Over the years one of the questions most often asked is: “How long will it take for my case to settle?” The answer is: It depends. While this may sound like a typical lawyer answer, it has remained the truth throughout my career. The fact is that there are many issues at play in what may appear to be even the most simple personal injury case. Often, these issues are not seen by the client and that can result in frustration. Most attorneys will work hard for their clients and want to obtain the best results. To do this, an attorney must be calculated and precise to make sure their client is protected and that no stone is left unturned.
Generally speaking, an attorney will want to make sure their client is seen by a medical provider who has worked with accident victims in the past and is therefore on the lookout for common auto injuries. If a client recovers “quickly” from their injuries (meaning within 30 to 60 days), their case should not take too long to settle. Once all of the medical records and bills are received by the attorney, and provided there are no outstanding legal issues, your attorney will be able to send a “settlement demand” to the responsible insurance company. Many insurance companies will evaluate the settlement demand within 30 days and make an offer to settle. It is important to remember however that this time period is not set in stone. Once your attorney receives an offer to settle from the insurance company, the attorney should contact the client to discuss the offer as well as how fair or unfair the offered amount might be. The attorney will use that opportunity to strategize with their client about which steps would be in their client’s best interest. If the client is asking for more money than what was offered, the attorney will contact the insurance company again and attempt to negotiate a higher offer. Additional negotiations may take from several hours to weeks in order to reach the client’s desired result. Most “whiplash” or “muscle strain” injury cases are settled within a year but again, every case is different.
Sadly, in far too many cases, the client does not recover quickly. The client may need several months of treatment to recover from their injury. A doctor may order diagnostic testing (e.g. MRIs of CTs). Additionally, the client may be ordered to seek a consultation with a specialist (like orthopedists and neurosurgeons). In these cases, the client will be advised that their case should not be settled until they has returned to their pre-injury status or at the very least, have reached “maximum medical improvement.” Thus, a good rule to follow when trying to determine how long it will take your case to settle is to ask your doctor how long you may need to go to the doctor to get better. For instance, if you are treating with a chiropractor who will need to see you for six months until you return to health, you should not settle your case until the six months is over, you are released from care and you have fully recovered or at least returned to that pre-injury pain level. The sooner you recover from your injuries, the sooner it will be advisable to settle your case. Once you are released from care, your attorney will be able to obtain your complete file from the treating doctor(s) (including reports and bills) and submit the demand to the insurance company.
How long any given case will take to settle, will vary and depend on many factors. An accident victim should speak with an experienced accident attorney to discuss the best strategy to take in their particular case. Clients should be patient and honest with their attorneys and doctors at all times. If it will take longer than a year to settle your case, a lawsuit will likely be filed because the statute of limitations in Louisiana car accident and slip and fall cases is one year from the date of accident.
The views expressed in this article are for information purposes only and are not intended as legal advice. An accident victim should always consult with an attorney after suffering injury. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, contact Attorney Colby F. Wenck today for a free case consultation. Although his office is in Metairie, Colby will meet with you throughout southeast Louisiana.