How Long Will It Take to Settle Your Personal Injury Claim?

You want to settle you personal injury case quickly, but you don't want to get "shorted" on money. Here are some things to be aware of before you accept a quick settlement.

What if you have a personal injury case, and you don’t want it to drag on for years? You might wonder whether you can just settle your case fast even if you have to accept less money to do it. The answer is that you can.

As a general rule, you can settle any personal injury case quickly as long as you are willing to take less money. The real question is how much money would you be giving up for a quick settlement.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at why settlement might be taking longer than usual, and why you should think twice before taking a quick settlement.

Why Is It Taking So Long?

The first thing to know is why some  personal injury cases  can take a long time to settle. There are three main reasons why a personal injury case can move slowly:

  • there are legal or factual problems with the case
  • the case involves a lot of money, or
  • you have not reached a point of maximum medical improvement from your injuries.

If your case involves any of these situations, the bad news is that your case is simply going to take some time to settle unless you are prepared to take pennies on the dollar in order to resolve it.

There Are Problems With The Case

What kind of problems are we talking about? The  value of a personal injury case  is determined by considered liability (who was at fault) and damages (how badly was the plaintiff injured).

If liability is hard to prove (for example, defective product cases often involve difficult liability issues), then the insurer is not likely to make a reasonable settlement offer until the plaintiff’s lawyer has put the case in suit and hired liability experts to show that the defendant was at fault. If there are legal issues in the case (i.e., the insurer believes that you have no legal right to sue), then it is unlikely that the insurer will make any significant offer on the case until a judge has ruled on your right to sue.

Alternatively, there may be problems with  damages. For example, the treating physicians may be unsure that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injury. It is always your burden to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused your injuries. If your doctors are unsure on this, then the insurer is not going to make a reasonable settlement offer until it is satisfied that your lawyer can produce a doctor to testify that the defendant’s fault caused your injuries.

The Case Involves "Big Money"

Another factor that can delay settlement is if the case involves large damages (a lot of money). Insurers simply will not pay big money on a settlement until they have done their due diligence.

For an insurer, due diligence means investigating every aspect of the liability and damages surrounding the case. The insurer will not be prepared to settle for reasonable money until they are convinced that

  • they don’t have a good defense to the case
  • your injuries are as severe as you claim that they are, and
  • they cannot attack your credibility.

Further, sometimes insurers will delay settlement on a big case simply to see if the plaintiff will give up and accept less money. Most badly injured people need the settlement money, and cannot wait too long for compensation. Insurers know this and will try to wait out the plaintiff; see: Delay & Deny: How Insurance Companies Minimize Injury Claim Payments.

You Have Not Reached Maximum Medical Improvement

Another very legitimate reason why settlement might take a long time is that you are still treating for your injuries. If you can afford to wait, you never want to settle a personal injury case until you have reached a point of maximum medical improvement (MMI) from your injuries.

MMI means that you are as good as you are going to get. The reason that you want to wait until you are at MMI before settling is so that you and your lawyer will know how to value your damages. If you are still treating, it is unclear whether you will fully recover or not. If you fully recover from your injuries, your case is likely to be worth less than if you never did recover.

Settling For Short Money

What if you simply can’t wait? You recognize that your case could be worth more if you waited for the proper settlement, but you need the money now. How do you determine what you should settle for?

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules about short settlements. In some cases, the insurer might offer 30-35% of what it might offer at trial, but, in others, it might only offer 5-10% or even less of what it might offer at trial.

If you have a personal injury case, and are thinking that you just want to settle it fast without getting involved in a long litigation process, you should still call a personal injury lawyer so that he/she can advise you of the risks of a quick settlement based on the facts of your case.

For a primer on valuing and settling your case, see How to Negotiate a Personal Injury Settlement.

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