What if you have a personal injury case, and you don’t want it to drag on for years? As a general rule, you can settle any personal injury case quickly as long as you are willing to take less money. The first thing to know is why some personal injury cases can take a long time to settle. There are three main reasons why a personal injury case can move slowly: (1) there are legal or factual problems with the case; (2) the case involves a lot of money; or (3) you have not reached maximum medical improvement from your injuries. If your case involves any of these situations, the bad news is that your case is simply going to take some time to settle unless you are prepared to take pennies on the dollar in order to resolve it.
(1) There Are Problems With The Case. The value of a personal injury case is determined by liability (who was at fault) and damages (how badly was the plaintiff injured).
If liability is hard to prove, then the insurance company is not likely to make a reasonable settlement offer until the claimant has filed a lawsuit and hired liability experts to show that the defendant was at fault. If there are legal issues in the case (i.e., the insurer believes that you have no legal right to sue), then it is unlikely that the insurance company will make any significant offer at all on the case until a judge has ruled on your right to sue.
Alternatively, there may be problems with damages. For example, the treating physicians may be unsure that it was the defendant’s negligence that caused the plaintiff’s injury. It is always your burden to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused your injuries. If your doctors are unsure on this, then the insurance company is not going to make a reasonable settlement offer until it is satisfied that you can produce a doctor to testify that the defendant’s fault caused your injuries.
(2) The Case Involves "Big Money." Another factor that can delay settlement is if the case involves large damages. Insurance companies simply will not pay big money on a settlement until they have done their due diligence. For an insurance company, due diligence means investigating every aspect of the case. The insurance company will not be prepared to settle for reasonable money until they are convinced that they either don’t have a good defense to the case, that your injuries are as severe as you claim that they are, and they cannot attack your credibility.
Further, sometimes insurance companies will delay settlement on a big case simply to see if the plaintiff will give up and accept less money. Most badly injured people need the settlement money, and cannot wait too long for compensation. Insurance companies know this and will try to wait out the plaintiff.
(3) You Have Not Reached Maximum Medical Improvement. Another legitimate reason why settlement might take a long time is that you are still treating for your injuries. If you can afford to wait, you never want to settle a personal injury case until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) from your injuries. MMI means that you are as good as you are going to get. The reason that you want to wait until you are at MMI before settling is so that your lawyer will know how to value your damages. If you are still treating, it is unclear whether you will fully recover or not. If you fully recover from your injuries, your case is likely to be worth less than if you never did recover.
If you have been injured because of someone else's negligence, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to set up an appointment for a free initial consultation.