How long it takes to settle your personal injury case really depends on the specific facts of your case. As a general rule, our lawyers recommend you do not settle your case until all your injuries are definitely known, and you have recovered as much as you are going to. The reason for this is that you can only settle your case once; you cannot go back later and ask for additional compensation because your injury is worse than you thought.
In many situations, the case will settle about 12 – 18 months after the accident. However, if the injury is severe with major surgery, it will take longer for the case to settle because it takes longer to reach that point where you have recovered as much as you are going to. Generally, your personal injury attorney needs a final opinion from your doctor about the permanency of your injuries, and doctors won’t usually do this until a year after the injury or, if there was surgery, a year after the surgery.
Also, settlement will take longer in cases where the insurance company disputes who was at fault in the accident or whether your injury was really caused by the accident. For example, sometimes the insurance company claims that your injury was from a preexisting condition. In these types of cases, we may have to begin a lawsuit and the time for settlement will usually take an additional 12 – 20 months while the lawyers prepare the case and the case gets on the court’s trial calendar.
The only way you will be fairly compensated is if you let your attorney collect, document and provide all available information to the insurance company, and if you are not overeager to settle. Although the amount of time it takes for the settlement can be frustrating, we recommend patience. If you are overanxious to get the case settled, you will not get as fair compensation.
Even thought it takes a long time to resolve your case, it is important that you contact an attorney soon after your accident, so that a proper and complete investigation of the accident can be performed and so that your rights are protected in connection with your claims. In many personal injury cases, it is the information gathered the first few weeks after the accident that is crucial, even if it is ultimately not used until more than a year later.