Before you take the steps to file a personal injury lawsuit, you are probably wondering how long the entire process will take. The popular belief that all lawsuits will drag on and on is not always true, but some people are even hesitant to file a lawsuit because they fear it will just take forever to resolve. However, on the flip side, some people think that filing the lawsuit will result in an immediate return of compensation, which is highly unlikely.
This question is difficult to answer without considering many factors because a variety of things can affect the length of your personal injury case. In general, a personal injury case will settle more quickly if you are willing to take less compensation, but you have to consider how much compensation you would be giving up for a quicker settlement. Most lawsuits end up settling before a trial regardless of how long they take. For more information on pre-trial settlements and statistics, click here.
Below, we will outline several reasons why your personal injury case may be taking long to settle and why you should think twice before taking a lesser settlement.
Why Is My Case Taking So Long?
Personal injury cases usually take quite some time to settle or resolve. The reasons a case can progress slowly can be summed up into three general points:
- Your case is slowed down by legal or factual problems
- Your case involves a lot of damages and substantial compensation
- You have not reached maximum medical improvement from your injuries (this will be explained below)
The bad news is that sometimes cases just take a long time to settle and there is not much to be done about it unless you are willing to take a lesser sum. We will break down these three common problems below.
Your Case Is Slowed Down By Legal Problems
Legal problems such as disputes over determining liability, who is responsible, and disputes over the damages, the monetary value, can slow your case down.
In cases where liability is hard to prove and an insurance company is involved, then it is very unlikely the insurance company will offer a reasonable settlement until the plaintiff’s legal team has filed the case as a lawsuit and employed liability experts to show the defendant was at fault. There are even cases where the insurance company will not make any settlement offer because they do not believe you have the right to sue. These cases can take more time because a judge will have to rule on whether you have the right to sue or not, and only if a judge rules that you can, will an insurance company potentially make a settlement offer.
On the other hand, your case could have problems surrounding the damages. This can happen in cases where physicians who treated the plaintiff are unsure if the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the defendant’s negligence. In personal injury cases, it is always the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove that the defendant was responsible for the damages, so if doctors are unable to firmly make a decision on this matter, insurance companies are less likely to offer a settlement until the plaintiff’s legal team can find a doctor willing to testify, based on the medical evidence, that the defendant’s fault was the cause.
There is a Large Amount of Compensation Involved in Your Case
Your settlement could be delayed because your case involves large damages, or put simply, a lot of money. In this case, insurance companies will delay paying money out on a settlement until they are confident about it. They will investigate every aspect of the case and every detail of the liability and damages. You will have to convince the insurance company that:
- Your injuries are severe and you are not exaggerating the circumstances
- That you are a credible person and they will not be able to damage your credibility
- That they do not have a good defense against your case.
In a large compensation case, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to continually delay settlement to see if the plaintiff will give up and not accept the full settlement amount. Insurance companies know that people who suffered serious injuries are in need of the money they’re trying to claim. They use this knowledge to exploit the plaintiff and try to force them to settle quickly for a lesser amount.
You Have Not Reached Maximum Medical Improvement
Maximum medical improvement (MMI), means that you’ve recovered as much as you are going to from your injuries. It may not mean you are fully recovered, but it means that you’ve reached a stable point of treatment and your treatment will be consistent from then on. It is important to wait until you reach MMI as only then you will fully understand the true value of your medical expense, long term implications, and damages. If you are still being treated, it is difficult to assess whether you will fully recover from the injuries or not and if you fully recover your case will be worth much less.
Accepting a Smaller Settlement
If you are in a dire situation where you need the money as quick for your injuries, you may feel that the best option is to settle early with what is called a “short settlement.” It can be difficult to determine how much you should settle for in a short settlement and unfortunately there are no hard rules to help make that decision. Insurance companies have no responsibility to offer you a certain amount, so some may offer up to 35% of a settlement they would offer at trial while others may offer as low as 5% of what they would offer at trial.
Even if you are considering settling for a smaller amount to avoid getting tied up in a long trial, it is still important to consult a personal injury lawyer. The personal injury lawyers we have at Lever Gottfried Ecker PLLC will be able to guide you through the process and advise you on which routes to take. While our offices are located in White Plains, we serve clients all throughout Westchester County, New York including Yonkers and Port Chester and specialize in a wide variety of practice areas, a list of which can be found here. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free case evaluation and consultation.