When filing a claim for personal injury compensation, it is normal for clients to ask lawyers about the time it takes for claim settlement. It is not possible to tell how much time it takes except for the fact that settling claims with insurance companies take less time than filing a lawsuit. The time it takes for receiving compensation depends on the nature of the accident and how complex the case is.
Moreover, the type of accident, whether it is a road traffic accident, tripping accident or accident at work determines the course the case will take. Injuries at workplace come under the Workmen’s Compensation Act and treated accordingly. Again, injuries can be of different types of head injuries, broken bones, whiplash, and even fatalities that determine the complexity of the case and related compensation.
Personal injury compensation cases are driven by two main issues – who was at fault and responsible for the injury, called liability in legal parlance and providing medical evidence to prove that the injuries resulted from the accident and the resulting damage. Organizing documents and evidence to build a favorable case takes quite some time, and then the legal process is lengthy too.
Wait for medical prognosis
It is the responsibility of the plaintiff or claimant to establish that the accident that caused the injury by referring to a medical report. Multiple medical reports might become necessary depending on the nature of injuries especially if the claimant has to undergo rehabilitative treatment like physiotherapy because the medical expert can only conclusively provide the report about the effects of the injuries undergone.
Ideally, the stage of the settlement comes only when you have a medical prognosis in place, or you have made a full recovery. The medical report covers everything from the extent of injuries to when you are likely to recover or have recovered and what impact it is expected to have on your life in future. It makes sense to make a claim after full recovery because only at that time you can estimate the total damages and if you make partial claim earlier you cannot file any additional claims. It would result in under-settlement of your claim.
Complexity of claim
It is natural that complicated and complex injuries take a longer time to gather evidence from medical experts which stretches the time for claim settlement. It might happen that the defendant would like to seek the opinion of a medical expert to asses the injuries and your health condition which prolongs the process of claim settlement further. Knowing that complex injuries take longer time for settlement, your lawyer can request for interim payments during the proceedings in order to cover the cost of lost earnings or wages. This would provide some interim relief to claimants who must wait further for full settlement of the claim. The advance or interim payment is subject to adjustment from the final compensation settlement.
Liability and admitting responsibility
The process of claim settlement gains speed and moves in a linear path from the time the defendant admits his or liability, which might sometimes happen in a straightforward manner or the defendant might argue that someone else was responsible for the accident and injuries. In the latter case, it turns into a debate between the lawyers on either side and consumes considerable time. Establishing liability requires investigations, and it might involve gathering witnesses’ statements, review CCTV footage and lengthy documents. Depending on the complexity of issues and the strength of witnesses and evidence available it takes quite some time to resolve issues about liability and arrive at a consensus. This time adds to the time it takes for settlement of the claim.
The start of negotiations
Only after every piece of document and evidence is in place and the lawyer is confident of building a strong case in your favor that he or she would proceed for starting negotiations. Most important is the conclusive medical evidence that comprises the major part of the special damages that also includes loss of earning, financial expenses, travel expenses, etc. As you can understand there are many small pieces that the lawyer has to craftily put in place like a jigsaw puzzle to draw the bigger picture that tells how and why the defendant must take responsibility for the injuries. Arranging everything and then aligning it with the legal process takes a good time you must be ready to bear with it.
What can prolong personal injury case settlement?
The process of settling claims is lengthy and despite your best efforts to reduce the time you can only make marginal improvements because many of the things are not within your control. However, it always pays to make some effort to cut time as much as possible because something is at least better than nothing. Still, there might be a delay if the claim amount is very high because it goes through various layers of scrutiny. If there are factual or legal problems with the case, it will take more time for corrections and re-submissions. Lastly, if recovery time from injury is longer, it delays the claim submission because for claiming full compensation you must file the claim only after recovery.
Never settle for less
A quick settlement should make you happy but it all depends on the situations and circumstances, and you must ensure that you receive fair compensation, which is worth waiting for. The legal process of claim settlement stipulates one-time settlement meaning that once you receive compensation, even if you are not happy with it you cannot submit another claim to make up for the deficit. Unless you are sure that you will have no regret with the compensation awarded to you, never settle for anything less.
Once both parties reach an agreement about the compensation amount, the settlement process should take about 4-6 weeks but can vary depending on the nature of the case. However, it will be good to stay prepared for anything between a few weeks and months to many years.