How Long Will It Take My Personal Injury Case to Settle?

Most personal injury claims are settled out of court. Some settle relatively quickly, while others drag on for long periods. Even your lawyer cannot offer a definite time frame. 

However, an understanding of the factors that influence settlement can help you estimate how long it will take for you to receive your compensation.

The Duration of Your Medical Treatment

The Duration of Your Medical Treatment

Maximum medical improvement (MMI) is a point you reach where your medical condition is stable, and your doctor doesn’t expect any further improvement. In a best-case scenario, that means you have fully recovered. In a worst-case scenario, it means you are left with a permanent disability. 

If possible, it’s best to wait until you reach MMI to calculate your medical expenses and lost earnings. If you file your claim any earlier than that, your compensation demand will have to include estimated future medical costs and lost income. 

Whether Comparative Negligence Applies in Your Case

Comparative negligence arises when evidence surfaces showing that you were partly responsible for the accident. 

In Illinois, if your degree of fault exceeds 50%, you can recover nothing. If your fault was 50% or less, you can still demand compensation, but you will have to face a deduction that is equal to your own percentage of responsibility.

This adds time to the settlement process because it takes time to argue over percentages and arrive at a figure that both sides can agree on. 

Whether Multiple Parties Are Involved

The more parties involved in a claim, the longer it will probably take to resolve it. Toxic tort claims (from chemical spills, etc.) can take years to resolve; so can cases involving massive traffic pileups.

The Size of Your Personal Injury Claim

The more money you ask for, the harder the other side is going to fight to avoid paying it. Insurance companies, for one, might question every penny of your claim.

The Value of Your Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages compensate you for intangible losses like emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life. They not only add to the total amount of your compensation demand, but they also add ambiguity to your claim. For example, how can you agree on how much a month of your pain and suffering is worth?

Reaching an agreement will take time, particularly if you’re asking for a lot of money. 

Insurance Company Negotiation Tactics

Watch every single word you say to an insurance adjuster. Be careful what you post on social media as well because the other side can use it as evidence against you. 

Talk to an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer. They know every trick in the insurance company’s playbook–and they know how to fight back. Nevertheless, you can expect the insurance company to drag its feet on your case.

The Need for Expert Witnesses

An eyewitness can testify only to what they have personally seen and heard. An expert witness, by contrast, can testify about events they have not seen or heard, as long as the events in question fall within their field of expertise. 

A medical expert witness, for example, might testify that whiplash is typically invisible to medical imaging technology. 

The greater your need for expert witnesses, the more scientifically complex your case is likely to be. Resolving a scientifically complex case takes time.

Professional Expert Witnesses

Some expert witnesses no longer practice their profession–all they do is testify. This is good for you, at least if they are testifying in your favor. That’s because they are experienced in facing cross-examination, so it’s not as easy for the opposing lawyer to trip them up. 

Whether You Suffer Long-Term Disability

If your injuries are expected to cause you long-term disability or impairment, you will need to estimate your future medical expenses and lost earnings, perhaps decades into the future.

All of this is highly speculative, probably requiring the help of another expert witness. Speculation generates ambiguity, and ambiguity generates controversy. 

Controversy, in turn, will delay the resolution of your claim. The opposing party will do their best to make sure of that, hoping to wear you down into accepting an inadequate settlement offer. 

Your Lawyer’s Negotiating Skills

Negotiation is an art. Like any other art, some people are better at it than others. Like it or not, negotiating skills are half the ball game in a personal injury claim. Is your lawyer a good negotiator? 

Ironically, if they lack a successful courtroom track record, they’re probably not good negotiators. After all, why should anybody compromise with a lawyer who hasn’t proven they can win in court?

Whether You File a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Filing a lawsuit can add months to the time it takes to resolve your claim. In some cases, however, it might be the only way to settle your case. 

You might need to file a lawsuit for the following reasons, even if you still hope for an eventual settlement:

  • To beat the statute of limitations deadline
  • To show the opposing party that you aren’t going to accept less than you deserve
  • To gain access to the pretrial discovery evidence-gathering process

Don’t ever forget that you can always settle in response to a generous settlement offer, even in the middle of a trial. Judges love it when parties settle because it reduces their workload. 

The Scope of Pretrial Discovery

You can commence a personal injury case without enough evidence to win, particularly if most of the relevant evidence is in the hands of the defendant or a third party. If you file a lawsuit, you can gain access to the pretrial discovery process. 

In discovery, you can demand the evidence you need and ask the court for help if the opposing party refuses to cooperate. The opposing party can do the same to you. 

Discovery can include:

  • Cross-examination of witnesses
  • Written questions that the recipient must answer under oath
  • Demands for copies of documents and demands for physical evidence
  • Requests for admissions (“admit or deny…”)

Discovery can take months to complete. 

Bureaucratic Delays

Even after you reach a settlement and sign a settlement agreement, it might take several more weeks to get your money. This is especially likely if you are dealing with a large insurance company.

Do you need a Chicago personal injury attorney? That depends on the facts of your case. The more money you’re demanding, the more likely you’re going to need the help of a lawyer. Contact a skilled attorney of Attorneys of Chicago Personal Injury Lawyers at (312) 929-2884 for help.