Each personal injury case is unique. The circumstances and the nature of the injuries will differ and therefore the time it takes to resolve each claim will also differ. Settlements may take years or may be arrived at in a matter of months, especially if the attorney is zealous in fighting for their client’s rights. The factors that will affect the length of time it takes to reach a settlement include:
1. The Time it Takes to Fully Recover
The term “fully recover” means that the injured party has reached the point of maximum recovery and their health will not improve beyond that point. This stage of recovery is determined by their doctor and can take more than a year if the injuries were severe. Only at the point of maximum recovery is it possible to determine how many of their injuries are permanent. It is necessary that they get to this stage so that their attorney can demand an appropriate settlement. It may take several months to more than a year to fully recover from severe injuries.
2. The Process of Demanding a Settlement
This is the point at which the injured party’s attorney will present the insurance company with a demand for a settlement. In their demand, they will show insurance adjusters all the facts related to the accident. They will include elements such as:
• Police reports
• Pictures of the scene of the accident
• Pictures of the injuries that resulted from the accident
• Pleadings that the attorney will file if the settlement is not forthcoming
• Video testimony from experts and/or witnesses
The point of the settlement package is to convince the insurance company to settle the case quickly and for a fair amount. It may take several weeks to compile this information and for the insurance company to evaluate it.
3. Mediation if the Demand is Not Met
This is another way that an injured individual can get their settlement without going to court. It consists of a meeting between the injured individual’s attorney and the insurance company. Prior to this meeting, the injured individual’s attorney will need to know the lowest number that their client will accept. Many attorneys will ask for this in writing or ask that the client sign a written statement. This ensures that they know how much their client wants prior to the start of negotiations. Mediation rarely lasts more than a day.
4. Going to Trial
If the injured party and the insurance company are unable to arrive at a settlement, it may then be necessary to take the case to trial where a judge or jury will resolve it. Rulings against one or the other of the two parties may prompt a settlement before a verdict is reached. A trial can take several months or several years, depending on the complexity of the case.
These are just a few of the different factors that may delay a settlement. An experienced attorney will know how to mitigate most of them and ensure that their clients are treated fairly.