This is a common question. In fact, it’s probably the most common question asked of personal injury lawyers, along with, “How much will I get?”
Wanting to get your settlement quickly is understandable. After all, if you’ve been in an accident, you’ve incurred unexpected expenses. These expenses might include over-the-counter medication, fuel for trips to the doctor and therapist, and the cost of helpers to rake the lawn or shovel the sidewalk. And you’ve likely lost some income, especially if you’re self-employed.
Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer to the question of “When?” As is often the case in the legal world, the answer is, “It depends.” Every case is different.
There are a few factors that will impact how soon you get your settlement. One is the complexity of the case. Is it clear who is at fault? Are there any witnesses? Do the witnesses agree on what happened?
If the answer is no to any of the above, it will likely take longer to reach a settlement. Any witnesses will need to be questioned. The parties to the accident will also need to be questioned.
Another factor is that it takes time to diagnose and treat injuries. The defendant’s insurance company will want to determine the exact extent of your injuries. It’s also in your interest to go for a few months of treatment to see if you get better. If symptoms remain, and they continue to affect your work and your ability to perform daily activities, this will affect the amount of compensation to which you’re entitled.
If your injuries are not serious and are clearly caused by the accident in question, this can speed up the process. But if the extent of your injuries is open to dispute, or if you have a prior medical history that complicates the picture, this can prolong negotiations. Keep in mind as well that the defendant’s insurance company has the right to request an independent medical examination (IME).
A deadline to keep in mind is that you have two years from the date of the accident to launch a lawsuit. Fortunately, many cases are settled before this deadline is reached. Litigation tends to be expensive, stressful and time consuming. Reaching a settlement early in the process and not going to trial is typically a much safer option.
Still wondering how long it will take? Consider the following ‘best case’ scenario with a motor vehicle accident:
Your car was rear-ended by another driver. The police attend the scene. You were driving safely at the time and the other driver was clearly at fault. You suffer injuries that are clearly caused by the accident. There are witnesses in agreement with your version of events. Your injuries are treated the same day at the hospital. You promptly visit your family doctor, who then refers you to therapists, such as chiropractors and physiotherapists. You undergo regular treatments with those specialists — perhaps two months’ worth of treatment sessions.
While you’ve been undergoing treatment, your personal injury lawyer has been exchanging information with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The insurance company might request an IME. You’re able to schedule an IME for two months later.
You can see in the above ‘best-case’ scenario that at least a few months will likely pass before a settlement is reached. Four months from the date of accident is possible. Six months to a year is common. And some cases can take two years or longer to reach a resolution.
You can help ensure the fastest possible resolution of your case by doing the following:
- At the time of the accident, get the names and contact information for any witnesses
- Take photos of the accident scene and surrounding area
- Get your injuries diagnosed and treated as soon as possible
- Follow the treatment regimen recommended by your doctor and other specialists
- Promptly provide all information requested by your lawyer
Keeping the above in mind will help you maintain reasonable expectations about your personal injury claim. This will make the entire process smoother and less stressful for all involved.