Why Does it Take so Long to Resolve an Injury Claim?
If you get injured due to someone else’s carelessness, you should first concentrate on getting proper medical attention as needed. Your next step should be to see a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
It is extremely important to follow through with medical treatment as the doctor prescribes and to not miss any appointments. However, we know that as medical bills start piling up, injury victims can get frustrated that their case is not settling quickly, particularly when they could use the money. Insurance companies take advantage of that frustration by making low-ball offers, hoping that desperate injury victims will accept less compensation than their cases are worth.
A good personal injury lawyer will work diligently to settle your case as soon as a fair settlement is possible. However, the process may take a long time and you have to be willing to be patient. Here are the two most important reasons why it can take time to resolve a personal injury case.
Healing Takes Time
Ideally, no case should settle until the full extent of an accident victim’s injuries become clear. We know that isn’t always possible, because the impact of permanent injuries can change over time. A slow process of healing over a period of many years might reduce a victim’s pain. On the other hand, a slow deterioration of a victim’s condition over a period of years might cause more medical problems and increased pain.
Some long-term effects of accident injuries may not be readily apparent. Physical therapy may rehabilitate a joint injury, but joint injuries cause a sevenfold increase in the risk that arthritis will develop in the joint many years after treatment ends. Furthermore, medical studies suggests that traumatic injuries can trigger the onset of diabetes later in life.
When accident victims settle cases, the settlement is final. In exchange for compensation, the victim releases the responsible party for injuries caused by their negligence. The release covers all injuries, known or unknown, whether or not they have yet developed.
An accident victim cannot reopen a settlement and ask for more money if the injury turns out to be more serious than he or she expected. For that reason, injury lawyers want to know as much as possible about a victim’s condition, including possible future consequences so settlement will be adequate.
The full extent of an injury cannot be predicted until the injury has completely healed, or until the treating physicians have decided that the healing has reached a plateau — that is, the injury has caused a permanent impairment that will probably not change much in the future. Lawyers rely on physicians to explain how that impairment might affect the accident victim’s life and to predict possible consequences of the injury in the future.
Compensation should cover the future effects of an injury. It should cover a victim’s legitimate fear that an injury will result in possible future consequences, even if those consequences are remote.
The information that lawyers rely upon to calculate adequate compensation just isn’t available until the injury heals or reaches a healing plateau. That might take months or years. Settling before that information becomes available will usually result in the victim receiving less compensation than he or she deserves. That’s one reason why lawyers urge accident victims to resist settling a case until the present and future impact of injuries becomes clear. The slow progress of healing simply makes it unwise to accept a prompt settlement.
Insurance Companies Often Refuse to Settle Until the Case Is Ready for Trial
Insurance claims adjusters try to settle cases for the lowest possible amount. They sometimes earn bonuses by settling cases for less than their actual value.
A common tactic is to make an unreasonably low offer and then, after long delays, make small increases in their new offers. They hope to wear down the injury victim by taking advantage of the victim’s need for funds.
In some cases, a personal injury lawyer will need to file a lawsuit to force the insurance company to take the case seriously. After a lawsuit is filed, the insurance company will hire an attorney to prepare the case for trial. The company may continue to delay a settlement, even if their lawyer knows they have a weak case.
Some insurance companies will not accept a fair settlement offer until the court has set a trial date. Having a skilled trial lawyer who knows how to move cases forward is the best defense against an intransigent insurance company.