How long does it take to settle a case?
This question is one of the most asked questions that we get. Although each case is different, the best answer is that it takes as long as necessary but as short a time as possible in each specific case because we understand that you want your money as soon as possible. In most of our cases, our clients work pay check to pay check to make ends meet and support their families. When an accident occurs time stands still and bills stack up. We do everything within our power to resolve claims as soon as practical but we don’t want to settle too soon for too little because once a case is settled (with an exception for some workers compensation cases) it cannot be re-opened.
Timeline for an Injury Case Settlement:
Think of your case as a timeline. Understand that there are three main hurdles to leap before your case can be ready for resolution.
Liability and How it Works With Insurance Companies
In every personal injury or workers compensation case, the insurance company must first determine liability before there is any consideration for any payment and then any evaluation for value of the claim. Liability has nothing to do with how badly you were injured. Liability means that the insurance will either pay your claim or not pay your claim. If the insurance company disputes liability then nothing will be considered for payment. If liability is denied, then your claim may take months or years to resolve. If we cannot persuade the insurance company to accept liability after we investigate your claim and present our investigative results to the insurance company, then we have to make a determination as to whether filing suit is appropriate for your case. In personal injury cases, we file suit. In workers compensation cases, we file for hearing with the Industrial Commission. If suit is filed or a hearing is requested then the process can take several months and sometimes a few years. Once suit is filed, then you have to progress your case through the court process which involves answering written questions about your case, answering questions in depositions, participating in mediation and then a trial if necessary. In Workers Compensation cases, depositions, mediations and then hearings can drag the process out for months. In many cases, we can persuade the insurance company to accept liability and consider making offers during the litigation or hearing process. In summary, if liability is denied there is no certain time line for resolution unless and until the insurance company is persuaded or made to pay the claim.
Once the liability issue is resolved then the length to complete your treatment is the next hurdle to overcome. In every case, we want our client to be fully released from care before we attempt to settle. This is important because we probably won’t know the full value of your claim until you are released from your doctors. We must have all of your medical records and bills. In addition, the doctors must be in a position to tell us about any permanent injuries you have and what permanent work or other restrictions you will have. We also will need to know your estimated future medical expenses. In workers compensation cases, the insurance will not entertain settlement discussions until you have reached maximum medical improvement and you have returned to work or the doctors say you can’t return to your old job.
We have all of your economic damages
The last bit of information that must have before we try to negotiate your case is all of your economic losses. These losses usually include:
For Injury cases
1) Past medical bills
2) Estimated future medical bills
3) Lost wages, past and estimated future losses
4) Any other economic or money damages caused by the accident
For Workers Compensation cases
1) Estimated future medical costs
2) Future lost wages or future earning capacity
3) Any past or unpaid medical bills or wage loss
In some workers compensation cases, you may settle your case based on a rating of permanent injury to a specific body part and receive payment for that injury alone and still leave your claim open for future medical bills. However, we strongly urge you to have an experienced Workers Compensation attorney review your circumstances because there are specific rules and forms that preserve your claim.
Once we have all of your losses and we fully know what your injuries are and what your future damages or permanent restrictions will be, then we are comfortable negotiating your case with the insurance company and making the decision to either settle or file suit.
Every Case is unique and we fully appreciate this. We strive very hard to keep our clients advised and informed during the process whether your case can be settled with or without filing suit.
Social Security Cases
Social Security cases don’t have a timeline governed by treatment or collection of economic data. You are either determined eligible for benefits by the Social Security Administration (SSA) or ineligible. You must fight this process under the timelines determined by the government which in some cases can take as long as two years after filing for benefits. We urge all claimants for Social Security benefits to call us about questions because the SSA has most of the important guidelines on its website and we can direct you accordingly. The most important criteria for eligibility are that you are unable to engage in gainful employment for 12 continuous consecutive months and you have medical support for your claim.
For more than 35 years, the North Carolina car accident lawyers at Riddle and Brantley have successfully represented the great people of North Carolina.