If you have been injured in an accident that wasn't your fault and you are considering contacting a personal injury attorney regarding your claims, you probably have many questions., One of those questions will doubtless be, "How long is this going to take?" Unfortunately, because no two personal injury cases are the same, there is no simple answer. The amount of time it takes to settle your claim will depend on a number of factors including the severity of your injuries and the circumstances of your case. In this article I will walk you through the stages of a personality claim to help you better understand the timeline.
Stage 1: Recovery
If you were in an accident that wasn't your fault, you may have sought out medical treatment for whatever injuries you sustained as a result of that accident. And so, the first "stage" of a personal injury claim is called the "recovery stage." The length of the recovery stage depends on the severity of your injuries. The recovery period ends when one of two circumstances arises: (1) when you have recovered and been discharged from medical treatment or (2) when you have reached the point where – in your doctor's opinion – you have reached your maximum recovery and whatever remaining problems you may be experiencing are essentially permanent.
Why do attorneys wait until the end of the recovery period to engage in negotiations if time is of the essence in personal injury cases? When you settle with the insurance company, the case is considered closed. If you haven't fully recovered and your injuries cause further problems after the settlement, you will be precluded from recovering those additional problems. This is why it is important for you to reach the end of the recovery stage before you attorney begins negotiating with the insurance company.
Stage 2: Preparing the Case
After you have recovered from your injuries or been discharged from medical care, your attorney will prepare your case for submission to the insurance company. This file, called the "submittal package," contains items such as final bills and records from medical providers and written confirmation by your employer as to any time you missed from work. Depending on how promptly these documents get sent to your attorney, this stage usually takes anywhere from 30 to 60 days.
Stage 3: Negotiations
After your attorney has sent your "submittal package" to the insurance company, the insurance adjuster will review it, complete any investigation or medical review, and get the authority to negotiate the claim from his or her supervisor. Your attorney will usually contact them 30 days after he sent the "submittal package" to verify that they received it and to find out how the review is progressing. The insurance company typically takes between 4 and 8 weeks to review the "submittal package".
Once the insurance company has completed its review process, they will make an initial offer. You and your attorney will make a counter offer, and the negotiation process proceeds until both parties can agree on a settlement value. How long this negotiation process takes depends on how complex your case is, and can vary in time from weeks to months. Unfortunately, there are situations in which the insurance company fails to make an acceptable offer based solely on the negotiations with your attorney. In this case, you and your attorney may opt to litigate the case in court.
Stage 4: Litigation
You and your attorney might opt to pursue your claims in court for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, litigation happens when either the insurance company fails to make an acceptable offer during the negotiation process or when you are experiencing a lengthy recovery from your injuries. Litigation is truly the last resort in personal injury cases. And, just because you and your attorney have commenced litigation proceedings doesn't mean that your case will be tried in court. In fact, most cases filed for litigation settle before trial. In those cases, litigation may motivate the insurance company to come up with a more acceptable offer.
There are so many dynamic and variable stages in the process of settling a personal injury claim, that there is no standard time frame in which they are settled. Because any settlement is final, you and your attorney will want to make sure you have recovered fully from your injuries and that you don't rush a settlement before the case is properly submitted. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen will work with you and ensure that your case proceeds as quickly as possible with the best result to you.