TIME FACTORS FOR PERSONAL INJURY
Your personal injury attorney should fully explain why your case is taking so long. There are many legitimate reasons why a personal injury case is taking so long, but if your attorney can’t explain why your case is pending, you might want to consider changing attorneys. Some law firms file more cases than they can handle, and it’s possible your case may be sitting in an overlooked filing cabinet. Don’t be afraid to request an update.
These are the factors that affect the duration of a personal injury claim:
Duration of treatment
Insurance company policies
quality of medical reports
severity of injuries
type of case
Minimum policies for New York auto liability insurance are 25/50. This means that a maximum of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident can be paid out. So if you were seriously injured, the only person in the accident was hurt and it was clearly the fault of the other car, your case can be settled very quickly. The insurance company will likely “write you out” their policy, meaning they will pay out their entire policy. Under the circumstances, it would be “bad faith” if they did not. Unfortunately, although your case will be settled quickly, you will not be able to get much money.
Let’s say you had the same serious injuries and good liability insurance, but the other vehicle was a truck with $1,000,000 in coverage. You don’t want to rush anything here. Sure, you COULD settle this case quickly, but that wouldn’t be the best way to handle it. With only $25,000 to raise, the case can be settled before you even finish treatment, but with more money to raise, there would be no point even trying to settle the case before treatment is complete, since the medical treatment is “compensation” which increases the value of your case. Here we want to wait for a good settlement and litigate if none is offered. This will make the case take much longer, but it’s worth it.
DURATION OF TREATMENT
More serious injuries usually mean longer treatment. Clients sometimes ask why their case is unresolved if they are actively receiving medical treatment or are still incapacitated. It is not possible to know the value of the case until treatment is complete and attempting to settle a case at this point would be a short sale. For example, if you are unemployed for a year and a half due to injury, your case may not be settled for at least a year and a half (provided you have adequate insurance coverage). On the other hand, a case with minor injuries that require little treatment may be settled earlier but will not result in as high a settlement. The most important thing about asking a lawyer is why the case is taking as long as it is taking – you want to be sure he’s not just sitting in the filing cabinet because he’s too busy with other cases.
POLICIES OF THE INSURANCE COMPANY
Some insurance companies have the principle of wanting to make fair statements quickly. They have a team of claims representatives who follow up on their case count and take calls from attorneys. You can send them a medical package, which they will examine in a timely manner and then make an offer in a reasonable time. If the offer is not accepted, a legal dispute can be initiated. There really are companies that good – one of the best has some funny animal ads.
Other insurance companies do not want to bill cases. They have few adjusters and don’t care about callbacks. They ask for 60 days to review medical records. They make lousy offers to settle cases. Lawyers know what companies are involved and know that lengthy litigation is required. Some lawyers don’t even accept cases when they know they are with certain insurance companies! If your case is taking a long time because it’s against an insurance company that doesn’t actively handle cases, it’s not your attorney’s fault. It doesn’t matter that your Aunt Jean made a lot of money real quick with a case against a “good” insurance company.
LIABILITY AND YOUR PERSONAL LOSS
If you have a police report showing you were hit by a drunk texting driver, there probably won’t be a liability dispute. This speeds up the case as the only discussion is “damages”. On the other hand, if the other guy went through a light but claims that you went through the light, it may be necessary to try the case through testimony before you can settle it. It’s frustrating when you see the other person walking through the light, but that’s what courts and judges are for. Testimonies can only be given after both sides have exchanged documents and several conferences in court have taken place. This case will not reach full value quickly.
QUALITY OF MEDICAL REPORTS
Treating with quality medical providers who are knowledgeable about creating reports for accident cases will be helpful for faster processing. Medical reports that are scrawled and not comprehensive give claims adjusters little reason to “hang up their hat” when asking for “authority” to pay money for your claim. In this case, an insurance company may want extensive litigation if you’re looking for a big settlement. They will want to hear you in a sworn statement and send you to their doctors for a check-up. High-quality medical reports speed up a settlement.
SERIOUSNESS OF INJURY AND YOUR PERSONAL DAMAGES
Assuming insurance coverage is in place, it will take time to accumulate an excellent settlement amount in a severe case. This is the type of case where a lengthy litigation can improve the final settlement. You want the insurance company to know that if they don’t come up with enough money, you’re willing to go to court. Although most cases are eventually settled, for very serious injuries you will want to prepare the case for trial, even settling it the night before the trial. It can take years, but it’s worth it.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF CASES TAKE DIFFERENT AMOUNT OF TIME
Car accidents have a “serious injury threshold” that must be met. For smaller cases it is important that there is at least enough treatment to reach this threshold, which often means at least three months of treatment. Other types of cases do not have this threshold. For example, if you fall in a supermarket and go to the doctor and have a sprained ankle that heals quickly, your case can be dealt with very quickly. A case of food poisoning could be quick as there is little treatment once the problem subsides. Product liability and malpractice cases will always take a long time, as experts have to be hired and complicated investigations have to be carried out.
INTANGIBLE OBJECTS THAT AFFECTED THE LENGTH OF A CASE
The insurance company refuses to pay for your surgery as not “medically necessary,” and the doctor decides on that refusal. It can take over a year for a decision to be made. It is advisable to await the decision as the surgery in your case is an important part of the award of damages and it is important for your case to have an arbitration ruling that it was indeed medically necessary.
The insurance company will transfer your claim to a new claims representative who will now have to review your entire file from the ground up. This can add months to the time it takes to resolve the case. The adjuster goes on an extended vacation or family vacation and there is no one around to discuss your claim. Of course, the litigation can go ahead, but the case cannot be settled unless there is a claims representative to talk to about it.
There are many reasons why cases take so long to complete. The most important thing to remember is that it is your attorney’s job to explain why YOUR case is taking the time it is taking. If you’re in the dark, you don’t have the right lawyer. If your attorney cannot fully explain why your case is taking so long, consider switching attorneys.