You certainly want to resolve your personal injury case as fast as possible to pay medical bills, replace lost wages, and move on with your life. At the same time, it’s important to avoid accepting a settlement that is too low to adequately compensate you for your injuries and other damages.
The truth is you can resolve your personal injury case very quickly if you are willing to accept an initial lowball offer from the insurance company, but this is probably not in your best interests and the settlement may not even cover your damages.
Here’s what you can expect as a general timeline and why it’s important to avoid a fast personal injury settlement.
Important Factors that Affect Your Settlement Timeline
Personal injury claims can settle fairly quickly in a matter of weeks but some can drag on for years. Any number of factors can affect the timeline of your settlement, but three factors in particular can slow down your case:
- Your claim involves a large amount of money,
- There are legal or factual issues,
- You have no reached maximum medical improvement (MMI)
The claim amount affects the timeline because insurance companies do not like paying out large settlements. They will want to do everything they can to limit or deny your claim, and this process can drag on for many months. The larger your claim, the more due diligence on the part of the insurance company. This means investigating all liability issues and damages and refusing to make a fair settlement until they are positive they do not have a strong defense, your credibility can’t be attacked, and your injuries are as severe as you are claiming.
It’s also important to understand that personal injury claims have a value that’s determined by damages (how badly you were hurt by the defendant) and liability (who was at fault for your injuries). If it is hard to prove liability, it’s unlikely you will receive a fair offer from the insurance company until your personal injury lawyer files a lawsuit and hires experts to establish fault in your case. Damages can also be an issue if a physician is unsure the other party caused your injuries.
You will also need to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) to receive a fair offer. If you are still being treated for your injuries, it will not yet be clear if you will fully recover or have long-term or permanent disabilities or disfigurement from your injuries.
There are also other factors that can affect how long it takes to resolve your personal injury case. For example, the circumstances of the case can be a factor and even the size of the insurance company. Large insurance companies are usually more conservative and offer low initial settlement offers and handle a large caseload that can drag out your case.
Your personal injury attorney can help you understand factors in your case that can affect the value of your settlement and a rough idea of how long it will take. In general, claims with clear damages and liability can settle within a few months while complex claims can take years.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Reduce Your Timeline
Keep in mind you will probably receive an initial offer from the insurance company, usually within weeks of the accident. While it may be tempting to accept this offer when you need money to replace your lost wages and cover medical bills, it’s most likely a lowball offer that will not fully compensate you, especially if you have very painful, long-lasting, or significant injuries.
If you do not want to accept your initial offer, your personal injury lawyer can advise you on the best course of action that may include sending a demand letter that details your injuries or preparing for trial.
A personal injury attorney can help you speed up the process of resolving your claim by gathering evidence of liability and your damages, negotiating with the insurance adjusters, avoiding the pitfalls of insurance settlement offers, and taking your case to court if the insurance company refuses to make a fair offer.