How Long Will My Case Take?
Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions
Factors That Affect The Length of A Personal Injury Case
If you have been hurt in an accident you probably lost some income and have medical expenses and want to know how quickly your case can get settled. There are many delays necessary to get an accident victim a good recovery.
Attorney Jonathan Reed participates in questions to attorneys at www.avvo.com and many are from clients who think their attorneys are not moving fast enough. The above provides some reasons for delays in Personal Injury Cases. See Jonathan's Avvo profile.
As a general rule, bigger claims require more people at the insurance company or at the self-insured big corporation to sign off on a settlement offer. If you work for an insurance company, it is easier for you to be cautious (do nothing) about a million dollar claim, than to stick your neck out and recommend settling for a million bucks. If five people at the insurance company have to sign off on the million dollar claim, you don't want to be the first. And, it takes five people a long time to do anything.
One circumstance that can force an insurance company to move quicker than usual is if the Plaintiff offers to settle the claim for policy limits and the insurance company is concerned that a jury might award more than policy limits if the case goes to trial. IF the insurance company in hindsight had a chance to settle for or within policy limits AND the insurance company had knowledge of facts making it plausible that the claim might go for more than policy limits if tried, THEN the insurance company may be liable to its insured if the case goes to trial and the Plaintiff gets more than policy limits. This is a risk insurance companies really hate to take. If the policy limit is $100,000 in an auto case and the insurance company refuses to settle for a $100,000 limit demand and then after a jury trial the Plaintiff is awarded $120,000 the people who handled the file for the insurance company may look very bad. On the other hand, if the policy limit is $100,000 is the insurance company only offers $20,000 and there is trial and the insurance company pays $40,000 on legal fees and costs and the jury comes back with $20,000, the people who handled the claim for the insurance company can even look like heroes who held their ground and taught the local legal community that they can't be pushed around.
For example, if I have an auto claim with a probable value of $75,000-$125,000, a settlement for $100,000 will be quicker if the policy limit is $100,000 than if it is $500,000. Ideally, in this case if the policy limit was $100,000, we could get those limits and then still have a claim against the client's own insurance company under underinsured motorist coverage.
As lawyers we can't control what the policy limits are. Sometimes we can speed up settlements by constantly bombarding insurance companies in large cases with medical records and updates, but in most really big cases it is usually necessary to file suit to eventually attract the attention of the few people in the insurance company who can make decisions on large payouts.
And, of course, in some cases, we simply have to try a case because of a difference in opinion as to the value of the case.