Frequently Asked Questions - How Long Does It Take To Get a Settlement in an Injury Case?
Each state is different when it comes to the timeframe it takes to settle a personal injury claim. This is known as a statute of limitations. In the State of Florida, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is four years from the date of accident if you are filing a bodily injury claim or five years if you are filing an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim. The only way to get past the statute of limitations is either settling your claim within the time frame or filing a lawsuit against the insurance company. Once a lawsuit is filed, your claim can continue for as long as needed, there is no longer a time frame of when the claim must be settled. While no one wants to be involved in a lawsuit for decades, you essentially have forever to settle the claim. Filing a lawsuit is a last resort action as most attorneys try to resolve a personal injury claim without having the need to have to file a lawsuit.
It goes without saying that the more medical treatment you require after an accident, the longer it will take to settle your claim. If you were involved in a minor accident and suffered very insignificant injuries, chances are your claim is going to settle pretty quickly. If you suffered from significant injuries and require the treatment of numerous specialists, your case will take a lot longer to pursue as you never want to settle your claim until your injuries are resolved or gotten to the point where they are never going to get any better than they are. This is known as maximum medical improvement. Once you are finalized with your physical therapy, your doctor will inform you that you have reached maximum medical improvement from their certain expertise. This does not mean that you cannot move on to seek the treatment from a specialist or surgeon. If you choose not to consult with a specialist, your case will be known as a soft tissue claim. Soft tissue claims are typically smaller claims which tend to settle within a few months to a year of the accident. Usually these soft tissue claims settle from the $10,000.00 and less range.
If your injuries are more severe and you must consult with a specialist or surgeon, your medical treatment will likely take longer. Usually when you consult with a specialist and they opine that you will require surgery for your injuries, you would discuss this with your attorney to make sure this is the right move for you. If the insurance coverage is available to you to warrant the surgery, your attorney will instruct you to think long and hard about undergoing the surgery. If you decide not to undergo the surgery and you instruct your attorney to settle your claim as is, you will never be allowed to go back and re-open your claim with the insurance company as you will have signed a release which forever bars you from suing the insurance company or their insured ever again for the same accident. If you do close your claim without undergoing the surgery and your pain worsens, you will have to either live with the pain or pay out of pocket to undergo the surgery on your own. If you are concerned about how long your claim will take should you need to undergo surgery, the fact that you will be doing all you can to relieve your pain so that you are not in constant daily pain for the rest of your life should trump any length of time it takes to get your claim settled. You will have four years minimum to settle your claim which is usually plenty of time to pursue all medical treatment you possibly need. You should never let the statute of limitations limit the amount of treatment you need if the insurance coverage is available to you.
Once you have completed all of the necessary medial treatment you possibly need for your injuries, now will be the time for your attorney to gather all of your medical bills and records and any other supporting evidence to get the insurance company to make an offer. Your attorney will inform the insurance adjuster how long they have to respond to their settlement demand which is usually about thirty to forty-five days from the date of their demand letter. Once the adjuster has made their offer to your attorney, your attorney will then spend the next few days to few weeks negotiating with them to get the offer up as high as they possible can go. This is when your attorney will discuss with you what that final offer is and how much money they anticipate you will walk away with for your pain and suffering. If the settlement offer is nowhere near where you or your attorney believe it should be, the two of you would then discuss the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the insurance company to get them to pay the full value of your claim. Your attorney will never suggest filing a lawsuit against an insurance company if they did not believe you would be able to win the lawsuit or you would be awarded more money than is already being offered. Attorneys must finance all litigation costs out of their own pocket and they are not paid until your case settles. For this fact, your attorney will only suggest filing a lawsuit if it will benefit your claim. If you decide you would prefer to settle your claim, your attorney will proceed however you instruct them to. If you do decide to file a lawsuit, the statute of limitations will be thrown out and you will have no set timeframe of when you must settle your claim. Lawsuits can vary, they can settle immediately if the insurance company decides it is easier for them to offer a higher amount or they can last several years if the insurance company is willing to fight with your attorney to defend their interest.