Time doesn’t actually slow down when you sustain serious injuries in a car accident, but sometimes it feels that way.
Recovery from devastating injuries drags on for months or even years. Life slows to a crawl as you fill each day with doctor appointments, hospital visits, physical therapy, and pain management.
Everything shifts into low-gear while you learn to live with permanent impairments and lifestyle changes. Only as you begin resuming your normal activities do you have time to consider your car accident settlement and how long it takes.
Liability injury claim settlements don’t follow specific rules or a set timetable. Unlike worker’s compensation cases, you have no guidelines or tables that tell you when it’s time to settle or how much money you should receive.
Your car accident settlement timing depends largely on you. It’s a waiting game driven by your injuries and recovery, and the liability insurance company handling your claim.
Injury Settlement Timing
Often, the burden for car accident settlement timing rests on your shoulders. As you contemplate your future settlement negotiations, here are a few questions to consider.
Are you ready to settle?
Your readiness is one of the most critical elements of settlement timing. Before you discuss your settlement with the liability insurer, you must decide if you’re ready to negotiate.
When you settle your claim, you usually release the negligent driver from any additional responsibility. If you’re still undergoing treatment, you have no guarantee that your settlement will cover your future bills, lost wages, and non-economic damages.
If you haven’t reached maximum healing and you want to settle anyway, consider these issues.
- Will your doctor estimate the cost of your future disabilities and medical bills so you can include them in your settlement?
- Can you perform your job duties or will you remain disabled?
- If you can’t do your old job, will you require vocational rehabilitation?
- Can you pay any future medical bills you incur?
- Does your health insurance carrier have subrogation rights for medical claims paid on your behalf? If they do, you must repay them when you settle your claim. This usually reduces your settlement amount.
Do you know your settlement goals?
Before you begin negotiating your claim, you must have an idea of your bottom line. Prepare to explain your rationale for whatever amount you demand. As your claim is unique from anyone else’s, you should never try to settle based on what someone else got for the same or similar injuries.
Settlements usually include two basic categories of damage.
- Economic damages include all of your current and future out-of-pocket costs such as medical bills, lost wages, and expenses.
- General or non-economic damages include financial considerations for your pain, suffering, anxiety, relationship problems, scarring, and other mental and emotional issues. If you document these issues each day, you usually explain them more easily when you negotiate.
Is the insurance company ready to settle?
Before an insurance company begins active negotiations, they complete their investigation so they have a clear picture of any liability issues. They usually accomplish this long before negotiations begin.
For a comprehensive injury evaluation, the liability insurer also needs your medical documentation. They usually request a signed medical release so they can obtain protected health information in compliance with HIPAA guidelines. Insurers request this information directly from your healthcare providers. This lets them ask specific questions about your injuries and disabilities. They often receive injury information they might not get otherwise.
An insurer’s request for a medical release often delays the evaluation and settlement process. Some injured victims don’t trust insurers, so they refuse to sign a medical release.
This often leads to a stand-off:
- The injured person won’t sign a medical release.
- The insurance company can’t evaluate their claim.
- The insurer won’t negotiate a settlement without the information they want.
- This puts the responsibility back on the injured person’s shoulders.
When does your statute of limitations run?
Each state has specific laws that establish statutes of limitations for different types of disputes. As an injured person, this gives you a time limit for resolving your claim. The day you sustain an injury, the clock begins its countdown. If you don’t negotiate a settlement or file a lawsuit before your statute of limitations expires, you usually lose your right to make a claim.
This date is significant when you have serious injuries that require long-term recovery. You easily lose track of time when you’re busy with medical appointments, rehabilitation sessions, or you’re simply trying to get your life back to normal. If you have no legal representative looking out for you, it’s up to you to make note of your statute of limitations and plan to settle your case long before that date approaches.
Would a personal injury attorney improve your settlement process?
The settlement process is often overwhelming. It makes sense to turn your claim over to a personal injury attorney. Attorneys give you the benefit of their familiarity with claim investigation, evaluation, and settlement processes.
When you contact an attorney immediately following your injuries, they investigate your car accident and deal with the legal issues while you focus on healing.
- Attorneys deal with the same insurers over and over again, so they understand their claim handling idiosyncrasies and settlement criteria.
- When an attorney represents you, you feel more comfortable giving him releases for medical and wage loss information.
- An attorney understands how to research an injury to determine a fair settlement value.
- When negotiations stall, an attorney files suit on your behalf and continues handling your case.
- An attorney tracks your statute of limitations and protects your right to make a claim.
- Attorneys work with mediation and other Alternative Dispute Resolution programs to resolve your case without going to court.
When you schedule a complimentary consultation with a personal injury attorney, you have an opportunity to learn more about your legal options. An attorney helps you decide if and when you should make a claim, negotiate a settlement, or file a lawsuit.