value of your claim. This will be submitted to the insurance company who will request about a month to evaluate the claim and come to a decision.
Negotiating the Claim
After a couple of weeks of negotiation, the claim’s value should be established and agreed upon with a settlement agreement in place. After you’ve reached maximum improvement, you should receive your settlement within a few months. If there are additional complications, it may take longer.
You can make an effort to speed up the process by obtaining your medical records, bills, and evidence of lost wages on your own. You are actually likely to receive these documents more quickly than your attorney will be able to, so you can be proactive in your case.
Now, that being said, that you can get a good settlement then, within a couple of months usually of reaching maximum medical improvement. Now how long does it take to get the best settlement? That usually takes, oh, I would estimate a year or two after reaching maximum medical improvement. Now, let me explain why that is.
What if you want to receive the best possible settlement? In this case, you will want to be willing to have patience through about one year or two after you’ve reached maximum medical improvement. The reason for this is that a lot of negotiation strategy goes into fighting for the maximum possible settlement for your case. You may need to use the ‘walk away’ strategy.
The walk-away strategy is one where you basically say that you are not willing to accept an offer and would rather take the case to trial. The insurance company does not want to go to trial, so they will likely capitulate eventually to avoid this and raise the settlement.
For example, consider the extreme case of a car accident where an insurance company offers $5,000 for a settlement, the best offer they are willing to make. The client chooses to walk away and file a lawsuit. After the discovery case, as the client prepares for trial, the insurance company changes their offer to $150,000 two years later. Thus, the patience of the client pays off.
Timing of Offers in an Injury Claim
As another example, consider a case where the insurance company makes a low offer to begin with and doesn’t present their best offer until a year and a half later when the client reaches maximum medical improvement. Again, the client is willing to walk away and file a lawsuit. The insurance company in this case doesn’t want to wait until the case is so close to the trial, so they start negotiating more seriously.
Of course, the results of your case cannot be guaranteed, but there are several real-life examples of people who benefit from patience in the negotiation process. Typically, being willing to walk away from a negotiation is an excellent technique to get the best possible settlement in your claim.
Although a settlement can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of years, you can have some say in the length of the process by expressing what you want to your attorney. If you want a quick settlement, your attorney can make this happen. If you want the best settlement, more patience is necessary to go through the negotiation process.
The most important thing to confirm if you plan to get the best possible settlement is whether your attorney is willing and able to take your case to trial if necessary. Some attorneys don’t want to do this but prefer to get quick settlements. Make sure that you know who you’re working with. Ask the attorney about this during your initial consultation, and remember that your attorney works for you.
Accepting A Smaller Settlement For A Quick Case
If you want to accept a smaller settlement to have the case over with more quickly, you have this option. However, you should always consider how much money you’re going to lose by doing so. Some settlements take longer than others, and you have to consider the different variables that go into the length of your settlement process before choosing a quick settlement option.
Why Some Cases Take Longer
There are three primary reasons why some cases take longer than others:
- Legal or factual problems exist.
- A lot of money is on the line.
- You have not reached maximum medical improvement.
You can choose to accept a low settlement, but if this is not your intent, then you will have to be patient as you wait for your case to be settled.
Legal or Factual Problems
What kind of problems are we talking about? The value of a personal injury case is determined by considered liability (who was at fault) and damages (how badly was the plaintiff injured).
In some cases, liability may be hard to prove or the insurer may believe that you don’t have grounds to take the case to trial. In these cases, you may have to wait for a judgment on the case to receive the compensation that you deserve.
In other cases, the problem lies in the amount of damages claimed and the necessity to prove that the negligence of the defendant caused your injuries. You need your doctors to back you up on this because if they don’t, the defendant has a case against your right to compensation.
A Lot Of Money On The Line
Your settlement can also be delayed when there’s a lot of money on the line. The insurance company will want to thoroughly investigate before agreeing to a large settlement. They will have to confirm the following three factors in the case:
- They don’t have a good defense.
- Your injuries are as severe as you claim.
- Your credibility is not in question.
In some cases, the insurance company may delay settlement to see if you’ll get tired of waiting and decide to accept a smaller settlement. All too often, an injured person is desperately in need of their compensation and cannot wait too long. The insurance company is aware of this and may try to wait you out with a delay and deny strategy.
You Have Not Reached Maximum Medical Improvement
If you have not yet reached maximum medical improvement for your injuries, then it can be difficult to establish the final costs of treatment. This is why it can take longer if you still have recovering to do.
When you reach maximum medical improvement, then you know you have recovered from the injury as much as you ever will, whether that is a full recovery or partial recovery. A full recovery will be worth less than a partial recovery that will never improve beyond a certain point.
Settling For Less Money
What if you simply can’t wait? You recognize that your case could be worth more if you waited for the proper settlement, but you need the money now. How do you determine what you should settle for?
In some cases, you may not be able to wait for an adequate settlement. You need what money you can get right away. So, how much should you settle for? There’s no real rule for this, but you can expect to receive a settlement offer between 5% and 35% of what you might receive at trial.
If you want to settle your case fast, then you should still work with a qualified personal injury attorney who can assist you in this process and advise you of the pros and cons to a quick settlement.