We recently shared a blog about how long you have in Georgia to settle a personal injury claim, which includes the two-year statute of limitations. We would like to address a similar but different question: how long does it take to settle a personal injury claim?
Many people who are injured wonder how long it takes to settle a personal injury claim. After the initial shock of the injury starts to wear off, people begin to ask when the “nightmare” process will end. Personal injury claims can take a few months or even a couple of years depending on the case. If someone wants to settle the claim early, they can do so. However, there is a catch: they’ll have to settle for less money than they could get if they wait.
In this article, we will examine why some personal injury claims take more time to settle and whether you should accept a quick settlement.
Why Personal Injury Claims Take So Long?
In general, the more significant an injury is, the longer it will take to settle. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule because every person and every claim is unique. But, here at The Jewkes Firm, LLC, we will always encourage you to settle your claim until you are done or nearly done with treatment. We will always encourage our clients to not rush settlement in the event their injury turns out worse than they expect and lingers. We recommend our clients make sure they are fully recovered before accepting any settlement as the prospect of additional medical treatment and pain and suffering increases the value of a claim, but once you settle you cannot go back and settle a second time. In other words, you only get “one bite of the apple.”
Here are at least three common reasons why personal injury claims may seem to move slow, sometimes months or years:
The insurance company wants to hold on to their money as long as possible;
Factual or legal problems exist, including whether the at-fault party or their insurance has accepted responsibility; and
The injured party has not yet reached complete medical improvement (or maximum medical improvement) from their injuries.
If any of the above-mentioned situations are involved in your case, it’ll take more time to settle unless you’re willing to accept less money to resolve the case quickly. Let’s look at these situations in more detail.
Large Sums of Money
When injuries in a claim are significant, a large amount of money should be paid by the liable party and their insurance company as compensation. The insurer of the liable party simply won’t pay the large amount of money on such a case or offer a settlement to resolve the case until they themselves have done a proper investigation of the case and are convinced a jury will do the same. The insurance company will investigate all aspects of liability as well as the damages associated with the case. The insurance company of the at-fault party will not settle for any reasonable amount of money until they are convinced that victim’s claim is credible, their injuries are severe, and they cannot defend the case.
Sometimes insurers purposely delay settlements on big cases hoping that the plaintiff (victim) will get tired and give up, settling for less money. Most injured victims need money from the settlement and can’t wait for a long time to get compensated. Insurance companies are well aware of this which is why they take their time to settle the case.
Finally, insurance companies like to hold on to funds set aside for accident victims as long as possible because they earn interest on the funds. Thus, a year delay on a large claim can enrich the insurance company with interest earned and is pleasing to the insurance company’s executives and stockholders.
Factual or Legal Problems
In a personal injury claim, the case value is determined through the considered liability or responsibility of the at-fault party as well as the severity of harm done to the plaintiff.
If proving liability (negligence of the defendant) is not clear and is difficult, then the insurance company will likely not offer a reasonable amount of settlement until the attorney of the plaintiff has filed the case and hired experts to prove the defendant’s fault. If legal issues exist in the case, then the insurance company won’t offer any settlement. The insurance company may be convinced that the victim doesn’t have the legal right of suing the at-fault party or that a jury will not find in favor of the victim. For example, if there are no witnesses to a car wreck and no video recordings, and the drivers each blame the other for being responsible, the insurance company for the at-fault driver may not pay without a legal court battle.
Alternatively, there could be issues with damages. For example, doctors treating the plaintiff might not be sure that the negligence of the defendant caused the injury of the plaintiff. The plaintiff always carries the burden of proof in the court about the defendant’s negligence and the subsequent injuries. If the plaintiff’s doctors aren’t sure about this, then they’ll lack sufficient evidence to win the case. Therefore, the insurance company won’t offer them a settlement until their attorney can provide some evidence that shows that the defendant is directly responsible for the injuries of the plaintiff.
For example, if an injured driver was rear-ended multiple times in the year before their most recent car wreck, the insurance company will likely claim that the prior car wrecks caused the plaintiff’s injuries rather than the most recent car wreck. This is one type of scenario that may not settle for fair compensation without filing a lawsuit and hiring experts.
Maximum or Complete Medical Improvement
Sometimes settlements take more time because the injuries of the plaintiff are severe and require extensive medical treatment, even surgery, and rehabilitation. Sometimes the surgery or medical treatment is not effective and alternative treatments must be considered. If you are injured and undergoing treatment, you should not settle for compensation unless you have no other options. Unless there are factors beyond our control, we recommend that you wait to settle until after you reach maximum medical improvement.
Maximum or complete medical improvement means that you have fully recovered—or that your doctors have done everything they can and your body has reached the point where treatment will no longer be helpful or therapeutic. An example of this may be where you have completely healed except for loss of use of a body part, such as an arm or leg, and there is nothing more the doctors can do for you. The reason you should wait to settle until reach this point is because you will have a better understanding of your injuries, including the limitations on your lifestyle due to the injury, as well as the prognosis or future treatment required, and therefore you will have a better understanding of the potential value of your claim. If you are still being treated for your injuries but settle your case, you will not be able to know the fair and reasonable amount of settlement you are entitled.
If you cannot wait, you can accept the early settlement from the insurance company and settle for less amount of money. However, we advise against that. If you need help filing a personal injury lawsuit, hire an experienced personal injury attorney from The Jewkes Firm.