Time Typical for Settling Auto Accident Personal Injury

Written by James Hirby | Fact checked by The Law Dictionary staff |  

Blame Hollywood and television for setting the incorrect expectations of the US consumer around personal injury settlements.  Movies and shows depicts events and trials and settlements occurring in a sequence that seems like days, not the months and years as reality does in real life.  Movies and shows also depict the injured party getting wonderful financial settlements by a wonderfully sensitive judge.  But, it is not real.  Most personal injury (PI) lawyers do not want to go to court because only ten percent of the PI trials end up in the injured party’s favor.  Yes, only 10 percent.  The only other option is a settlement, and as most experienced and successful PI lawyers will state such negotiations take time.  Some of these experts lay out the activities that each side goes through to do the diligence that their disciplines and the law demand.  These experts tell their clients to be prepared to see two to three years go by before a settlement comes through.  If it occurs earlier, that is wonderful.  If it takes longer, then, it takes longer.  Some people expressed their view that PI lawyers simply hold out for killer settlements to make their monies and do not really care about their clients.  That is a very sour note for hard working, diligent, honest PI lawyers to hear.  There are, of course, some PI lawyers who fit this description to perfection.  It does an injustice to the good ones.

Most PI attorneys do not have big offices with many employees.  There are such firms, though.  The typical office usually has to contract out for investigators to do a lot of legwork like interviewing any witnesses both informally and perhaps under oath, called dispositioning the witness, getting police records, medical records, insurance policy records, talking with doctors, getting what information is available.  This is a part in the overall case that is known as a “discovery”.  This discovery can itself take six months or longer depending on the amount of items the lawyer and investigators must go through.  Consider also the fact that the client’s injuries often do not fully express themselves immediately.  There are often late and long term issues that come out a PI situation.  If a settlement occurs “quickly”, and the injured party learns of long term worse than thought injuries and outcomes, the client is out of luck.  There is no second dipping.  So, the PI attorney knows to not rush.  Following discovery, and while it is going on, the attorney has to digest this information and begin to piece together a picture on the situation, beginning to plan and map out an approach towards opposing counsel with the insurance company.  These experts describe the building of an information package by the PI lawyer that will eventually be sent to the insurance company and its legal department.  The insurance company must acknowledge receipt of the information or face charges.  Then the insurance company and its legal staff and assessors begin their consumption of the package.  The experts seriously attempt to lay out the expenses and reasons that the insurance company must as the package is reasonable.  Negotiations ensue often after four to six months.  Some questions and answers might go back and forth during that time.  In the (hopeful) near future a settlement being reached is realized.  Patience until then is essential.

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