At The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare, our clients want fast results, and so does our team of experienced Dallas personal injury attorneys. One of the questions we’re always asked is “How long will it take for my case to reach a settlement?” The truth is, it depends. Every personal injury case is different, and it’s impossible to accurately predict how long your personal injury case will take to be resolved. It could take a few months or it could take a few years.
Things might feel like it’s going at a snail’s pace, especially when all you want to do is return back to a sense of normalcy. And while you might want the quickest resolution possible, speed isn’t everything. Sometimes there’s a tradeoff between settling your case quickly and getting “shorted” on adequate compensation for your injuries.
In this article, we’ll look at the factors that can influence the time it can take to settle a case and why settling quickly isn’t always the best strategy.
Factors That Influence the Time It Takes to Settle a Case
There are several factors that can influence how long it takes your personal injury claim to settle including:
- Questions surrounding fault;
- The amount of money involved;
- The severity of your injuries; and
- The time it takes for you to reach maximum medical improvement.
In certain scenarios, you might need to let the wheels of justice take their time to grind unless you’re willing to take pennies on the dollar in order to quickly resolve your case. Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors and how an experienced Dallas personal injury attorney can help you efficiently navigate through this journey.
Questions Surrounding Fault
Personal injury cases are almost overwhelmingly based around the premise of negligence—a legalese term that boils an accident down to four questions. In order to win your personal injury case, you must be able to prove those four questions in your favor. Those questions are:
- Did the other person owe you a duty;
- Did the other person breach that duty;
- Did the breach of the duty cause and proximately cause the accident and;
- Did you suffer injuries or damages from the accident?
A case is settled faster when the answer to these questions are straight-forward, like a rear-end collision in a car accident. In these cases, the details and documents are easily accessed and readily available and there’s not likely to be a dispute about what happened and who is responsible for the accident.
A case takes longer when there is a dispute about the facts and issues about who’s at fault for the accident.
Suppose liability is hard to prove (for example, you and the at-fault party have different stories about the accident). In that case, the insurance company will likely deny your claim or refuse to make a reasonable offer until you’ve provided ample evidence that proves the other party is liable for your losses. Your Dallas personal injury attorney will gather a litany of evidence, including witness statements, video or photo evidence, and may even utilize accident reconstruction experts that will prove how the other party was at fault.
The Amount of Money Involved
If you’re involved in a case where you may potentially receive substantial damages—or to put it simply, if there’s a lot of money on the line—then you can expect the at-fault party to do whatever they can to delay paying you out. At the end of the day, insurance companies are focused on protecting their bottom line, and they simply do not want to pay big money on a settlement until they’ve turned over every stone in your case. That means investigating every aspect of your claim until they’re certain that:
- They don’t have a good defense against your claim;
- Your injuries are indeed as severe as you say they are, and;
- You’d have a high chance of winning if you took your case to court.
Even if the fault is clear and you have plenty of evidence of your injuries and losses, some insurance companies will delay settlement on a big case simply to see if you’ll give up in frustration and accept less money. With medical bills piling up and the inability to work, they know that some victims are feeling a financial squeeze after an accident and don’t want to wait too long for compensation. A Dallas personal injury attorney who’s well-versed in these tactics can fight back, pressure them to speed up the settlement and make sure you’re getting everything that’s owed to you.
The Time It Takes For You to Reach Maximum Medical Improvement
When you get into an accident your body needs time to heal. More specifically, you need time to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is essentially a bench-marking point in a victim’s recovery process that means you’ve recovered to the fullest possible degree from your injuries.
Insurers might claim you’ve reached this point to get out of having to pay you for ongoing medical costs, but you don’t want to accept a settlement before your healthcare providers themselves have informed you that you’ve reached MMI.
If you are still healing, you may not have a clear picture of your current and future medical expenses and the impact your injuries might have on your life. If you rush to settle before you understand the full extent of your injuries, you could be shorting yourself out of thousands of dollars you may need for future medical bills. By taking the time to get the treatment you need and allowing your body to reach MMI, your attorney will have a much better chance of obtaining the full value your claim is worth.
Settling Quickly Isn't Always a Great Idea
One of two things may happen when you’re pursuing a personal injury claim: the insurance company will quickly make an offer; or conversely, they’ll delay the process.
In some cases, the insurance company will quickly call you after you file a claim and dangle an easy, fast, and low settlement offer in your face. Quick settlements save the insurance company time, work, and money. But more importantly, if they can get you to settle quickly, it means that you might accept a lower offer before you have time to realize how much your claim is worth.
It’s tempting to agree to an early settlement, but you don’t want to make this mistake. Once you agree to a settlement, that’s it. You sign a contract where you agree that you won’t pursue further compensation regarding the accident. If you realize later down the line that you need further medical care or if the accident has long-term effects on your life, you’re legally shut out from receiving further compensation for these losses.
Other times, they’ll intentionally drag out the process. Insurance companies have time to wait it out whereas some accident victims have no income between the time of their accident and when they finally get compensation. They understand that when people get frustrated and desperate, they are more likely to accept a lowball offer. Even though it’s frustrating, patience is a virtue. If you can wait until you’ve reached MMI, you’ll likely stand to receive higher compensation than if you were to give into the insurance company’s tactics.
Talk to A Dallas Personal Injury Attorney Who Has Your Back
At The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare, it’s our mission to move cases as quickly as possible without sacrificing our client’s long-term interests. Ready to meet with an attorney to discuss your specific case? Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.