Personal injury claims very significantly in their nature, and even for an experienced personal injury attorney, it can be difficult to tell just how long a claim might take to settle. There are several factors that may affect the length and complexity of a case, including the people involved, the type of injury sustained, and the amount of evidence for and against the victim. Ultimately, the goal is to prove liability—is or is not the defendant responsible for the injury—and the extent of damages. Has the injury negatively impacted the victim’s life? If so, to what extent? The opposing parties need to be able to put a price on the injury so that the injured party can get paid. Proving liability and assessing damages requires time and diligence, and if you do not invest each into your claim, you risk walking away with a low-ball settlement offer.
At RMD Law, our Orange County personal injury lawyers are dedicated to helping personal injury victims walk away from their cases with the sizeable settlements they deserve. Sometimes, doing that only takes a few months; other times, it can take years. Every time, we spend the requisite amount of time to ensure that our clients are happy. In this article, we will examine why some personal injury cases take longer than others to settle and how the length of a case typically correlates with the amount of money awarded.
Factors That Affect the Length of a Personal Injury Claim
While every personal injury case varies, how long a claim takes to settle usually depends on three main factors:
- Determining Full Recovery or Medical Prognosis
- Determining Liability
Full Recovery or Medical Prognosis
Before your injury claim can proceed, you need to first prove that the accident caused the injury. Typically, this can be established via a medical report and a review of your medical history. Once your lawyer has a copy of both the report and your history, he or she will look for one of two things: an indicator that you have made a full recovery or a medical prognosis. It is unlikely that your lawyer will advise you to settle or that he or she will continue with negotiations until either one or the other is present.
The prognosis must come in the form of a report from an independent medical expert. The expert will evaluate your medical records and both confirm the extent of your injuries and determine when you recovered or are likely to recover, and how likely you are to be affected by your injuries in the future. If you settle before a medical expert can give an accurate prognosis, you may only be cheating yourself, as once a settlement is reached and the claim settled, it is done. You cannot appeal a decision you helped reach, and you cannot file another claim for further compensation for the same injury. In short, if you settle before a full recovery or a prognosis can be reached, you risk under-settling your claim and forfeiting the opportunity to seek further compensation if your injuries persist or worsen.
Bear in mind that the severity of your injury may affect the length of your case as well. More severe injuries typically take longer to recover from and require the attention of several medical experts. As a result, it takes longer to gather the necessary medical evidence and, of course, to receive a prognosis. If your injury falls into this category and if you are unable to work during the recovery period, you may be able to request interim payments to cover medical expenses, lost earnings, the cost of special equipment, etc.
Once it has been established that you are in fact injured and that the accident was the cause of your injuries, it is time to determine liability. In some instances, the defendant admits guilt outright. However, it is rare that defendants do so, so you need to be prepared to prove liability. While your attorney will do a majority of the leg work, he or she will need your assistance in gathering evidence. If you have any photos from before and/or after the incident, witness testimonies or the names of witnesses, records of a complaint that was not addressed properly, video evidence, or any other type of proof on you, hand it over to your lawyer. From there, your lawyer will work to fill in the holes.
The defendant’s team will also be working to gather evidence against you. While its ultimate goal is to dismiss your claim, if it cannot do that, it at least wants to reduce the amount of your settlement. Evidence may be swapped back and forth and negotiations will ensue.
The final phase of most personal injury claims is the negotiation phase. Once all evidence has been submitted and reviewed, each party will use what they know to work toward a settlement they believe to be fair. It is important to note that the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in California is typically two years from the date of the accident or from the date of the discovery of injuries, so most negotiations will take place prior to the cutoff. For individuals who were injured as minors, the statute of limitations begins the moment the person turns 18. An experienced lawyer understands that not all personal injury claims settle outside of court, and he or she will ensure that if an agreement cannot be made that there is still time leftover to file a lawsuit.
Retain the Help of an Experienced Orange County Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury claims are never cut and dry, and even if you sustained extensive injuries in an accident, the defendant’s insurance company is not just going to hand over a sizeable settlement. In fact, it will try to do the opposite and reduce your settlement as much as possible. The best thing you can do is retain the help of an attorney who understands how the personal injury claims process works and, above all, be patient. The longer you case takes to settle, the greater the likelihood that you will walk away with more than enough that you need to recover comfortably.
If you were injured in an accident in Orange County, call the personal injury lawyers at RMD Law to schedule your free consultation today.