Factors to consider when determining the timeline of your case
Sometimes we hear clients say that they didn’t expect their personal injury or auto accident case to go on for so long. While you’re waiting to receive the vital compensation you need to cover your medical bills, lost wages and future treatments, the timeline for securing a positive settlement or outcome can seem to take an eternity. That’s why we always aim to set realistic expectations for each of our clients regarding how long their case will take.
Although you may hear of other people getting their settlements sooner, the truth is that there is no definite timeline for reaching the end of your lawsuit.
Since there are so many factors at play, it’s possible that not even your lawyer can give you a set deadline. However, understanding why your case is taking so long makes it easier to let the process play out.
What legal or factual issues impact your case?
The best person to ask how long your case will take to be resolved is the person who is working on your lawsuit: your lawyer. Your attorney will be able to tell you if there are legal or factual issues that are holding things up.
For example, they may need to request your medical records and make sure that they are certified to stand up in court. Any delay in accessing your health records or with the certification process will delay your lawyer from being able to move forward.
There could also be challenges with proving that your injuries came from the accident. This is more likely to occur if you had a pre-existing medical condition that was made worse after your new injuries.
Additionally, there could be issues with proving that the defendant was at fault. Lawyers often need time to build a strong case, but making sure that every claim is backed by facts helps you get the best outcome for a settlement.
Expect longer timelines for catastrophic injury lawsuits
When considering how long your case may take, factor in the amount of the settlement. With catastrophic injuries, the settlement can involve a large sum of money. Insurance companies tend to fight these settlements harder since it has a greater impact on their bottom line.
When large amounts of money are involved, you can expect your case to be prolonged since insurance adjusters will be checking every fact possible to find ways to lower the settlement. Your lawyer may also need to extend the length of your case so they can make sure that your right to fair compensation is upheld.
You can also expect a longer time for resolution if you were offered a smaller settlement from the insurance company and rejected it in favor of waiting for a court to make the decision on your case.
Be prepared to wait for maximum medical improvement
There is what is known as the “sweet spot” for figuring out exactly how much money your injuries will require for your current treatment and future needs. Many lawyers will wait until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). This means that you’ve reached the point where you have recovered as much as you are expected to.
Many serious injuries that people sustain in a car or personal injury accident take a long time to heal, and it may not be possible to know how much of your former abilities will be recovered in the beginning. For instance, a hand injury heals at different rates in people. Some people are able to regain full use of their hand, while someone else may not, even though they have the same type of injury.
Waiting to file your lawsuit until you reach MMI gives you (or your attorney) a better opportunity to present all of your medical costs up until that point as part of your lawsuit, as well as provide a more realistic estimate of what your care costs will be going forward.
Healing from a major injury can take many months or even years. During this time, you can work with your lawyer and doctor to determine when you reach the height of your healing. Although it’s often difficult to wait for MMI, it’s often worth it to avoid any surprises that could result in you receiving less compensation than you need to take care of your injuries.
How a faster settlement affects the outcome
In some cases, you might be pressured to settle your case faster. When this happens, it’s often referred to as “settling for short money.” This means that you’ll likely receive less than what you might’ve been awarded if your case made it to the courtroom.
When settling for short money, you’ll still want to work with a personal injury lawyer to make sure that you get the fairest settlement possible. You’ll also want to think seriously about whether or not rushing your case is worth it since this path could leave you far short of the money you need for managing your finances in the future.
There’s no way around the fact that some personal injury and auto accident lawsuits just take time. As frustrating as it is to wait, this is often your best option.
For now, focus on healing and let your lawyer handle the specifics of moving your case along. Staying patient as your case is processed will be worth it when it comes down to making sure that you have the compensation you need for a strong financial future.