One of the biggest questions on the mind of personal injury victims is “how long will my case take?” When trying to determine how long it will take to receive a settlement in a personal injury claim, it’s important to note that the answer varies greatly from case to case and depends on many different factors.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact our legal team at Drake & Collopy, P.C. We have decades of experience representing injury victims and can put that experience to work for you. We will work to build a strong case to help ensure you receive fair compensation as quickly as possible. Our goal is to maximize your recovery and to help you get on with your post-accident life quickly and efficiently.
Resolution of the Injuries and Completion of Medical Treatment
The first thing that’s critical to understand is that (with rare exceptions) no settlement negotiations can take place until the injuries you sustained in the accident are fully resolved or at a point of “maximum medical improvement”. Furthermore, all medical treatment must be completed. If the injuries are of a permanent nature such that ongoing or future medical care will be required, there is a different calculus. In this situation, the injuries must be stabilized to the extent that your doctors can confidently give 1) a long-term prognosis; 2) can testify as to your permanent restrictions and disabilities due to the injuries; and 3) can testify as to the future medical care you are likely to require.
The reason settlement negotiations cannot begin until the injuries are fully resolved or stabilized and all treatment is completed is simple. Your damages are not fully known and documented prior to this point. If the case was settled prematurely, the settlement would not include the full amount of your damages. You would not be fully compensated for all of your medical bills, and the pain and suffering portion of your settlement would almost certainly be undervalued. Any future medical care or long-term disabilities would be unknown and would not be included.
Assume that you settle your case while still under medical treatment for your injuries. Now assume that you later find out that surgery is recommended because your injury is not resolving. Unfortunately, your settlement would be far less than it should have been, and you will have no recourse. The bottom line is that it is never a good idea to settle your case prematurely.
It is important to note that the duration of the injuries and medical treatment is one of the biggest variables in determining the length of the case. No attorney can predict how long it will take for your injuries to resolve or how much medical care you will require. Therefore, it is impossible to predict how long the case will take or the amount of the settlement at the beginning of the case.
Gathering the Evidence of Your Damages
Once your injuries have resolved to the greatest degree possible and you have been discharged by all medical providers, your attorney will request all the necessary documentation from your medical providers including billing statements, medical records, and potentially narrative reports to document any permanent injuries, permanent restrictions or disabilities, future medical care, and long-term prognosis. This process can take several months or longer depending on the level of cooperation from the medical providers.
The Negotiation Process
Once all of the documentation has been gathered to support all elements of damages in your case, the negotiation process can begin. Negotiating a Chicago personal injury claim starts with a demand package being sent by your attorney to the insurance company adjuster. Usually, a demand package includes:
- A detailed description of the injuries, medical treatment, lost time from work, and any ongoing or permanent restrictions a victim has experienced because of the accident
- An itemization of all medical bills, lost wages, and any other economic damages
- Photos of any visible injuries as well as any permanent scarring or deformity
- A detailed explanation of the theory of liability as well as any documentation to support the theory
While the average negotiation process takes between one and three months, this isn’t the case for all situations. In fact, some cases can take much longer to settle or resolve.
The insurance adjuster usually will take at least several weeks and, in some cases, months, to fully evaluate the claim and to respond to the claimant’s demand package.
The Timeline for Personal Injury Settlement Negotiation
In most negotiations, there’s a substantial amount of back-and-forth between the accident victim’s attorney and the insurance adjuster. Generally, the insurance company’s initial offer will be substantially below the amount sought by the claimant.
Depending on the position taken by the insurance company, your attorney may need to gather additional documentation and evidence to show why you deserve to receive a higher settlement than what has been offered.
It’s worth noting that the more back and forth that takes place with the insurance company, the longer the negotiation process will take.
Reasons Negotiations May Take Longer Than Expected
Insurance companies want to pay as little as possible on each claim. They may deny your claim entirely, or they may substantially reduce the amount of liability they accept. Assuming the insurance company is willing to negotiate in good faith, the negotiation process may take an extended period of time in order to receive a full and fair settlement.
Here are some reasons why settlement negotiations in your case may take longer than normal:
- There are issues pertaining to liability or percentage of fault
- The injuries and damages are more severe and/or complex
- There are issues regarding causation of the injuries, especially when the claimant had injuries to the same body part(s) prior to the accident
- There are multiple defendants and/or responsible insurance companies
- You also have a workers’ compensation claim pertaining to the accident
Stall tactics and/or hard-bargaining tactics also extend the overall negotiation timeline. Some hard-bargaining tactics used include:
- Commitment tactics: The insurance adjuster will claim their hands are tied or that they can’t do more when it comes to a settlement offer.
- Take-it-or-leave-it strategy: Insurance carriers will refuse to negotiate further beyond their “top offer”.
- Belittling the alternatives: The insurance adjuster attempts to minimize your injuries and damages to reduce the amount of the settlement.
Going to Court to Resolve Your Claims
Ultimately, if the parties are unable to agree on a settlement amount, or if the claim is denied completely, a lawsuit must be filed in court. A lawsuit may also be filed because the case is unable to be settled before the statute of limitations expires.
When your case is taken to court, the case will ultimately be decided by a judge or jury (if it can’t be settled before or during trial). Unfortunately, cases that must go to trial can take several additional years to be resolved. Cases in litigation are often settled well before the trial date, however, so not every lawsuit will take years to resolve.
Our Legal Team Is Here to Help with Your Personal Injury Settlement
If you want to maximize the compensation you receive and do it in a timely manner, contact our experienced legal team at Drake & Collopy, P.C. Our legal team will aggressively fight for your rights to ensure that you receive full and fair compensation for the injuries and damages you suffered. Contact us today for a free consultation.