How long will it take my personal injury case to settle? If you’re asking yourself this question, you are probably already dealing with the financial fallout of your injury.
After an accident, you can be left with costly medical bills, unpaid time off work, and a long recovery with few guarantees.
You need compensation to support yourself and afford medical care, but your case may take anywhere from weeks to even years to actually settle.
Technically, your claim can likely be settled very quickly, but it is almost never in your best interest to do so. How long it takes to settle a personal injury case and recover full compensation depends on many factors, including the severity of your injuries and the complexity of your case. Here is what you should know about the timeline ahead of you.
Why the Insurance Company Wants to Quickly Settle Your Claim
As you begin to prepare your claim and work with a personal injury lawyer, it may help to understand what you are up against. You may be pressured to quickly accept a settlement offer from the insurance company, sometimes within a week of your accident.
Just remember that the insurance company is not making this timely offer to help you; they hope you will settle quickly.
It’s in the insurance company’s best interest to settle your claim as quickly as possible and for as little money as they can get you to accept. Shortly after submitting a claim to the at-fault party’s insurance carrier, you may be offered an initial settlement.
If you accept this offer, you are waiving your right to recover any additional compensation, even if your injuries turn out to be more severe than you thought or you are not fully compensated.
The insurance company will almost never agree to the full value of your personal injury case without pressure, especially if you were severely injured. In an attempt to get you to accept their offer, they may try to claim you were at fault for the crash, shift at least some liability onto you, or trick you into making admissions that weaken your claim.
As helpful as it may seem to get this initial offer, never accept an insurance company’s settlement offer without consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer to understand your claim’s full value.
Factors that Affect How Long it Takes to Settle a Personal Injury Case
There are many factors that influence how long it takes to settle your injury claim and recover fair compensation. The following are some of the most important factors that determine the timeline you should expect.
Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
The more severe your injuries, the more valuable your claim is likely to be. This affects how long it takes your case to settle because insurance companies will spend more time, effort, and money to fight high-value claims than fairly low-value claims. If your accident resulted in severe injuries that cause disability, severe pain, or impact your daily life, it will probably take longer to settle your claim than if you made a fast and full recovery.
A related factor is something known as maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is when your physician determines that no additional medical treatment will improve your condition. This may mean a full recovery, but it can also mean that you have a condition that has left you disabled and no treatment will help.
The longer it takes to reach MMI, the longer it takes to settle your injury claim. This is because the severity of your injuries, whether you are disabled, and projected future damages will all impact the value of your claim. If you settle before you reach MMI, you may be leaving money on the table that you will need later.
Type of Personal Injury Case
Some types of personal injury cases settle faster than others. This is because it depends on the complexity of your case. Some types of cases, such as wrongful death and medical malpractice, are inherently more complicated than, for example, car accident cases.
With a medical malpractice claim, a medical expert must review your case and provide testimony to prove several elements of your claim. This process alone may take months.
Some cases also involve multiple parties who share liability. This requires a lengthy accident investigation to determine who is liable and to what degree. With truck accidents, for example, federal investigators may even be involved.
How clear is liability in your case? The easier it is to establish liability, the faster your claim can be settled. If liability is shared by multiple parties, or there are some doubts as to who is at fault, it can take much longer to negotiate and settle your claim. With liability at all in doubt, the insurance company will try to shift blame onto you or even another party to limit the amount they need to pay or avoid responsibility completely.
How Long Will Settlement Negotiations Take?
After you reach maximum medical improvement, your personal injury lawyer will begin negotiating to reach a settlement. This will include preparing a demand letter and settlement package with a summary of your case, evidence establishing fault, a legal analysis of a claim, and evidence of your damages.
This demand will be for the maximum value of your damages your lawyer has calculated. Negotiations will not be needed if the insurance company agrees with your damages and does not dispute fault, but negotiations are usually needed.
The insurance company will usually make a counteroffer to settle and negotiations will go back and forth. If a settlement can’t be reached, mediation may be used to hopefully resolve your claim without a time-consuming and costly trial.
Do You Need to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If the insurance company does not agree to a fair settlement and mediation fails, your personal injury lawyer will likely advise filing a personal injury lawsuit. It can take up to a year for your case to actually go to trial with many steps involved, including discovery and additional negotiation. There is no guarantee you will win by going to trial, but the insurance company is also taking a risk that the jury will give you a larger award.
Most personal injury cases settle without going to trial, but it’s important to choose a personal injury lawyer with courtroom experience and confidence.
Have you been injured by someone else’s negligence? If you are considering filing a personal injury lawsuit or pursuing a claim, contact McGuire Law Firm for a free consultation. Our Oklahoma City personal injury lawyers have more than 60 years of combined experience representing accident victims in seeking fair compensation.