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How Long Does It Take To Settle A Personal Injury Claim?
One of the first questions that a client asks a personal injury lawyer once their case has been accepted is how long it will take to settle the case. This is a valid question. Sadly it does not have a very easy answer.
The only truthful answer to this question is – It depends.
There are many different factors that will determine when your case will settle. Understanding these factors will help you know where your case is in the process.
Maximum Medical Improvement
Your personal injury attorney is going to wait until your doctors have stated that you have reached maximum medical improvement. This is a medical term meaning that there will be no further progress in your recovery.
If you have multiple or severe injuries, it can take longer to reach your maximum medical improvement. If your injuries are less severe, they will come more quickly.
Why do you want to wait for this distinction? Because it gives your attorney the necessary information, they need about how much this injury has impacted your life. For example, if you reach your maximum medical improvement and the doctor states that you will need ongoing care for the rest of your life, your attorney can make sure the cost for this care is covered in your compensation. If your improvement states that you will need additional corrective surgery in the future, that will be included in your settlement.
Related: What kind of evidence should I be gathering after an accident?
If you do not wait until you have reached your maximum improvement, you may find yourself facing financial hardships in the future because your settlement did not cover the costs of your future care.
If there is some difficulty in determining who is liable for the accident and injuries, it can delay your case from settling. Your attorney will have to conduct a further investigation about the accident so that they can prove you were not at fault for the event. Investigations can take time.
Once all of the information has been gathered about your claim, your attorney will begin the negotiation process with the insurance company. This can go quickly, or it may become a long process. This will all depend on the insurer.
Insurance companies will never accept the first offer from the attorney. How long the offer/counteroffer process takes will depend on how long the insurance company takes to respond each time and how much negotiations take place. Every time an offer is received from the insurance company, your attorney will inform you of the offer amount and tell you if the offer is good or not. You will then have the option to continue to negotiate or accept the offer.
If the case has a very high value, you should expect the insurance company to prolong the negotiations process as long as they possibly can. They never want to make a payout, especially if it is large. Just be patient.
If your case goes to trial, which less than five percent reaches this point, it could cause your case to be delayed for at least another year or two as the case is prepared for court. Thankfully most personal injury claims never make it to this stage.
Can I Accept An Early Offer If I Need The Cash?
Yes, you can accept an undervalued offer early in the case process. However, it is important to understand that when you accept this offer, the case is ended, and you cannot return to ask for additional money for your losses. If you still need medical care or find out you cannot return to work; you will no longer be able to hold the responsible party accountable for these losses.
Speak With Your Attorney
An experienced personal injury attorney will know the approximate value of your case based on the losses you have had. They will be able to tell when the insurance company is treating you fairly. Work with your attorney to get the maximum compensation package for your losses.
Further reading: How to file a personal injury claim without a lawyer