Negotiating a personal injury settlement takes time, and people often wonder just how much time. As bills pile up and your savings dwindle, you may be wondering if you’re looking at days, weeks, months, or even years before you see a dime from the responsible party. The truth is, how long it takes to reach a settlement depends on how hard you’re willing to negotiate, and how determined the other party is to avoid paying more than they have to. There are generally three phases to the settlement process.
Issuing a demand
Immediately after the accident, you’ll seek medical treatment. You’ll want to wait until treatment is complete to file your claim, unless treatment will be ongoing for a long time. This can best be determined by talking to a lawyer.
You’ll hire a lawyer to help you issue the demand. Your lawyer will gather all the necessary records and write the demand letter. This process can take a couple of months to gather everything and write the letter. The letter explains your side of the situation, provides evidence of your claim, and informs the other party that if they do not meet your demands, you will file a lawsuit. You’ll typically give the other party at least 3-4 weeks to respond.
Negotiating the settlement offer
After the other party receives your demand letter, they may want some more time to investigate the claim. Then they may argue the claim, pointing out perceived weaknesses, such as liability or unnecessary medical treatments, to try to lower the settlement. The lowball settlement they offer at this point is often to test you and see if you’re eager to settle. Your lawyer will need to accept the offer, make another offer, or walk away from negotiations.
If he negotiates, they’ll consider factors such as fault, the extent of your injuries, insurance coverage, and the type of medical treatment.
If he walks away, or negotiates and then walks away, this is when he’ll file a lawsuit on your behalf. This doesn’t eliminate the possibility of settling; it simply shows that you’re serious about your claim.
Reaching the settlement
If you file a lawsuit and the settlement is reached through litigation, you’ll receive an “award” or “judgment.” The judge or jury decides how much money you get, and the other party can file an appeal. Litigation can take a year or more, and an appeal can tack on another year or even two. If they don’t appeal, you’ll receive your check in a few weeks.
If you reach a settlement through negotiations, it will be reported to the courts and you’ll sign a release. Next, you’ll complete other paperwork, pay your unpaid medical bills and pay your attorney’s fees and expenses. Then, your lawyer will cut you a check for the money that’s left. This process can take just a few weeks or can take a year or more, depending on how long negotiations take.
Personal injury settlements are not simple. You need a lawyer to help you through the process and to ensure that you get all that your entitled to. Contact Tobler Law to discuss your case.