One of the most common questions that Colorado auto accident victims ask their attorney is, “How long is it going to take to settle my case?” Without meaning to sound too much like a lawyer, the answer is simple: It depends.
Settling a personal injury case depends on certain factors. Let’s examine a few.
How Long It Takes to Recover From Your Injuries
Your case is not ready for settlement until you have been discharged from medical treatment, or, in the opinion of your primary physician, you have reached maximum medical improvement, or MMI. This may or may not mean that you have completely recovered; in some instances, injuries and limitations will be permanent. MMI simply means that your condition has stabilized, and no further improvement is expected, even if additional treatment is provided.
It is important that you do not settle until your treatment is complete since once an agreement has been reached, the case is concluded and it is too late to make further recovery for additional treatment that may be required to reach MMI.
How Long It Takes to Prepare Your Settlement Demand
Once your injury-related medical treatment is complete and you have been discharged from medical care, your attorney will need to obtain your final medical records and bills, confirmation from your employer of any work you missed as a result of your injury, and any limitations you may now have because of your injuries.
When the supporting documents have been gathered, your attorney will prepare a settlement demand for submission to the liability insurance company. The settlement demand will explain your damages, why the other party is at fault, and list a certain figure or range that will be considered acceptable to settle the claim. This can take anywhere from a month or two or even longer, depending on the number of medical providers you received treatment from and the overall complexity of your case.
How Long It Takes to Negotiate Your Claim
Once the insurance adjuster assigned to your case receives the settlement demand, it usually takes a minimum of a month or two for him or her to review it, complete any investigations that are deemed necessary, and obtain authority to negotiate from a supervisor or the claims manager. Although it is common for a personal injury attorney to follow up on a settlement demand within 30 days of sending it, the two sides do not usually come to an agreement that quickly, though it does happen.
After they have completed their review, the insurance company will make an initial offer to settle the claim, your attorney will counter offer, and the process continues. The negotiation phase can take only a week or two, or as long as several months or more. If the insurance company representatives do not make an acceptable offer because they do not value the claim as highly as you and your attorney do, you have two choices — accept their offer, or litigate your case.
Whether or Not You End up in Court
If you and your attorney decide to file your case in court, it does not mean that you will automatically go to trial. Litigation is just another step in the negotiation process, and both sides will continue to try to settle the case, right up until the trial date. Of all the personal injury cases filed in court, between 80% and 92% still settle prior to trial, according to a study published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.
If you do end up in court, your case will not be final until a verdict is reached, and your recovery might actually be lower than if you had taken the insurance company’s offer, since going to trial is usually far more expensive than settling a case out of court.