It’s not uncommon for court cases to take a long time. With objections and appeals, settlement offers and negotiations, we’ve all heard of the horror stories of cases lasting for years. But why does it happen? And will your personal injury case take a long time?
Who Wants to Slow it Down?
The first question to ask is this: Who wants the personal injury case to slow down? Is it the injured person? Of course not. If you’ve been injured in an accident you have every desire to have your case finished as soon as possible, so that you can get on with your life.
Insurance companies have a vested interest in delaying and denying claims and court cases as much as possible. The longer they wait to pay out, the more money they make. Every insurance company has a large reserve of cash that they use to pay claims. When they aren’t paying claims, that money goes into low-risk accounts that earn interest. Thus, the longer they wait to pay a claim, the longer that money is earning interest. Last year, Geico made 73 Billion Dollars on the interest alone from this “float” money. Does that sound like a compelling reason to drag out every single claim?
The more they postpone paying out, the more they make.
Evaluating the Injury
The first step of your personal injury case is to evaluate your injuries. The reality is that you simply won’t know the full extent of your injuries and medical expenses right away. It takes some patience to get doctors to come up with their best estimates about the severity and duration of the harm you have experienced.
Evaluation is extremely important because once you accept a settlement or receive a verdict at trial you can’t go back and ask for more money. So it’s best that you know just how long-lasting your injuries will be so that you can know how much money you will need.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help move your case along through the legal process, and even set deadlines for each step of the case, forcing it along despite opposition. Here are the steps involved in your personal injury case:
Discovery is when everybody tries to find out everything they can about the situation. It’s likely your attorney will get medical records, accident reports, bills, and create a list of experts who can testify about your situation. Similarly, the insurance companies will be trying to find out anything they can to make you look bad, or dishonest. Discovery can last several months for complicated cases.
Depositions are when people answer questions under oath, and everything is recorded. You’ll be asked questions from your own attorney, who will likely have you describe your accident and injuries, as well as how the injuries have affected your life. The attorneys for the insurance companies will ask questions as well. Your own personal injury attorney will keep you safe from irrelevant or harassing questions.
Sometimes attorneys will try to adjust the case before it gets to trial. For example, an insurance company may try to exclude certain evidence of your injuries, or ask the case to be dismissed. Pre-trial motions don’t always happen, but when they do they can certainly slow down a case.
Mediation and Settlement
Settlement conferences, mediation, or arbitration are often required before a case can go to trial. In these situations, a third party attempts to help both the injured and the insurance company arrive at an agreement. If these fail, the case goes to trial.
At trial, a jury decides what your injury is worth. They listen to the evidence your attorney presents, and the evidence the insurance company presents and try to arrive at a fair value. Jury trials can take just a couple of days or a couple of weeks, but getting a trial scheduled can take six months or more.
During trial, it’s still possible to settle the case.
There is a trade-off with personal injury cases. The further your case goes, the more the insurance companies will want to settle. The down-side is that litigation is expensive and takes time.
Your attorney can help you balance the risks of settling versus the risks of going to trial. This is one area where experience counts. An attorney who has seen many injury cases knows what to expect and can help you decide when an offer is a good one, and when it’s time to fight.
Questions to Ask your Attorney:
- Can you negotiate with my health care providers to have them wait to be paid till my case is resolved?
- How long will it take for experts to investigate and analyze my accident?
- Do you have the time and resources to make sure my case moves forward quickly?
At Ingerman & Horwitz LLP, our attorneys are ready to help you take your case as quickly as possible through the legal system. We have the resources needed to take on any tough case, and the experience to get you the results you deserve. Contact us today- we’re here to help.