The honest answer is … it depends.
Depending on the injury, treatment and therapy, your case may take six months to a year before it can be settled for its proper value. Most of the car crash injury cases I handle settle within a year.
Having said that, when clients have severe injuries requiring multiple surgeries and long periods of rehabilitation, a case can take more than a year – sometimes two years or more, to settle. The statute of limitations for a car collision is typically three years. This means that the case must settle within three years, or the claim is lost. If your case cannot settle within that time frame, your attorney will need to file a law suit within the three-year window in order to preserve your claim. Filing a lawsuit within the statute of limitations will allow the case to be litigated in court and will preserve your claim even if the trial is set well beyond the expiration of the three-year window.
Cases that have relatively minor injuries that are treated with several months or less of physical therapy can often resolve within six months of the crash.
Be forewarned: Attorneys who promise in vague terms to “get you money fast” are not likely making a promise they can keep. If a case is settled too quickly, there is a good chance the attorney is not recovering as much money as your case deserves. Insurance companies are more than happy to settle your case quickly if they can get you to settle for bottom dollar. Capturing the full value of your case requires effort, skill and patience. Attorneys who seek quick settlements risk leaving substantial money on the table. In the end, the client is the one who loses if the attorney accepts a low settlement offer without fully working-up the case.
The value of a case is typically driven by two important considerations: (1) the severity of the injuries and (2) the policy limits of the insurance carrier.
If you have serious injuries, which could be anything more substantial than mild whiplash, then you will have to wait until you have healed from your injuries to know the true value of your case. Importantly, you will have to be diligent about seeking the proper medical diagnosis and treatment for your injuries. If you tough it out and avoid seeking proper medical care, the insurance company will treat your injury claims as if you have fabricated them. The key evidence in any injury claim includes the medical records and bills. Without this important documentation, there won't be much an attorney can do for your case. If you are pursuing medical treatment, going to your appointments, and following your doctor's instructions, then you will have done most of what is necessary to properly document your injuries. Your attorney will likely have conversations with you about the symptoms you are experiencing and the diagnoses and treatment you are receiving. It is important that you seek appropriate medical treatment to address your symptoms and diagnoses. For example, if you have bone fractures, or ligament tears, you will want to see specialists such as orthopedic physicians who focus on the part of the body where you have suffered injury. Some orthopedics focus on the spine, others focus on knees, and others may focus on hips. If you have a closed head injury, you will want to see specialists who treat concussions and traumatic brain injury. This often means seeking treatment beyond your primary care physician. Reaching maximum medical improvement is completely dependent on the severity of your injuries and your body's ability to heal. Some people heal quickly, others heal slowly.
The other major factor that impacts the time it will take to resolve a case is the insurance limits that are available. If you have injuries and medical bills that will obviously exhaust the policy limits of the available insurance, then your case may resolve somewhat quickly because it is likely your attorney will make a demand to the insurance carrier that it promptly pay the policy limits to avoid litigation and further exposure. This demand can often be made before you have fully recovered from your injuries. The downside of this approach is that there may not be enough assets available through insurance to fully compensate you for your injuries. In that event, your attorney may discuss with you the possibility of suing the at-fault driver individually, instead of settling for policy limits, if that person has assets that are large enough to satisfy the full value of your case. There are pros and cons to this approach that must be carefully weighed before moving into this type of litigation.
If the policy limits of the available insurance are adequate to fully compensate the value of your case, then you will likely have to wait until you have fully recovered from your injuries, or at least until you have reached a point of maximum medical improvement.
There are many technical, legal and strategic considerations to weigh in any injury case. It is important to have a skilled and experienced advocate who can advise you on the best approach for your case.
The Max Law Firm stands ready to help you with your traffic injury case. For a free consultation call 720-699-8268.