How Long Should a Personal Injury Case Take to Settle?
No one ever leaves home expecting to suffer a personal injury. Yet, from the time you step out the door, a personal injury can occur anywhere, at any time. In fact, within just one year, some 269,031 people were injured in California auto accidents. Unfortunately, an accident can easily happen when someone is negligent.
You probably searched this question out because you’ve recently experienced a personal injury. If so, you may be dealing with physical pain, lost days from work, and mounting medical bills.
Wondering how soon you can get a settlement to cover the losses you’re facing is certainly understandable.
The time it takes to settle a personal injury case can vary greatly. According to one source, a settlement can be obtained between 1 to 11 months. Typically, for minor injuries, a settlement occurs rather quickly. But, concerning a personal injury case with major injuries, getting a just settlement may even take years.
Basic Steps of a Personal Injury Case in California
After you have sustained a personal injury, there are some basic steps that you should take. Some of these include consulting a lawyer and working towards a settlement agreement.
Talk with a lawyer
Technically, you don’t have to hire a lawyer for your personal injury case; you can try to negotiate a personal injury settlement on your own with the insurance company. However, settlement negotiations can be very complicated.
Having personal injury attorneys by your side will help your personal injury case tremendously. Your attorney would be familiar with the entire process, so you could see a reasonable settlement offer come more quickly.
Why not get as much information as you can from legal professionals? After all, most personal injury firms offer a free case review. We do at Harker Injury Law. So there would be no cost for the initial consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys.
If you hire a lawyer, he or she should know how to calculate a fair settlement of compensation for your loss. Compensation would include such things as medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The amount would consider not only your present losses, but those of the future as well.
Once a fair sum is calculated, your lawyer would then issue a demand letter to the insurance company of the responsible party. This letter would include details of what occurred, damages that you suffered, and the amount requested as settlement for your injury and other losses.
Attempt to negotiate a settlement
It’s very unlikely that the insurance company will readily agree to the requested settlement amount right away. Rather, insurance adjusters are skillful at trying to lessen the amount of a personal injury claim and dragging the process on.
Your attorney, being familiar with insurance company tactics, will try to negotiate a fair amount. This may require a measure of back-and-forth communication with the insurance company until a final fair amount is agreed upon at last.
Sign a settlement agreement
Once a reasonable settlement offer is obtained, your attorney will notify you. Then you would sign an agreement that clarifies the terms.
Before signing, your lawyer would explain the details of the agreement to you. Finally, after your lawyer deducts his or her fee, you will receive your settlement check.
The above scenario would typically occur if you suffered minor injuries, such as cuts or sprains. But in most personal injury cases, where injuries are moderate to severe, the process isn’t that simple. Various factors could prolong the time it takes for you to receive your settlement.
Common Factors That Can Delay the Time of a Personal Injury Settlement in California
If you suffered major injuries, or if it’s a complex case, more time may be needed before you receive your settlement. It depends on the specific factors involved. While no two personal injury cases are the same, some of the most common causes of delays are highlighted here.
Complexity of the case
The process with some types of personal injury cases is simpler than others. In a slip-and-fall or car accident case, the at-fault party is typically easy to prove. Such cases usually result in rather quick settlements from insurance companies.
In more complex cases, proving fault isn’t as straightforward. Some examples of a complex personal injury claim include medical malpractice, product liability, and wrongful death. Extensive evidence, which takes time, would be needed to prove fault and get a settlement.
Personal injury claims of severe, or catastrophic, injuries require a considerable amount of time to get settled. This is because medical treatment and recovery from serious injuries will always take longer. And in some cases, it takes time to determine whether an injury has permanently changed the quality of life of a victim.
If you’ve suffered severe injuries, you would need to reach maximum medical improvement. At that point, you would need to have a medical assessment done by medical experts. This would be done in order to calculate future losses based on any resulting disability.
Another factor that can cause a delay in the settlement of your personal injury claim is when the at-fault party is not clearly identifiable. For example, if a driver runs a stop sign and causes an accident, he or she would obviously be at fault. But in an accident with multiple parties involved or when a driver’s brakes failed, liability may not be so clear.
Extensive independent investigation work would need to be done in order to gather evidence and determine who was really responsible for the accident. In some cases, the evidence may reveal more than one liable party. The driver could share a measure of responsibility along with the manufacturer of a faulty car part, for instance.
If multiple parties are found to be at fault, this could mean dealing with multiple insurance companies. Each insurance company would be looking to protect the interests of their own insurance holder by blaming the other involved parties.
Suing the defendant
If the insurance company is not cooperating in negotiating a fair settlement, then your lawyer may need to file a personal injury lawsuit. The discovery process of a lawsuit is very time-consuming. It involves interviewing witnesses and presenting evidence like medical records. Also, a trial date would need to be scheduled on the court docket.
Another reason why your lawyer would file a civil lawsuit is if your injuries or losses are more than the limits of the insurance company. In order for you to get a settlement, the at-fault party may need to be sued personally. At any time during the personal injury lawsuit process, your lawyer can reach an agreement with the at-fault party for a settlement.
Keep in mind that this list isn’t comprehensive. Other factors could affect the timeline of your settlement.
When you speak with your personal injury lawyer, try to mention as many details as possible about your case. This will help your lawyer to be able to give you a general outline of the actions he or she will take and how long it may take to receive your settlement.
Do remember that, throughout the entire process, your lawyer will be working hard to get you a settlement as quickly as possible. Some parts of the process will simply be beyond his or her control. So it pays to be patient.
Types of Fair Compensation Your Lawyer Would Seek for Your Settlement
It’s true that, in some cases, hiring a lawyer may mean more time will be taken to settle your claim. On the other hand, it’s your lawyer’s job to make sure you are fully compensated for all of your losses – not merely tied over for a little while.
Types of compensation your lawyer will seek for your settlement include:
- Expenses for medical care (present and future)
- Financial recovery for lost wages (present and future potential)
- Pain and suffering
- Wrongful death
- Possible punitive damages
This is by no means a complete list, but it does demonstrate why personal injury lawsuits sometimes need to be filed to win full compensation for injured victims.
Get Your Claim in Good Hands Today!
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you have a legal right to seek compensation. But trying to pursue a settlement on your own may increase any stress you may be feeling already. It just makes sense to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer who will already be familiar with the entire legal process.
Hiring a lawyer to represent you will give you peace of mind so you can focus on receiving medical treatment and healing. Your lawyer would know how to calculate and negotiate a settlement for you. He or she would also be able to counter the tactics used by insurance companies to minimize your claim.
There are many different personal injury law firms from which to choose. But not all firms will give you the same results. Your choice will have a direct impact on the final amount of your settlement. So choose a law firm with years of experience with personal injury cases, like Harker Injury Law.
Please do not sign anything or accept any money from an insurance company without first speaking to a California personal injury lawyer. Instead, get your case in good hands, with an attorney, before it’s too late. Contact us today for a free consultation with one of Harker Injury Law’s experienced personal injury attorneys.