Reaching a settlement in your personal injury case can greatly increase your quality of life. Not only does it provide you with the funds you need to pay your bills and continue to receive medical care, but it also means you no longer have to deal with insurance companies and the legal system. You can finally take a deep breath and move on with your life.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean personal injury cases are settled quickly. You aren’t alone if you feel like your case is dragging on forever.
Here are a few reasons why your case hasn’t settled, even if months have passed.
It Can Take A Long Time To Gather Evidence
Your accident may be clear to you, but it isn’t always clear to the insurance company. If a defendant is involved, they may look for reasons to deny fault. It’s up to your attorney to figure out exactly how accident investigations reveal culpability in your case, which means gathering evidence.
And that can take a long time.
Your attorney may request specific paperwork from your doctor or request police reports. It’s important to gather this evidence, but it can take a lot of time.
Your Attorney May Be Searching For And Communicating With Expert Witnesses
The evidence your attorney is gathering may come from expert witnesses. That might mean talking to your medical team or speaking to witnesses from the scene of the accident.
It can take a lot of time to work around everyone’s schedule to get the information they need, but it can also be time-consuming to even figure out who to contact. Finding medical experts and hunting down people who were at the scene can take quite a bit of time, especially if they can’t get a hold of someone. It often means taking even more time to find someone else with relevant information or expertise instead.
You’re Still Receiving Medical Treatment
If you were injured, chances are you’re spending a lot more time with medical professionals than you used to.
Just some of the medical professionals you might work with after an accident include:
- Your primary care physician
- A surgeon, if you need surgery
- A neurologist, if you experienced a brain injury
- A physical therapist
- A psychiatrist or therapist
With so many pieces that have to fit together after your accident, recovery can take a while. If you’re still actively receiving medical treatment, and especially if the full extent of your injuries isn’t yet known, your case may be delayed until you have received all of the necessary treatments.
Who To Blame For The Accident Is Unclear
Figuring out who is to blame isn’t easy either. You may believe very strongly that your accident was due to the negligence of another, but insurance companies and courtroom judges can’t just take your word for it. A lot of research needs to be done and evidence needs to be presented in order to figure out who did it.
Sometimes who is to blame isn’t clear. When it isn’t, the process can take even longer as both sides try to find additional evidence that can strengthen their case. The negotiation process can take a long time if both sides don’t believe they are at fault, and there isn’t enough evidence to support either theory. All that back and forth—rejecting and countering offers—can add weeks or even months to your case.
Your Case Is Big
It’s true that most personal injury settlement amounts really aren’t that large. Half of all plaintiffs in one study received $24,000 or less in their settlement. Smaller cases like this are more likely to be resolved quickly.
Larger cases are another story. If your case involves medical malpractice, a defective product, or the poor condition of property that led to an accident, monetary amounts are much higher, with many paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can bet that everyone will take extra time to make sure their ducks are all in a row when so much money is at stake.
The Court is Backlogged
The courts have a reputation for moving forward at a snail’s pace. That’s true even in ideal circumstances. Unfortunately, the current situation at most courthouses is anything but ideal.
Many courts are backlogged due to staffing shortages. Court reporters are especially in demand, with the shortage estimated at 5,000 reporters nationwide. Clerks and other positions aren’t fully filled either. If you’re unlucky enough to go to trial, it’s likely that your case will drag on for over a year.
Even if you don’t go to court, your case could still drag on. Paperwork still has to be filed properly, and if there’s a shortage of people to do the filing, it will take a while.
The Defendant is Delaying the Process
It’s true that insurance companies are supposed to support the people they insure, but at the end of the day, they are most concerned about profits. After all, they have to make more money than they pay out so they can pay their employees and shareholders.
It’s normal for insurance companies to delay the claims process as much as possible. Delays can make you more likely to accept a lowball offer just to be done with it. You’re also still likely paying for your insurance during the process, so delaying a payout means getting a few more months of payments out of you.
If you have a lawsuit against your employer, a company, or a person, you can expect them to delay the process too. The longer the delay, the less they hope they have to pay.
You want nothing more than to resolve your case quickly if you have been in an accident. Unfortunately, insurance companies, defendants, and even the courts have other plans. But knowing is half the battle. By being aware of how long it could take and why, you can persevere and come out the other side with plenty of money to cover your bills and medical expenses.