How long will my personal injury case take to settle? What determines the settlement amount?
If you’re injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, the law entitles you to compensation for the cost of your treatment, pain and suffering, and other losses suffered as a result.
That’s good news when you’re looking at thousands of dollars in medical bills, especially if the injury puts you out of work. So, how long will it take for you to get compensated?
Personal Injury Timeline
You can settle your case within a couple of months of your injury – but that’s not a good idea. The amount of your settlement will depend in part on the cost of your medical care. If you rush into a settlement, you may have issues that haven’t yet manifested, such as an internal injury, you may have complications from necessary treatments down the line, or you may simply never recover fully.
Insurance companies will be willing to settle with you at an early juncture, but they’ll only give you a fraction of the cost of your expenses. If you haven’t reached the point of “maximum medical improvement” (MMI), you can’t claim damages for treatments that you don’t yet know that you need. You can’t claim lost wages for work that you don’t yet know you’ll miss.
So, you don’t want to start the settlement process until you’ve reached MMI from your injuries. MMI refers to the point at which you’ve recovered as much as you will ever recover from your injuries. If you attempt to settle the case before you’ve had the full benefits of treatment, you’ll get less money than you actually deserve.
The settlement will also take longer if there is an element of doubt in your case. If the insurance company believes that you caused your own injuries, that your current ailments are the result of preexisting conditions, or that you could have avoided the accident, they’ll wait until they’ve decided whether they can win in court before offering you any settlement at all. In court, you have to prove the insured caused the accident and that the accident caused your injuries – if they can show that this was not the case, they won’t have to pay.
Most cases will settle before they go to trial, but the cases that do go to trial take even longer. Lawsuits are a time-consuming process and a complex trial can take months.
With all this in mind, your personal injury case may take up to several years to settle. This length of time depends on the length of the treatment necessary, how long you’re out of work, how well you’re expected to recover, and whether there are any factual issues in your case.
It’s tempting to rush into an early settlement when you’re faced with a stack of medical bills, but you’ll be selling yourself short. If you face any complications or if your recovery simply takes longer than expected, you may very quickly find yourself unable to keep up with your medical bills.
If you need cash right away and are afraid you won’t be able to make it to the optimum time for settlement, you may be able to get advance funds borrowed against your future settlement award. This is called “litigation funding.” It’s risky because you may recover less than you expected and find yourself unable to repay the loan, but it can give you the ability to wait out the settlement process and get full compensation.
How much will I recover?
Like the timing of the personal injury settlement process, the amount of your settlement will depend mostly on the severity of your injuries and the facts of the case.
Personal injury compensation is intended to cover your medical expenses, past and future lost wages, and pain and suffering resulting from the accident. The more severe the accident, the greater your costs will be. The longer you’re going to be out of work, the more lost wages you’ll claim. If your injury is particularly painful or disfiguring, you’ll be able to claim more damages for the pain and suffering it causes. If you’re going to suffer permanent damage, you’ll be able to claim more for permanent loss of wages and quality of life.
Your settlement will be lower if your injuries are not severe or if you will completely recover. It will also be lower if you are partially at fault for the accident. For example, insurance companies will argue that you could have swerved to avoid a car crash and failed to do so because you were distracted. They will attempt to lower the settlement amount by claiming that you weren’t really injured or weren’t injured severely enough to warrant recovery. They’ll look into how long it took you to seek treatment; if you didn’t go in immediately after the accident, they’ll argue that you must not have really been hurt. They’ll look into your medical records for any pre-existing conditions and try to prove that your current injuries were actually the result of pre-existing illness or injury rather than the accident in question.
How can we help?
We have years of experience helping injured people in North Carolina get the compensation they deserve. If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact our experienced attorneys to discuss your situation and your options for compensation.