Frequently Asked Questions - What Is The Average Time It Takes To Settle A Personal Injury Case?
Every personal injury claim is different and even two people in the same vehicle with the same injuries may end up settling their claims at totally different times. In the State of Florida, the statute of limitations on a personal injury claim is four years from the date of the accident. This means that on the four year anniversary of your accident, you must have already settled your claim or brought a lawsuit against the insurance company or you will forever be barred from making a claim against the insurance company for your injuries. If you are pursuing an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim, the statute of limitations in the state of Florida is five years from the date of the accident. Each state has a different statute of limitations for their personal injury claims.
Most claims do not take the full four or five years to settle, the typical timeframe for settlement of a personal injury claim is around a year or two, depending on your medical treatment. A claim with extensive injuries will require much more medical treatment than a claim with very minor injuries. If you are injured in a personal injury claim, you will treat with a licensed medical physician who will place you on a physical therapy treatment plan to help relieve or reduce your pain symptoms. The doctor will notify you how long they think you will need to treat, and they will probably opine that you treat three to four times a week. After a few weeks, the physician will examine you again and note your continued pain complaints. The doctor will probably refer you for an MRI at this point if you have not already had one done. The doctor will request an MRI of all body parts that you are complaining are injured to rule out any abnormal pathology. If the MRI comes back with any abnormal results, your doctor will likely refer you to a specialist, usually an orthopedic doctor or neurosurgeon. If you are referred to a specialist and the specialist opines that you require a surgical procedure, your case will take a little bit longer as you will need time to make sure you are healing properly from your surgery before you settle your claim.
When you purchase an auto insurance policy in the State of Florida, you get to pick which coverages you want to carry. Bodily injury coverage on your policy covers the other party or parties' injuries if you are at fault for an accident. This coverage is not mandatory in the State of Florida so not all drivers have this coverage. If you are hit by someone with a very minimal bodily injury policy, you will only be able to have minimal medical treatment. Obviously, a small case like this will take much less time to settle than if you have a large bodily injury policy where you can afford to have as much treatment as you need or to undergo a surgical procedure. Once an adjuster receives a demand package for settlement of a very minor claim, they will not need as much time to investigate and evaluate the claim. They will usually make their offer much more quickly and if your injuries, outstanding medical balances, and pain and suffering warrant it, they will most likely tender their minimal policy to you. If you have a claim with a large bodily injury policy limit and you have extensive medical treatment, it will take longer for the insurance adjuster to evaluate the claim as there will be large outstanding medical bills and a significant amount of medical records for them to read through.
If you have an experienced personal injury attorney working on your case and they are unable to settle your claim directly with the insurance adjuster the attorney will recommend you file a lawsuit if they believe they will be able to get more money from the insurance company by doing so. An attorney will never recommend you file a lawsuit if they do not believe you will win as they are putting their own money on the line and they do not get paid unless your case settles. If your case does not warrant filing a lawsuit, your attorney will recommend you accept the top offer the insurance company is making, and they will explain their reasoning and give you their legal advice as to why this would be in your best interest.
Filing a lawsuit can be time-consuming and costly and both you and your attorney must be willing to put in the time and effort that goes along with that. There is no statute of limitations on a lawsuit and they can take as many years as needed to settle. If a lawsuit is filed, the insurance company assigns a defense attorney to represent their interests in the case. Your attorney and the defense attorney will work together through the court system to try to reach an amicable resolution without the need to take the case all the way to trial. This will include filing several documents and requesting documents from all parties involved in the case. You will be requested to produce several years of prior medical records for the defense attorney to review to make sure the injuries you are suing for were not pre-existing injuries. You will also be requested to make yourself available for depositions where you will be asked a series of questions in front of a court reporter who will take down your statements. Before the trial can take place, you will be requested to sit through a mediation where your attorney and the defense attorney will try to reach a settlement without having to go to trial. If the case does not settle, you will proceed to trial which can be very time-consuming. Most courts are backlogged so it takes some time to receive a trial date but in cases like this, it is much better to take all the time your case needs to get to trial instead of settling for a much lower amount than your case is actually worth. All claims are different, some end up in trial, some settle within a few months, it just all depends on the amount of treatment you need and if the insurance company is willing to settle your claim fairly.