Why Is My Accident Settlement Taking so Long?

Why Is My Accident Settlement Taking so Long?

If you suffered serious injuries in an accident, such as a car accident or truck accident, you are likely dealing with a mound of medical bills and other expenses you didn't expect. What's worse, you had to take time off work to recover, and you worry about how you will make ends meet.

If someone else's negligence caused your injury, you could obtain compensation from the at-fault party through a personal injury claim. However, you may be wondering why your accident settlement is taking so long because you need your money now.

There are many reasons why your car accident or personal injury settlement is taking so long. Insurance company negotiations, reaching maximum medical improvement, investigating the crash, and determining fault can all lengthen the settlement process. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area for a complete review of your case and advice as to how long the settlement process could take and what you can do to help speed the process along.

Why Personal Injury Claims Take So Long

You may feel frustrated waiting for a settlement offer, especially when you need your settlement money now. It's important to understand the entire process of car accident settlements and handling a claim and the factors that can delay your settlement.

Investigations Take Time

Personal injury claims require thorough investigations to establish liability and assess the extent of damages. Gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and reconstructing events can be time-consuming, especially when the circumstances surrounding the injury are complex. Your lawyer needs to conduct a complete investigation to determine liability and have the evidence necessary to submit your insurance claim.

Reaching Maximum Medical Improvement

You don't necessarily want to file initial demand immediately. Adequate personal injury claims require making certain determinations, and an early step in all accident settlements is determining the amount of the demand.

Your attorney will often consult your doctor and ask about maximum medical improvement. This means that your doctor has determined that any further treatment will not significantly improve your condition.

Once you reach maximum medical improvement, your car accident lawyer will need to determine a dollar amount to demand as a reasonable settlement for your injury.

Let's take a look at what steps an attorney needs to take to determine the dollar amount to request when filing a claim.

Money Lost Due to Being Out of Work

Typically, one of the most significant categories of compensation someone may claim after suffering a personal injury is lost wages. This is not always as clear-cut as it sounds.

Some of the factors to consider when calculating lost wages in a car accident settlement include:

  • Expected return to work date - how long a person will remain out of work while they recover will factor in the calculation for lost wages. The longer your injury keeps you from your normal job, the more complicated this calculation is. Your attorney will also have to consider whether you will be able to return to your usual employment or if you will require retraining for another job after you have fully recovered.
  • Lost benefits - while some employers offer short and long-term disability benefits for those who lose work due to injuries, it does not cover some of their benefits. For example, if your employer matches your deposits to your company-sponsored retirement plan, you could be losing those benefits. A car accident settlement can include your use of sick days, personal days, and vacation days before using or applying for disability payments.
  • Other perks - tips, potential productivity bonuses, and other similar perks that you may have earned if your injury hadn’t knocked you out of work may also go into a final calculation of your lost wages in a car accident settlement.

As you can see, lost income is not always as simple a calculation as it may initially appear to be on the surface.

To arrive at this number, your personal injury attorney may have to request certain documents to ensure the amount of the demand they issue on your behalf is as accurate as possible.

Medical Expenses Are Not Always Clear

Your medical expenses may be included in a settlement demand. However, determining the full extent of those expenses may not always be as straightforward as they may appear to be on the surface.

Some of the things your Houston personal injury lawyer will have to take into consideration include:

  • Out-of-pocket expenses - in the immediate aftermath of an accident, you may be covered by an employer-sponsored health plan. Assuming this is the case, you may only have minimal expenses related to your care. However, the longer your recovery takes, the more your out-of-pocket expenses may be. You may wind up paying higher premiums because you have to switch to a COBRA plan, you may face a new year of insurance, meaning you may now have a new deductible threshold to meet, or you may have to undergo new treatments that your insurance does not cover. All of these expenses will play a role in the amount of the settlement demand your lawyer makes on your behalf.
  • Future medical care - surgical procedures, follow-up care, rehabilitation therapy, and other treatments you may need in the future due to your injury will also play a role in your demand for settlement. All these costs will be derived from what your physician advises your Houston personal injury lawyer about what future potential care you may need for your injuries.

Calculating the costs of medical care in the future is not always the easiest task since it requires determining how much costs may rise over time.

In a car accident lawsuit, your attorney will have to make some determinations as to what the future may hold, and the only way to do that is to talk to others who are experts in their fields.

Most car accident settlements require calculations and graphs to show how much compensation you are entitled to for future expenses and future pain and suffering.

Non-Monetary Damages

Your Houston personal injury attorney will have to determine your damages before they can submit a final demand for an auto accident settlement.

Every personal injury case is different, but you may seek the following general damages:

  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Pain and suffering
  • Scarring or disfigurement

These damages are always considered subjective since there is no price on how much an injury can affect an individual. Your case is unique, even if someone else suffers a similar injury resulting from a similar accident.

Insurance Companies Add to Delays in Settlements

There is a good chance if you contact the insurance company they will tell you they are still reviewing your claim.

Under Texas law, insurance companies must abide by the Consumer’s Bill of Rights. This means they have a limited amount of time to respond to your claim.

Settlements are handled slightly differently. The larger the settlement demand, the more likely the insurance company is to drag its feet.

The last thing they want to do is pay out a large chunk of money on a claim since their bottom line is going to be impacted.

On the other hand, insurance companies do not want bad publicity or the threat of a bad faith lawsuit from a serious injury claim.

Once your personal injury lawyer submits a settlement demand, several things may occur that will simply add time to the processing of a settlement, and a car accident settlement taking more time.

  • Demand for proof of damages - the insurance company will ask your attorney to submit all of the documents including the medical treatment and medical records that enabled them to arrive at the damages you claim. This will be the first step they take to slow down your payout.
  • Insisting the claim is bloated - insurers do not want to make big payouts, so they may begin whittling away at what your attorney demands on your behalf. This is a common tactic and one that your lawyer will expect and prepare to handle on your behalf.
  • Questioning liability - do not be surprised if the insurance company takes an opportunity after your attorney has submitted a demand for settlement to claim they do not have liability for your injuries. They may claim you had a preexisting condition, that you were partially responsible for the injury, or someone else was responsible.

Settlement Negotiations with Insurance Companies

Dealing with insurance companies is a significant aspect of personal injury claims. Negotiations between the claimant's legal representatives and insurance adjusters can be prolonged, as both parties seek to protect their interests and reach a fair settlement.

Insurance companies often believe by dragging their feet they can get you to accept a lower settlement. This is one of the reasons why it is so important that you work closely with a skilled and experienced personal injury lawyer after a Houston accident.

Direct Settlement Versus Court Verdict

Victims have a legal right to file a lawsuit if they are not getting a satisfactory response to a demand for settlement, or if they feel the insurance company is treating them unfairly.

Under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code 16.003(a), for example, victims have up to two years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit.

Remember that insurance company adjusters are aware of this deadline. You should also be aware that most personal injury claim cases do not wind up in court.

This is because whether you elect a bench trial (judge only) or a jury trial, there is a considerable amount of preparation time and expense.

The insurance company is probably already paying a lawyer to help them fight back against your settlement demand. The last thing they want to do is to land in court for a trial, which would result in additional legal expenses.

The other thing to remember is that in court, the insurer (and you, the victim) are facing a bigger risk than if the settlement was handled outside of court.

That is because it is impossible to guarantee that one party would be viewed more favorably than the other.

The insurer knows that if one juror (or the judge) has faced a prior bad experience with an insurer, then they may be predisposed to finding against the insurer and making them pay more money than what you are demanding.

Your Lawyer Will Not Cause Unnecessary Delays

There is a fairly good chance that when the accident that resulted in your injuries first occurred, you contacted the insurance company first or the at-fault party's insurance company contacted you.

You probably called a personal injury law firm after that initial contact. There is also a good chance that once you informed them that you had hired an attorney, they told you it would slow down the process. Do not get fooled into thinking the process is slower because an injury lawyer is involved.

Insurers would prefer that you represent yourself for all types of reasons, including:

  • Understanding of the law - most people do not have legal training and do not fully understand personal injury law regarding liability or negligence. Insurance companies can capitalize on this lack of understanding and hope to get you to accept part of the blame, reducing your potential settlement.
  • You are under stress - accidents in which you suffer an injury are a strain on you and your entire family. While coping with your injuries, your bills also pile up, placing you under more stress. Insurers know that you may be more likely to settle for less than an attorney would advise you is a good settlement simply to get some of the bills paid off.

Remember, once you have accepted a settlement offer, you can't go back and try to recover additional compensation later. In essence, the insurance company is off the hook permanently, and they no longer have to worry about your losses, regardless of how those losses may place a burden on you and your family.

There is something else to keep in mind despite the insurer telling you that your attorney is the one dragging their feet: your personal injury lawyer doesn't get paid until you get a settlement that you approve. That is because of the contingency fee arrangement you have with your attorney. Your lawyer has nothing to gain by dragging the process out further than necessary.

Contact a Personal Injury Law Firm

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Because each personal injury case is unique, they all present different challenges. What may seem black and white to you is not always as clear to the other parties.

This is why you must consult an experienced attorney who understands personal injury cases, settlement negotiations, and what you need to prove your case and get the fair compensation you deserve.

Whether you are a victim of an accident that was not your fault, or a family member was seriously injured or died in an accident, contact legal help so you can recover financially.