Understanding Why Personal Injury Cases Take "So Long" to Settle
People often come to us and say "I want a new lawyer, mine is taking too long." This is a red flag that the person's attorney simply has not prepared them for the process. This guide is intended to help people understand what the process involves and why it can take some time to settle a case.
Medical TreatmentWith any accident, comes the potential for bodily injury. When you are hurt due to the negligence of another person, you should always seek necessary medical treatment. The process of obtaining proper medical treatment after serious accident can take months and sometimes years. An experienced personal injury attorney will wait until you have completed treatment for all injuries associated with the accident or at least until your medical providers have a clear picture of the full extent of your injury and the future medical you will require before settling your case. This is because only have one chance to settle a personal injury claim. If you settle your case before you have completed medical treatment, you may end up with bills still coming in and no one to pay them.
Once you have completed all necessary medical treatment, your attorney can move forward with the negotiation phase and seek the rightful compensation you deserve.
Ordering Medical Bills and RecordsThe process of ordering medical bills and records takes place following, and sometimes while a client is still being treated for injuries associated with an accident. When you receive medical treatment at a hospital, you have access to a Radiologist, Pathologist, Emergency Room Physician and more. Because these medical providers are not typically employed by the hospital in which they are located, the bills and records necessary to file a personal injury claim must be collected by each provider individually.
Due to federal regulations, you must submit an authorization form to have medical bills and records released. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, otherwise known as HIPAA, is legislation that was created to provide privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information. Hospitals and medical providers get thousands of requests to release medical bills and records. This means it could take anywhere from 30 to 90 days to collect the documentation necessary to move forward with your claim.
Investigation and Evaluation by Insurance CompaniesOnce the insurance company has received all the necessary information, they will take their time in evaluating the accident, injuries and all other damages associated with your claim. Some insurance companies move quickly to settle claims, while others may take much longer to determine the value of your personal injury claim. There are a couple reasons for this.
What many injured parties fail to realize is that insurance adjustors will never provide compensation for damages without proper documentation. This documentation usually has specific evidence requirements that must be met for the adjuster to properly justify providing compensation. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you figure out what information is necessary to be properly compensated for negligent damages.
Additionally, it is in an adjuster*s best interest to delay a claim. The longer they wait, the more money they make off the premiums they have collected by way of interest. Additionally, it is a known fact that when someone is hurt and needs the money to put their life back together, the longer they wait, the less they are willing to take to be done with it. Many insurance companies will use this to their advantage as long as they can get away with it.
Negotiating a Settlement in a Personal Injury CaseSome damages are more difficult to document than others. When this is the case, insurance companies may try to deny properly compensating an accident victim for their damages. For example, documenting lost wages is not a simple task. If you are not paid hourly or on a salary, it is harder to show what actual damages you have acquired when not being able to work. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals may require the testimony of an expert witness to establish the value of their work. Finding the right expert and having them review the records and prepare a report is time-consuming.
When Litigation Becomes InevitableAt the end of the pre-litigation period, if the parties cannot agree to a negotiated settlement, a lawsuit must be filed. May cases will settle during the litigation process, but typically not before the parties have an opportunity to exchange written discovery, order past medical records and/or employment records, subpoena records, take witness depositions and fully investigate the case. The litigation process itself can easily drag a case out for another 1-2 years.