After you have been seriously injured in an accident, you are likely left struggling with medical bills and lost wages while trying to provide for your family. While you certainly want your injury case to settle as soon as possible to make up for your damages and move on with your life, you should still avoid accepting a settlement offer from the insurance company that is too low to fully compensate you.
Personal injury cases can be settled very quickly if you’re willing to accept far less than is reasonable in a settlement, but this fast settlement typically means accepting less than your actual damages. Here’s what you can expect in terms of how long it usually takes for a personal injury case to settle and why you should avoid the temptation of giving in too soon.
Several Factors Affect the Timeline of Your Injury Case
Fairly straightforward injury claims can settle in weeks or several months, while other cases can take years to resolve. The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before going to court, but your case can take a few years if it reaches a jury. There are dozens of factors that can impact the time it takes to resolve your accident case, but the three most important factors that can slow down your settlement are:
- Legal or factual issues with your case,
- A significant amount of money is involved, or
- You have not yet reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) for the injuries you have sustained.
Every personal injury claim has a value determined by liability, or who was at fault for your injuries, and damages, or the severity of your injuries plus expenses you have and will incur as a result. If liability is not clear in your case, you are unlikely to receive a fair settlement offer from the insurance company until your personal injury lawyer helps you file a lawsuit and establish fault. Sometimes there are issues proving damages as well. This may be the case if a physician is not sure the other person’s negligence led to your injuries.
Your case can also drag on longer if it involves a large amount of money. Insurance companies do not want to make large settlement offers without doing everything possible to limit or deny the claim. You can expect the insurance company to thoroughly investigate all aspects of liability and damages in your case and attempt to introduce doubt and ambiguity in your case. A reasonable offer will not be made until the insurance company is sure they do not have a good defense against your case, your injuries are as serious as you claim, and your credibility cannot be attacked.
The third major factor that affects your timeline is whether you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement or you are still being treated for your injuries. Insurance companies rarely make fair offers while treatment is ongoing because it’s still unknown if you will fully recover. It’s not in your best interest to settle during this time, either, as you may accept a low settlement but be left with long-term medical problems or disability that prevents you from working.
While these are the three most important factors, there are several other circumstances that can affect how long it takes to settle your personal injury claim. For example, even the size of the insurance company can be a factor as large insurance carriers tend to take a conservative approach or have large caseloads that slow down the process. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand how the factors in your case can affect the potential value of your settlement and how long it may take to resolve your case.
Don’t Accept the First Offer to Settle
After you make an injury claim against the insurance company, you can expect to receive an initial settlement offer within a month after the insurance adjuster has time to consider your case. While it may be tempting to accept this offer when you are struggling to recover and have missed work, remember that it is unlikely to be fair compensation for your injuries, especially if you suffered very painful, serious, or long-lasting injuries.
Insurance companies offer low initial settlements to reduce their payout costs and dissuade victims from advancing their claim. It is very uncommon for initial settlement offers to consider reduced earning capacity due to disability, disfigurement, pain and suffering, lost wages, and any other damages aside from immediate medical costs.
You have the right to reject this initial offer and pursue your claim further. If you choose to seek representation from a personal injury attorney, your attorney can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf for a reasonable offer or help you take your case to court if necessary.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Reduce Your Settlement Timeline
Injury settlement timelines are difficult to predict, but working with a knowledgeable personal injury law firm can help you avoid pitfalls and speed up the settlement process. While insurance companies try to drag out the process as long as possible, an attorney will have the experience necessary to gather evidence of your claim, negotiate with the adjusters, and take your case before a jury if the insurance company refuses a reasonable offer.
You can make your case as strong as possible by seeking immediate medical attention following your accident, following all instructions and recommendations from your doctors, and maintaining evidence of your injuries. Your attorney will handle negotiations to help you seek the compensation you deserve to move on with your life.
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