HOW LONG WILL MY PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM TAKE?
Jan. 23, 2019
Most people are lucky enough to go many years, or their whole life, without suffering a personal injury caused by someone else’s negligence. Those who are less fortunate are faced with a host of challenges, ranging from uncertain medical costs to a lengthy physical recovery.
Many of those who are injured want to pursue a legal claim but do not know where to start. Chief among their questions is, how long will my personal-injury claim take? That question is best answered by breaking down the stages of an injury claim.
HIRING A LAWYER
It doesn’t take long to find a personal-injury lawyer in Kansas City. They’re everywhere—on TV, on billboards, on the phonebook, and online. But it can take a little longer to find the right lawyer. It’s important to make sure you feel comfortable with the attorney handling your claim, and that you feel they are committed to focusing on your claim rather than putting it in a pile or passing it off to someone you haven’t met. If you reach out to an injury lawyer and don’t get a response within 24 hours, we recommend you look elsewhere.
COLLECTING MEDICAL RECORDS
Once you hire a personal-injury attorney, he or she will need your medical records to properly evaluate your claim. The medical records will break out the medical expenses you incurred, describe your course of treatment, and address your outlook going forward. This process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
Generally, your attorney will not want to talk settlement until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is just another way to say that you have completed medical treatment or recovered as much as you are likely to recover from the medical treatment. The reason your personal-injury attorney will want to wait for MMI is that your medical expenses may continue to grow, and your treatment plan and long-term prognosis may change as your treatment progresses. Since these things factor into the value of your case, settling before treatment is completed can lead to selling your case short.
PURSUING PRE-SUIT SETTLEMENT
Once your injury attorney has your medical records and you have completed medical treatment for your injury, he or she will be in a position to reach out to the negligent party or its insurer and make a settlement demand. These demands typically come with deadlines, which vary based on the amount of information the other side has. If, for example, an insurance adjuster has been kept in the loop and provided medical records throughout treatment, a shorter deadline might be appropriate—say, one or two weeks. If, on the other hand, this is the first the insurance adjuster is hearing of the case, it could be counterproductive to give an unreasonably short deadline. The adjuster will likely say he or she was unable to complete an evaluation within the time given. A deadline of 30-60 days may be more appropriate.
After a demand has been made, there are two paths: the case will settle through negotiations without a lawsuit being filed, or it will not. If an insurer is willing to negotiate to reach a pre-suit settlement, the negotiations often last anywhere from a few days to a few months.
You might wonder whether you should hire an injury attorney while you are undergoing treatment or wait until treatment is completed. We recommend you speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The injury attorney will be familiar with the process and can guide you through it, while saving you from having to speak with insurance adjusters.
FILING AN INJURY LAWSUIT
This is the most difficult timeframe to predict. In Kansas or Missouri state court, your lawyer can generally get a trial date within 12 to 18 months of filing the suit. While this time period may seem unbearably long, it’s worth remembering that most cases settle before trial. Sometimes the mere filing of a lawsuit is enough to spur settlement talks, and the case settles shortly after filing. Other cases do not settle and are tried to a judge or jury. Filing a lawsuit can add as much as a year or two to your case, but it may also be the only way to force the insurer to pay fair compensation for your injury.
TALK TO A PERSONAL-INJURY ATTORNEY
If you are considering a personal-injury claim, we recommend you reach out to a personal-injury attorney as soon as possible. A good personal-injury attorney will explain the timeline involved and keep you updated throughout your case. Without an attorney, the insurance company will have little fear of a lawsuit and is likely to lowball you. The attorneys at Pospisil Swift offer free consultations and have handled personal-injury claims throughout Kansas and Missouri.
The information contained on this website is informational only and not intended to be, and does not constitute, legal advice. While we attempt to update our site regularly, the information does not necessarily reflect the most current legal developments. You should not act or refrain from acting based upon information provided on this site without first consulting legal counsel.