Some personal injury cases settle quickly. However, it could take a year or longer to settle your injury claim. The facts and circumstances of the case directly impact how long it takes to settle a personal injury claim.
Other factors could also impact the length of a personal injury claim. Your personal injury lawyer understands that you want to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. You might need the proceeds from a settlement to help support yourself and your family, especially if you sustained a permanent disability or impairment because of the accident.
You also want to put the matter behind you and try to get back to a normal life. The stress, pain, and emotional suffering caused by another party can be overwhelming. As long as the case is pending, you cannot close that event completely.
Factors That Impact the Time it Takes to Settle a Personal injury Case
Several factors could impact how long it takes to settle your personal injury claim. Some of those factors include:
Maximum Medical Improvement
One of the most significant factors that impact your case is the severity of your injuries. The longer it takes for you to heal from your injuries, the longer it takes to settle your injury claim. You never want to settle a personal injury claim until your doctor states that you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).
When your doctor determines that no further medical treatment can improve your condition, you reach maximum medical improvement.
For some accident victims, MMI means a full recovery. For other accident victims, MMI means they have a disabling condition, and nothing the doctors can do will improve it.
- Traumatic brain injury
- Amputation or loss of limb
- Severe burns
- Back injuries
- Cognitive impairments
- PTSD and other psychological conditions
- Loss of bodily functions or damage to internal organs
The severity of the disability and the projected future damages impact the value of your personal injury claim. If you were to settle your injury claim before you completed medical treatment, you could lose a substantial amount of money.
You could have ongoing medical bills and personal care costs. You may not be able to work, or your earning potential might be significantly lower because of the impairment. You want to ensure that you include all these damages in the value of your personal injury claim.
Type of Personal Injury Case
The type of personal injury case could have an impact on the time required to settle the claim. Some cases involve complicated areas of law, such as medical malpractice and wrongful death cases.
In a medical malpractice claim, you need a medical expert to review your case and provide expert testimony regarding the legal elements of a medical malpractice claim. It can take months for a medical expert to review your case and issue an opinion.
If you were injured in a trucking accident, multiple parties might be liable for your damages. Large corporations and insurance companies can take months to complete investigations into the cause of the accident. Federal investigators could also be involved because the trucking industry is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Time Required for an Investigation
Your personal injury lawyer needs sufficient time to conduct a comprehensive investigation to identify the liable parties and gather evidence proving fault. Some investigations could take a few months to complete. However, a complex personal injury case could take a year or more to investigate.
The investigation is crucial. You cannot recover money for your injury claim without evidence proving fault and liability. Depending on the parties involved and the facts of the case, it could take time to uncover the evidence proving negligence and wrongdoing.
Your lawyer may need to retain investigators, experts, and other professionals to assist in the investigation.
Length of Settlement Negotiations
Once you complete your medical treatment and your attorney completes the investigation, your lawyer can begin settlement negotiations.
Your personal injury lawyer prepares a detailed settlement package for the insurance company.
The settlement package contains a summary of the case, evidence proving fault, legal analysis of the claim, and evidence of your injuries and damages.
Your lawyer calculates the maximum value for your damages and demands payment of that amount to settle your claim. If the insurance company does not dispute fault and agrees with the settlement demand, there is no need for negotiations. However, that is usually not the case.
In most cases, the insurance company makes a counteroffer to settle the claim. Your attorney and the insurance company go back and forth to negotiate a settlement amount that all parties can accept.
Sometimes the parties cannot agree on a settlement amount. Your attorney could suggest mediation to resolve the claim. Mediation can be less costly and quicker than a trial.
Need to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith, your attorney might advise you to file a personal injury lawsuit. A personal injury lawsuit might also be necessary if the insurance company drags out the case and the deadline to file a lawsuit is about to expire.
It can take a year or longer for a personal injury case to come to trial. There are many steps involved in a personal injury lawsuit. There are also no guarantees that you will win if you go to trial.
For that reason, your personal injury attorney carefully weighs your options before advising you whether to accept a settlement offer or proceed with a personal injury lawsuit. An experienced trial litigator understands the risks involved and the strength and weaknesses of a case.
When you hire a lawyer to handle your personal injury claim, ask about the lawyer’s experience in the courtroom. Having a talented and successful trial litigator benefits you inside and outside of the courtroom. If the insurance company knows that your lawyer is willing to take the matter to trial and he has a reputation for winning, it might be more inclined to offer a fair settlement to avoid going to trial.