When it comes to an accident or personal injury claim, the question on everyone’s mind is “how long is my personal injury settlement going to take?”
Ask any personal injury attorney and they will most likely answer “Well, that depends on many factors.”
While this is certainly true, the average length of time it takes to settle your personal injury case comes down to one question.
Will you accept a quick offer, or do you want to contest every dollar?
In this article, we will shed light on all the nuances of settling a personal injury lawsuit, so you’ll know what to expect. Specifically, we’ll cover….
Let’s get started….
What is Personal Injury?
Personal injury refers to any physical injury that has been inflicted on a person’s body and also includes their mind and emotions. Personal injury cases are legal disputes that result from the accident and are followed by steps to protect your legal rights after the accident and injury as well as allowing you to obtain compensation for the settlement.
There is no surefire way to determine an exact estimate on just how long it will take for you collect the settlement for your personal injury case. However, there are some parameters that may provide you with a better idea of the typical timelines involved.
For a workplace accident claim, you may be looking at approximately six to nine months for the estimated case settlement timeframe. The same applies for slip, trip, and fall claims. However, the timeline may be extended due to several issues including proving liability and providing proper medical evidence. These are also the two fundamental issues you should always take into consideration regarding any personal injury case.
The Quick Personal Injury Settlement
Insurance companies are notorious for trying to rush people into settling their claims quickly. They do this because it almost always plays in their favor.
When filing a claim, it is always important to remember that the insurance company is not on your side and they will do what they can to avoid having to pay out substantial amounts of money for your settlement.
- Sometimes the full extent of injuries does not materialize for months and if the claim is already settled the insurance company is off the hook.
Your personal injury lawyer will most likely advise you not to settle a claim until you have fully recovered from all of your injuries. Otherwise, you will want to obtain a complete prognosis from an independent medical expert that will confirm the actual extent of the injuries you are suffering and when you will most likely be considered recovered from these injuries. It will also detail how the injuries may affect you in the future and what it may prevent you from doing.
Never settle the claim until you have reached the full and final basis, meaning everything is in order or you have completely recovered. Once the settlement is final, no further compensation will be granted, so it is best to follow the steps as outlined by your personal injury attorney.
- Sometimes people simply don’t want to be bothered with a prolonged process or the hassle of the lawsuit. This tends to financially benefit insurers.
Depending on the complexity of your case, it may take longer to collect all the necessary information and documentation for your settlement.
An interim payment may be paid on account of the compensation you are likely to receive from your claim. Following your accident and injuries, you may experience limited or stopped income from work on top of all the additional expenses resulting from the accident. Personal injury cases can take a lot of time to settle and sometimes you may feel forced to accept a lower settlement just so you can cover the expanding and increasing costs.
An interim payment may be the perfect solution and will help deter you from accepting a lower settlement purely based on the fact that you need the money now. If you feel that you are in a good place and can represent a good and reliable personal injury case, then you are in the ideal position to request interim pay.
Interim payments are often backed by the insurance company. The same insurance company that may try to drag out the settlement process to put you in further financial strain, so you feel compelled to accept the lower settlement. Your personal injury attorney should be well aware of these tactics and will be able to ensure that you receive fair compensation in a timely manner.
- Sometimes multiple policies exist to cover your injuries and taking a quick settlement offer allows you to only claim against one of them. This is an obvious bonus for the insurance company.
You should allow your personal injury attorney to become your first line of defense when it comes to dealing with all the tactics the insurance company may throw at you.
The Long Personal Injury Settlement
Hiring a personal injury lawyer and drilling down on the details does not expedite your claim, unfortunately. In fact, this might have the opposite effect.
A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer is going to carefully go through the facts and details of your injury case and claim and file a lawsuit on your behalf. Once the insurance company is notified that you are represented by an attorney their behavior is likely to change as well. Instead of pushing for the quick settlement for the injury claim, they might start trying to slow or delay the process. Another tactic often deployed by the insurance company.
The insurance company wants you to become impatient because they know the motivation for you to hire a lawyer is to get more money. The more impatient you become, the higher the chances you’ll settle for less.
When it comes to the actual dynamics of the lawsuit, some key time factors are:
- How long it takes you to finish medical treatment or a doctor notes saying you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).
- The length of time it takes a paralegal to collect a full set of your chart notes and other medical records.
- The length of time it takes to compile a demand letter (can be very long for complicated cases) and how long it takes an insurance company to respond.
If your (civil) lawsuit does go to trial it will take on average 3-10 days. Sounds great right? Well, the trial itself might be short but getting there will likely take at least 6 months to a year. Perhaps much longer.
There are numerous issues that can delay an already painstaking and bureaucratic process. If your claim and personal injury case involves a substantial amount of money, then you can expect the timeframe to be even longer.
Timeline of a Personal Injury Settlement
Estimating the length of time it takes to reach a settlement for your personal injury lawsuit may be difficult. But having a basic timeline is helpful. Here are a few of the steps involved:
- Medical treatment is sought – Step one is always get seen by a doctor, without this initial visit an insurance company or jury won’t believe that you are injured.
The length of time it takes to receive proper medical treatment depends on the severity of the injuries sustained during the accident. While some may only require one or two visits, other more serious injuries could mean months of treatment and recovery time.
- An attorney is hired – Determining if you need a lawyer can be a tough call, but if your claim is large or you’re unsure it’s usually a safe bet. If you don’t know where to find one you can use our free settlement estimate.
The benefits of hiring a personal injury lawyer to help you with your claim typically far outweigh any disadvantages. A personal injury attorney will help you gather all the evidence and documentation you need, they will ensure that you are adhering to the deadlines, and they are aware of the tactics the insurance companies may use against you to try and settle for far less than you are owed.
- Attorney obtains medical records and investigates – The first step your attorney will take is to gather as much information as possible and to review all the relevant facts & medical records. This can take months. However, it is vital to the success of your personal injury case that you have all the necessary documentation to help prove your case and lead you to the proper amount of compensation.
- Attorney considers negotiating position – An attorney may simply send a demand letter to the insurance company if they think settlement is the best option. Or they may file a lawsuit and go through the whole process. This should only be done once you’ve reached MMI.
Most personal injury cases typically settle out of court once the terms are negotiated and agreed upon by both parties. More complex cases, however, may need to go to court.
- The lawsuit is filed – Once a lawsuit is officially filed its a waiting game for the trial to occur. Each state has a different process and set of regulations for this, but expect it to take at least 6 months to one year and in some cases, it may even take up to two years before the case finally goes to trial.
Timelines vary state to state and everyone’s pretrial procedures may be different. Keep in mind that while it may take a while to go to court, the lawsuit itself should still be filed within the time limits that have been established for the state. Always keep in mind the statute of limitations and adhere to the deadlines.
The discovery process begins – This is a pretrial procedure where each side gains access to the other side’s legal arguments and defenses. Sometimes this includes a deposition. During the discovery process, each party will investigate the claim and document any requests they may have. The discovery process may take six months to a year to complete depending on the complexity of the case and the deadlines established by the court.
- Mediation or negotiation occurs – Once the discovery process has been completed. The attorneys will often discuss settlement. Sometimes a settlement can be easily hashed out directly but often they will go in front of a mediator in an effort to reach an agreement and avoid a trial. A mediator is needed when the two parties cannot agree on a settlement.
The mediator will offer their unbiased opinion on the matter and will help the parties try to settle outside of court.
The trial takes place – Very few civil personal injury claims end up in a trial. If yours does a date will be set (probably rescheduled a few times), and a trial will proceed.
The trial will happen when mediation and other negotiation efforts have failed. Again, as mentioned before, the trial date may be rescheduled several times due to a conflict with the judge’s schedule. In some cases, it may even be canceled. However, this does not necessarily mean that the insurance company is out to get you. It is common for trials to end up on a different date than originally scheduled and may be delayed for innumerable reasons.
- Receive your settlement – If all goes well you will receive your settlement check shortly after the trial concluded.
You will first need to sign a release form that states you will not seek any further compensation from the defendant regarding this particular incident. If you do not sign this form, then the insurance company will not send you the compensation check.
Once all the paperwork is in order, it may take between two to three weeks to receive the check. The attorney will receive the check and then deposit the funds into a client trust account. They will then settle any liens that may exist and will give you the portion that is remaining after everything has been settled.
As you can see, it’s hard to pin down the average length of time it takes a personal injury lawsuit to get settled. Just remember to keep a few basics in mind.
- The process can go fast if you take a quick settlement and don’t hire an attorney, but this has considerable risks associated with it.
- If you do pursue a full settlement with the help of an attorney be prepared to wait for medical treatment to resolve, all records to be collected, and for a slow administrative process to play out.
- The timeline of a lawsuit follows a predictable pattern injury>medical treatment>attorney is hired>attorney gathers information>attorney negotiates>lawsuit is filed >discovery happens>mediation takes place>trial ensues>settlement check
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