You were seriously injured in an accident that was caused by someone else. You’ve experienced a traumatic event, and that produces anxiety by itself. You’re receiving medical treatment, and your out-of-pocket costs are mounting, with no end in sight.
You’ve contacted an attorney, who has started the case, and tells you not to worry. But it’s hard not to worry when your family’s financial future is on the line. You did nothing wrong – why is it taking so long to resolve?
Your feelings are completely understandable, and also very common – you’re certainly not alone. The fact is, personal injury cases take time, for various reasons.
However, if you have a reputable personal injury attorney, who is working on a contingency basis, he or she would not have taken your case unless there was a good chance of a payout. The law firm should be advancing all costs related to your injury, and most firms can also help with cash advances if you need them. We know it’s a challenge to be patient, but to thoroughly resolve your case, things need to happen a certain way.
Here’s a quick explanation of why personal injury cases take time that may help ease your mind.
#1 Reason Injury Cases Take Time – There Are a Lot of Steps Involved
The main reason personal injury cases take time is because each case is a step-by-step process, and each step must be performed in keeping with the law, to make sure you are able to prevail. Once a personal injury law firm agrees to take your case, there are many things they must do, and each of these steps has a number of time-consuming tasks involved.
#2 – Accident Investigation and Medical Records Review
The firm will do a full investigation of the accident, which includes interviewing you and any witnesses, ordering and reviewing the police report, and possibly hiring an investigator who will collect evidence at the scene of the accident, inspect your vehicle, etc.
The lawyer will ask you questions about your background, current injuries and medical conditions, and the types of medical treatment you’re receiving. The firm will also order medical records from your doctor(s) relating to your injuries and any other conditions that may be relevant.
Once the attorney has all the facts, he or she will talk to you about what dollar amount you should receive for your case. So far, it sounds simple, right?
There are three issues that might slow things down right off the bat:
- Liability and Damages Disputes
- It Involves a Significant Amount of Money
- Maximum Medical Improvement
#3 – Liability and Damages Disputes
The value of a personal injury case is usually determined by two factors: liability (who was at fault) and damages (how badly you, the plaintiff, were injured).
If the defendant is disputing liability, or if witness statements or the police report or medical records don’t line up exactly with your account, the insurance adjuster will use those reasons to reduce their settlement offer or deny your claim. Often, simply filing a personal injury lawsuit and hiring liability experts will show the insurance company that you won’t go down without a fight. That can lead to a quicker settlement offer.
#4 – It Involves a Significant Amount of Money
While it seems like a point in your favor, if your case involves a significant amount of money, the insurer won’t pay until they have investigated every aspect of your case to see if there is a way out of it. That includes scrutinizing your claim, questioning the severity of your injuries, and looking for reasons to attack your credibility.
It also includes holding out for as long as they possibly can, hoping that you will give up and settle for a lower amount.
#5 – Maximum Medical Improvement
If you have not reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), your lawyer should advise you to wait until you do, or for as long as you can.
MMI is the point at which your medical treatment has ended, or your physicians don’t expect any further recovery. Until you have reached that point, your attorney doesn’t have a clear picture of how much you will need to return to a normal state, or as close to normal as possible. The lawyer will not want to make a demand or file a lawsuit that undervalues your case.
Waiting for MMI can take months or years. Your lawyer will balance your need for money, and the statute of limitations on your case, with your level of expected improvement, and advise you accordingly.
#6 – Endless Negotiation
When you’ve reached MMI, and you and your lawyer have agreed on the amount of money you need, the lawyer will make an initial demand to the at-fault party’s attorney or insurance company. Then you wait for a response.
If the other party doesn’t accept the demand, the next step is a series of back-and-forth communications, or negotiation. Many smaller personal injury claims are settled during this process.
However, in some cases, the defendant’s lawyers or insurance company decides to play hardball, which can drag things out even more.
#7 – Legal Process of Filing a Lawsuit
If the two sides cannot reach a settlement that you both feel is fair, your lawyer will file a lawsuit.
A lawsuit needs to be filed within the state’s statute of limitations, or specific time limit. Every state’s statutes of limitations, and pretrial procedures are different, but once a lawsuit is filed, it can take one to two years for your case to go to court.
#8 – Discovery Process
After filing suit, each party will go through discovery, a process to investigate the other side’s claims and defenses. They send each other “interrogatories,” or questions, request documents and take depositions of all witnesses, including you (the plaintiff), and the other party (the defendant). Discovery can take six months to a year.
#9 – Even More Negotiation
After discovery, the lawyers may again start negotiating a settlement. They may do this on their own, or they may go in front of a mediator to settle the case.
#10 – Trial Schedules
If negotiation or mediation doesn’t work, the case is scheduled for trial. However, cases are frequently rescheduled for reasons that have nothing to do with your case.
When your case does go to court, it can last a day, a week, or even longer. And, even if you win, the defendant can appeal – although that is unusual.
#11 (and Final) Reason Injury Cases Take Time – Delays in Resolution
OK, so you’ve won your case or reached a settlement. You may be wondering, “Where’s my check?”
Even now, there are still issues that can slow down the process. Both sides must approve the language in the settlement and release agreement. The insurance company won’t issue a check without investigating whether anyone has placed a lien on your settlement. But don’t worry – you’re in the home stretch now.
Personal injury cases take time to ensure you receive maximum compensation. But if you’ve been seriously injured in an accident that was not your fault, you should not settle for anything less than what you need, and deserve, to get your life back on track.
If another person’s negligence has left you with permanent injuries, you don’t have to manage on your own. A personal injury lawyer who takes your case will do what it takes to ensure you receive what you are owed. Contact the accident attorneys at TorkLaw. We will provide solid advice on what your case is worth, and help you stay afloat throughout the whole process.