One of the most common concerns among personal injury clients is, “Why is my case taking so long?” While we always hope that a case will settle quickly and allow our clients to move on with their lives sooner rather than later, it is, unfortunately, not always how circumstances evolve.
Below are some of the most common reasons why a case may take more time:
- Your medical treatment: When a client is in the midst of receiving medical treatment, the extent of their injuries is often not yet fully realized. If you are still receiving medical treatments for injuries sustained due to your accident, your attorney will not be able to compile your medical records to include them in your claim. Once your treatment has been completed, the complete and full extent of your injuries will be documented and your attorney will be able to demand appropriate medical reimbursement. If your treatment is extended by several months or years, your case may also be delayed by a similar amount of time.
- How much compensation your case is worth: When your injuries are more severe and compensation requests are more substantial, the insurance company may delay payout as long as possible. This strategy is sometimes used as an attempt to stall in hopes you give up or agree to a much lower settlement. It also can happen because cases with substantial injuries and damages require much more time to review all of the evidence associated with your case. In situations like these, a skilled personal injury attorney can help move the case more quickly toward resolution and payment of a fair settlement.
- Liability disputes: Defendants often try to avoid payouts by disputing where liability falls. For example, in a car accident, the insurance company may raise a defense that the plaintiff (victim) was liable for their own injuries and therefore is not eligible for settlement. When this happens, the length of the case may be drawn out significantly. It’s important to hire an attorney who can spot the warning signs of unnecessary disputes or frivolous defenses and can aggressively work to get the case back on track.
- Your case is going to trial: Attorneys and defendants typically try to avoid trial and resolve cases by working through mediation, arbitration and settlement negotiations first. Occasionally, however, an agreement cannot be reached and a case must proceed to trial. This can create a significantly longer timeline for resolution, as trial cases require additional time to prepare. Your attorney will gather in-person witness testimony, make court filings and jury selections and will need to engage in additional procedural requirements as they arise. Additionally, the court system can get bogged down with delays and heavy caseloads. During the outbreak of COVID-19, for example, virtually all trials were put on hold and many courts are still working to catch up. If your case goes to trial, expect an additional several months or more to be added to the resolution timeline of your case.
- Post-Settlement Subrogation: Depending on the nature of your case and your insurance policy, your health insurance company may require reimbursement for bills paid on your behalf after you’ve received a settlement from a third party. This is called subrogation and it is included in most insurance contracts, including Medicare and Medicaid. Should post-settlement subrogation be a factor in your case, it may take more time for you to receive your settlement money. A good personal injury attorney will work with your insurance company to negotiate lower subrogation fees and help clients receive the most possible from their settlement. Often, subrogation issues can be worked out before settlement.
As personal injury attorneys, we strive to ensure our clients’ cases are moving forward and that next steps are being taken in a timely manner. It’s extremely important that any attorney you hire to represent you is an effective communicator and is willing to provide updates on a regular basis. Personal injury cases may move slowly, and that expectation should be laid out from the outset of your attorney-client relationship so expectations are realistic. Regardless, an attorney who truly has your best interest at heart will always make sure you are informed and that your questions are answered.
If you believe you have a case, contact our attorneys at Lowe Eklund Wakefield. We offer free initial consultations and contingency-based fee agreements. Get in touch today to find out if you have a case.