Why does it Take So Long to Get Compensated for my Car Crash?
You are involved in car crash. It is clearly the other party’s fault. You have injuries. You have missed work. All you want is to get compensated and move on with your life. Why should it take three years to get what you deserve?
While some people are able to get compensated within a year or two of the date they were injured, it can take much longer for others. First and foremost, it has to do with when you bring your claim. While some aspects of your claim, such as obtaining compensation for getting your car fixed or replaced, may be handled fairly quickly, it’s not unusual for it to take years to recover the bulk of what you deserve.
Whether your claim get resolved in a settlement or if your case goes to trial, your claim will usually be resolved in one payment. This means that you cannot go back later and seek additional compensation if you need additional medical treatment, or you are still suffering pain or discomfort later on. If your injuries have not healed completely at the time of trial or settlement, your attorney must consider your future needs and account for them as part of the settlement or verdict at the time of trial.
The principal reason why injury cases take so long is that it is usually not possible to properly assess the value of the case, i.e., what it should settle for, until the client has completed treatment. If there are permanent injuries or injuries which requiring ongoing treatment, the ongoing pain, discomfort, and medical care must be considered as part of the settlement. It is often unclear whether an injury will be permanent or how much improvement there will be until some considerable amount of time has passed.
Another reason why it takes so long to get compensation is because insurance companies generally would rather hold onto their money then pay it to those who get injured. Insurance companies make money by bringing in more dollars from their policyholders’ premiums than they pay out on claims. Insurance companies have no interest in paying the fair value of anyone’s personal injury claim early in the process. They’d rather keep that money in their accounts and let it earn interest and dividends. An insurance company would rather settle any case, whether its worth $15,000 or $1.5 million, a year from now than settle it today for the same amount.
There is one thing that will cause an insurance company to pay the fair value of an injury claim: fear. The only time that an insurance company will pay the fair value of a claim is that they are afraid that they might get hit for worse if the case goes to trial. Most of the time, however, trial is a far-off hypothetical thing that might happen at some point in the future. The insurance company is usually looking at their end-of-quarter profit projections. They don’t worry about what will happen next year.
In order to get fully and fairly compensated for your injuries, you need to be able to demonstrate, whether in court, or to an insurance adjuster, the full nature and extent of your injuries. The process of evaluating the value of your claim cannot really get going until your treatment is complete. Then it often takes weeks if not months to obtain all of your medical records. Once we have all of your records and put together a demand package and send it to the insurance company, it gets put in line with all of the other claims and eventually they will decide of what to offer to settle your claim. The vast majority of the time insurance companies will not offer a fair and full value settlement of your claims at this stage in the process. Sometimes after negotiations a claim will get a fair valuation without filing suit. If you are lucky enough to be among these claims, your claim will settle relatively quickly.
Usually, we end up filing a lawsuit to obtain a full and fair settlement for our client. Settlement does not occur at the moment that the lawsuit is filed, or even shortly thereafter, however, most of the time. from when a lawsuit is filed until the case goes to trial can be a year or longer. This is especially true since the Covid-19 pandemic began. With courts being shut down for months because of the pandemic, there is a backlog of trials waiting to be heard. I have a case that we filed in April 2019 that is scheduled for trial to begin in April 2022 – three years from the day we filed. Considering that my client’s crash occurred in April 2016, my client has waited a very long time indeed for justice in his case. In fairness this case was originally scheduled to go to trial in early 2020 but has been postponed numerous times.
Throughout my years as a trial attorney, I have found that nothing puts pressure on an insurance company to settle as much as a rapidly approaching trial date. We have had cases that have been in litigation for a year or more without any decent settlement offer on the table. Once we are within a couple weeks, or even a couple days, of trial, all of a sudden, the insurance company wants to get realistic about settling the case.
We normally have a good idea within about four to six weeks of presenting a settlement demand of whether we are going to need to file suit in a case. Depending on the carrier, we may tell the client up front that its unlikely their case will result in a fair settlement without filing suit.
As I’ve said above, fear drives settlements. The insurance company will not offer a full value settlement unless it believes that it could be worse if it goes to trial. We had a client who as injured in a premises liability incident a few years ago. The insurance company would not settle for fair value. We went to trial and got a verdict that was more than five times what the insurance company had offered to settle the case just prior to trial. We represented a second client who was injured in the same incident. After the initial verdict we were able to settle the second case for fair value without having to file suit. In the first claim they were not afraid. After we got a large verdict, they were afraid and that drove a fair value for the second claim.
A good settlement does not result from an evaluation by the insurance and determination that your claim is deserving of compensation. A good settlement results when the insurance company sees what’s coming and fears that its policyholder will get hit with a large judgment if it doesn’t settle the case. We treat every claim as if we expect it to go to trial. If that results in a good settlement along the way, then that’s great. If not, the claim is well positioned for trial. Getting our client’s claims to the point where it is well positioned for either trial or settlement is, unfortunately, a lengthy process.
There are plenty of cases that we handle that we could settle much more quickly. In doing so, however, our clients would get less money than they deserve for their injuries. Our goal has always been to obtain for the client every dollar that we can for what they have been through.
If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident or any other type of incident where someone else is at fault, we’d be happy to sit down with you for a no-obligation consultation to see how we can help. There is never a fee for our representation in a personal injury case unless we recover money for you.