Jason Stephens | August 10, 2020 | Personal Injury
Personal injury claims arise when one person suffers an injury because of another person’s negligent or intentional actions. The length of time it takes to reach a settlement depends on many moving parts over the life of the case.
Experienced attorneys understand that when you are injured in a car accident or slip and fall, it is essential for you to receive compensation as soon as possible so that you can get back to your life. Accidents are never planned, and lost wages and medical expenses can take a substantial toll on your life. Getting money in the form of a financial settlement can make a massive difference as you recover.
However, the speed at which your claim is settled isn’t always the most important factor. Often, it is best to take your time and pursue your claim slowly. That’s the best way to ensure that you walk away with all of the money to which you’re entitled.
Overview of the Settlement Process
Here’s a brief overview of what to expect when negotiating a settlement in Texas.
Obtaining Medical Treatment
Before you file a compensation claim, it is crucial that you receive the treatment you need to restore your health. Seeking immediate medical attention for injuries sustained in an accident is crucial. Some injuries, such as whiplash or back and neck injuries, may not fully manifest right away. As soon as you notice symptoms, seek medical care.
During the treatment stage, keep all records of expenses related to the accident, including medical bills, prescription medications, and medical apparatus such as crutches or wheelchairs. You will also need to request a copy of your medical records from the first emergency visit to the last follow-up.
It is important to your case that you comply with all medical treatment plans. A skilled personal injury attorney will want to wait until you have a final prognosis about recovery before moving forward with a claim. It is essential to understand the full financial, medical, and emotional impact of the accident before filing a claim for damages.
Filing a Claim
After your treatment has concluded, or an overall prognosis has been decided, your attorney will compile the medical records and other related expenses. The legal staff will also seek to obtain documentation of lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, and other losses you have suffered due to the accident.
When that information is compiled, a settlement package will be submitted to the insurance company or other responsible parties, along with a demand letter. The insurance company will often refuse to settle the claim until you have completed all treatment.
There are exceptions where entering negotiations and filing a claim while treatment is ongoing is necessary. If you sustained an injury that could have a prolonged treatment period, or if you might need lifelong medical care of some type, negotiations will proceed based on the prognosis of your health care team.
Serious spinal injuries, or brain injuries, are examples of medical injuries that can have a prolonged recovery period. Catastrophic injuries that are likely to leave life-long deficits and will need long-term medical care can also enter the negotiation phase as soon as the full ramifications of the injuries are understood.
Negotiating With the Insurance Provider
This is the stage where your attorney will begin negotiating with the insurance companies or other responsible parties. Insurance companies will usually make a settlement offer, and your lawyer is bound by law to inform you of any offer. It is always up to you to accept or decline the offer, and your attorney will advise you about the reasonableness of the offer.
If you decline the offer, your attorney may make a counter-offer with your consent. When a settlement offer is something you agree to accept, the case goes forward to disbursement, which means the insurance company sends a check, and the case is closed.
If the insurance company or other involved parties refuse to make a fair settlement offer, you may choose to proceed to litigation. That is always a decision you will make in conjunction with advice from your attorney.
Once the treatment stage is complete, negotiations can take place immediately, and usually do not take too long to reach an agreement. Your attorney can advise you on the expected personal injury case timeline, and the initial demand letter usually sets forth a specified period for the case to be resolved.
When Is Going to Court Necessary?
While most personal injury suits settle out of court, there are times when it is to the victim’s advantage to move forward with a lawsuit to get the recovery they deserve. Experienced personal injury attorneys will simultaneously be preparing to go to court, even as they work through settlement negotiations.
Reasons to File a Lawsuit
There are usually two reasons to proceed with filing a lawsuit. One is when the insurance companies involved refuse to offer a fair settlement, and the experienced attorney handling the case feels the case will do well in front of a jury.
The second reason is if the harm was caused by a party not covered by insurance. They may be unwilling to negotiate at all, forcing you to file a lawsuit to recover the damages you sustained.
How Long Does Litigation Take in Texas Courts?
Lawsuits do not happen quickly, so settlement negotiations are usually the first choice for those who have sustained injuries in an accident. In Texas Courts, the process begins when the lawsuit is filed. The defendants will be served notice of the suit, and they have thirty days to respond. They can, and frequently do, ask for a 15 day grace period.
Both parties then have sixty days from the filing of the lawsuit to send questions, called interrogatories, and request information. There will then be oral depositions from both sides. As the judicial process continues, you may receive additional settlement offers. A personal injury attorney should support your right to decide what is right for you while offering advice at each juncture.
There are no hard and fast rules about how long a case takes to be heard before a jury, but the average, in Texas, is two years. Two years is a long time to wait if you are unable to earn income or need expensive medical care for your injuries, which is why the settlement is often the path clients prefer.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I’m Filing an Insurance Claim After an Accident?
To receive the best settlement possible, as expediently as possible, you need the help of a personal injury attorney. Some forgo hiring an attorney because they think they can negotiate on their own with insurance companies and get a faster settlement. These people fail to realize that insurance companies exist for one reason – and it’s not to look after you in your time of need. Rather, insurance companies operate to make a profit.
Without the representation of an experienced personal injury attorney, the insurance company will see you as an easy mark to increase their profits by paying less than the claim is worth. They will offer a quick settlement for far less than you might be entitled, hoping you will accept the offer, and they can walk away with the profit.
These companies also use delay tactics on those who have sustained injuries leaving them unable to work. The more they delay, and the more the pressure from unpaid bills and financial stress. When they finally make an offer, the injured party is more likely to accept out of desperation.