People who have been seriously injured as a result of another person’s negligence can face months of emotionally exhausting paperwork, meetings, and court hearings. They're confused, exhausted, and nervous about the future, and they want a resolution immediately.
The length of time it takes to settle a personal injury lawsuit varies with each case based on a variety of circumstances. Some of those factors may be beyond the control of you and even beyond the control of your lawyer. Some cases are settled fairly quickly - within a matter of weeks - while some may drag on for months or longer. The length of time it takes to settle a claim may depend on:
Shorter turnaround times in personal injury cases might occur when the injured person accepts an insurance company’s initial offer - which oftentimes is a lower amount than what the injury victim actually deserves. This can happen for many reasons, but all too often it happens because the injured person does not choose a lawyer who knows when to accept a settlement offer and when to turn it down. A dedicated and experienced attorney has your best interests at heart and will continue fighting the insurance companies until they offer fair compensation, even if it means a longer court process.
The most important thing to know in a personal injury case is that you should talk to a qualified lawyer to provide you with representation during the entire legal process. Going into a personal injury case without the right representation could draw out your claim process much longer than it needs to be.
One important factor that often influences the timeline of a personal injury case is whether or not the plaintiff has reached maximum medical improvement; that is, whether or not the injured individual has healed as best they could. This does not mean that the injury has been fully healed or that the person is not still in pain - it simply means that their injuries have improved to the most reasonable extent possible.
Until you reach that point, it’s difficult to provide a quantitative estimate of total medical expenses, lost wages, and physical/emotional suffering.
Even once you’ve reached maximum medical improvement, you may incur further expenses for factors such as:
The timeline to put together these estimates depends entirely on how much time it takes to reach maximum medical improvement - this could take weeks, months, or longer. A quick turnaround on a personal injury case generally signifies that either the injury was minor, the plaintiff accepted the first offer, or the insurance company rushed to close the settlement.
While it may be difficult to come to terms with, it’s important to consider the possibility that a personal injury case may last longer than you would like it to, especially when you’re in the middle of trying to heal from injuries at the hands of another person. That’s why it’s important to find legal representation that handles everything while you focus on what’s important - your own health and wellbeing.
Clients often rely on insurance companies to tell them what their case is worth, but the insurance company does not always have the best perspective. The insurance company may not have taken the time to truly understand the extent of your injuries. The true value of a case is in the details, you cannot come up with a settlement estimate without first factoring in all of the facts from the accident and the events following.
Personal injury cases, also referred to as tort cases, can be filed over a number of different harrowing situations. While these cases can range from minor accidents to catastrophic injuries, any time a person must deal with the complicated legal process while also trying to recover from an injury, life gets stressful.
The basics of a personal injury case involve a situation in which the injured person files a civil complaint against the person(s) responsible for the injury. Unlike criminal cases, in which a complaint is submitted by the government, injury cases are filed by the person who was injured. While we hear a lot about “settlements” injury cases are a court-based process, the total time and effort to resolve or settle a case varies.
Personal injury claim values depend entirely on the nature of the individual case. The real monetary value of any case generally depends on the following:
These factors fluctuate based on each individual situation, so it’s almost impossible to estimate the value of a case without a consultation with a qualified injury attorney. Many personal injury cases operate within a time constraint known as a statute of limitations, so it’s imperative that these filings take place as soon as possible after the incident.
The compensation from a personal injury claim also depends on the ability to prove that each of these costs have been, or will be, incurred by the injured person. Those who have been involved in an incident in which they were injured by another person should document everything - including medical bills, copies of old pay stubs to verify previous income, concrete financial loss, and more.
There’s no one simple mathematical formula for estimating the end value of a personal injury settlement. It would be foolish to calculate the compensation by simply factoring lost wages and medical bills (sometimes called “specials”)- many times, additional compensation can and should be awarded to the injured person as a result of physical and emotional suffering, which is often difficult to quantify.
The reason behind the complexity is that personal injury claims are not simple enough to be boiled down to a formula or calculation. Every person is unique. You cannot gauge someone’s losses due to injury with a simple number that can be multiplied or divided. For example, a pianist with a broken wrist will likely be entitled to more in monetary damages than a legal secretary. While the secretary may be able to continue to work with a wrist injury, that same injury could end a pianist’s career permanently.
Personal injury cases can be life-changing and emotionally taxing, so make sure that if you’re searching for legal representation for your personal injury case, you choose an attorney who has the experience necessary to get you full amount of compensation you deserve.
Insurance companies are interested in maximizing their own profits rather than maximizing payouts to injury victims. Many insurance companies operate under the strategy of, “Delay and Deny”, in the hopes of waiting out the claims process to push the injured person to accept a lower settlement.
The insurance company usually does not want to pay out a massive settlement in every case. If they did, they would go broke. The claims agent’s job is to settle the claim for the lowest possible amount. That’s why many attorneys will encourage you to fight back against the insurance companies - it’s important to know when to fight.
It’s okay to make a counteroffer when an insurance company offers a settlement, but you have to make an educated decision before moving forward. These are some of the questions you should go over with your attorney:
If the answer to any of these questions is “no” or “I don’t know”, it may be best to reconsider accepting the offer. However, you should also consider the emotional and financial stress the settlement process will put you through. Ultimately, this is a complicated decision that is best addressed by consulting with your attorney.
The first step in deciding whether or not to accept the offer is to compare the insurance company’s offer against your total expenses thus far. You should also ask the claims adjuster what factors they analyzed when presenting the claim, to see if they missed any information or expenses.
If you decide to respond to the offer, you will need to send in a written request detailing the circumstances surrounding either your acceptance or refusal of the offer. This will begin a back-and-forth process as both parties continue to gather evidence supporting their compensation request.
This is especially true in situations where the injuries are severe, as it can be more complicated to accurately quantify a fair settlement amount for harm that extends beyond the physical.
Refusing the offer will prompt a negotiation process between both parties. In this situation, it’s incredibly helpful to have a qualified attorney available to alleviate the stress of this process and ensure that the insurance company is not cutting corners or intentionally offering a settlement far lower than what you deserve.
If you sign a release with an insurance company, you may be agreeing to get paid, but you may be also agreeing that you will not receive any additional money from that insurance company. Before signing a release, you have the opportunity to discuss it with a lawyer. That's your right.
Sometimes insurance companies will approach an injured person immediately and offer a quick settlement. Sometimes that quick settlement doesn't consider the injured person's future damages, future losses due to that injury. Before signing any forms, it’s important to understand what each form means and how it can impact your case.
The series of events following a personal injury can be stressful and emotionally taxing, especially when faced with cumbersome documents and complicated paperwork. Some of this paperwork may include a release form from an insurance company. This form will come from the insurance company for the liable party - if you’re not at fault, your own insurance company will not request a release form.
When you sign a release from an insurance company, you may be relinquishing a number of things, including the other party’s liability for the accident, or granting access to your own medical records. There are multiple release forms, or authorization forms, that you may receive from an insurance company.
One example of a release form is a medical authorization release, which allows the insurance company access to your medical records. This could be to find information supporting your personal injury claim, but it may also mean that the insurance company will take the opportunity to find events in your medical history that could put your personal injury claim at risk. Before you sign a medical authorization release, it’s important to read the documents carefully and consult with an attorney to ensure you’re not relinquishing access to vulnerable information.
Another release form is a release of liability and claims, meaning you are forfeiting the guilty party’s liability in the case. These release forms are required before you reach a settlement, and once signed, it closes the case for good -- you can not reopen the case in the future once you release liability of the negligent party and their insurance company. While you’ll have to provide a signature to receive a settlement, it’s imperative that you’re willing to completely relinquish the case and walk away after signing the release.
Once you release liability, and the case is closed, you will not be eligible for future compensation from the liable party regardless of future damages resulting from the accident. You must weigh this possibility against the initial settlement offer -- you will not receive any compensation from an insurance company until you sign the form.
A third release, and certainly a more positive form, is the release that initiates your settlement and compensation distribution. A property damage release is your acknowledgement of the cost of damage as a result of your accident, and is the release of funding to cover those damages.
At Berry Law Firm, before our clients sign anything, we ensure that our clients are protected. If they are seeking monetary damages for their injuries, we research the extent of their injuries. We know what the costs are, we know the value of the case and we do not proceed, we do not sign anything, until we are positive that our clients are getting the best possible result from that release.