When you suffer serious injuries in an auto accident, you likely need a settlement as soon as possible. Medical bills are adding up faster than you can keep up with, and you have regular bills going unpaid due to a lack of income if you cannot work.
Unfortunately, the legal process seems to move rather slowly as you struggle to get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Why does it take so long to settle an accident claim?
In most cases, several factors can contribute to the length of time required to settle your accident claim and get you that compensation.
The Investigation Process
Often, the investigation process takes longer than anticipated as you try to move forward with your accident claim. Depending on the type of accident, the insurance company and your attorney may want to investigate various pieces of evidence. That investigation, however, may take more time than you think, especially if the evidence is difficult to procure.
Witness statements often serve as a vital source of evidence regarding what led to an accident. However, witnesses may not always make themselves readily available to insurance companies or attorneys. Even though insurance companies and lawyers typically try to interview witnesses as soon as possible to get the most accurate testimony, that does not necessarily mean that the witness will prove readily available.
Visiting the Scene
Sometimes, insurance companies and lawyers may visit the accident scene directly. In many cases, a close look at the scene of the accident can help uncover details that may have contributed to the incident. That may mean more information for the insurance company and your lawyer. However, it can take time to arrange to visit the scene, take photos, and look over all relevant information.
Bringing in Experts
After some accidents, the insurance adjuster may not have enough information to accurately assess what caused the accident and how much compensation you might deserve. An expert witness can offer considerable testimony that may prove invaluable in establishing liability and helping with your claim.
However, experts often have demanding careers with limited availability. They may also need time to piece together the accident scene’s details. In some cases, experts may need to put together visual representations to help display what occurred during the accident, especially if the case has a high chance of going to trial.
Your Medical Records and Needs
When you work with a lawyer to put together an injury claim, it will include a look at the injuries you sustained and the medical treatments and resulting medical bills that went along with those injuries. Reviewing those medical records can take substantial time. In some cases, the insurance company may want to bring in their own expert witnesses to receive an opinion about what challenges you likely face, the full extent of your limitations, and your medical needs moving forward.
In addition, the insurance company may want time to investigate you, especially if you claim permanently disabling injuries resulting from the accident. The insurance company may look at your daily activities: whether you could return to work or what hobbies and activities you still engage in despite your injuries. If the insurance company uncovers anything suspicious, it could further extend the time needed to settle your claim.
Depending on your injuries, it can take considerable time before you will know what your recovery and long-term limitations might be. Spinal cord injury victims, for example, may need to spend as much as six months in recovery before doctors can offer a reasonably accurate prediction of the patient’s ultimate limitations. If you suffer severe burns, you may need skin graft procedures and see how the wound starts to heal before determining whether you will need additional procedures.
Your lawyer may strongly urge you to wait until you have a good idea of your recovery, including what medical bills you will face, before you move forward with your claim. While your doctor can help you estimate the cost of recovering from your injuries, your recovery will have unique elements. You may need unexpected procedures or suffer unexpected setbacks along the road to recovery. You want your claim to reflect compensation for all those challenges accurately. If you file your claim too early, you might miss out on some of the compensation you deserve for those injuries and losses.
Internal Insurance Company Processes
The insurance company may have internal processes that lead to delays in recovering a settlement for your accident and injuries. In some cases, the insurance agent may go through a multi-step process to get approval for a settlement before issuing an offer.
In other cases, you may find yourself dealing with an overworked agent or a company that does not have adequate representatives to process the claim smoothly. Those internal delays may mean that it takes much longer than anticipated for you to get compensation for your accident and your injuries.
When you move forward with an injury claim, the negotiation process can feel incredibly frustrating. In many cases, you may need to go through several negotiation rounds before reaching an agreement with the insurance company. Each negotiation round further extends the time needed to get that compensation in your hands.
If you and the insurance company start far apart on your demands—for example, if the insurance company starts with an offer that reflects a small percentage of the compensation you deserve— the negotiation process may take much longer than if the insurance company starts with a reasonable offer.
Each time you receive an offer from the insurance company, you need time to look it over with your lawyer and compare that offer to your actual expenses and losses. Your lawyer will then advise whether it is fair or provide a counteroffer. The insurance agent will take that offer, look over it, and come back with another counter or accept the offer you have sent. However, the insurance company’s internal review policies and requirements may mean that it takes considerably longer to get an answer about your claim.
Common Problems That Can Delay an Accident Claim
Sometimes, an accident claim can proceed relatively smoothly. You may provide the insurance company with all the information needed to process the claim, and the company may come back with a settlement offer that provides the compensation you deserve.
In other cases, however, you may run into a problem that substantially delays processing your claim and getting compensation.
- The insurance company does not have all the information needed to process your claim. To process your claim, the insurance company will need a great deal of information: evidence directly from the accident scene, witness statements, expert testimony or recreation, and your medical records, for example. Sometimes, you can control the flow of information to the insurance company, since you can provide that information directly. In other cases, however, you may have to wait for an outside party, including your medical care provider, to fill out forms and provide evidence. Any delay in submitting needed evidence can also lead to delays in your claim.
- The insurance company deliberately delays paying out compensation for some reason. Sometimes, insurance companies may try to hold on to the funds you deserve. Often, the company does not want to release those funds until required. As a result, you may have a harder time promptly getting your full compensation. Working with a lawyer may make dealing with the insurance company easier, including streamlining that negotiation process and getting the compensation you may deserve in your hands sooner.
- You need more time than anticipated to recover from your injuries. Your lawyer may warn you that you should wait until you have progressed significantly through your recovery and have a decent idea of your future needs before you file your injury claim. However, in some cases, delays and complications in your recovery may further extend the time needed to settle your accident claim. You may also find it more difficult to reach a settlement agreement if you need to add unanticipated medical expenses at some point.
- The insurance company denies liability for your accident. You may feel that a clear and convincing accident claim should progress in a relatively straightforward manner. You know who caused your accident. The liable party might even admit to the damaging or negligent actions that led to the incident and your injuries. However, the insurance company may not always agree. Often, the insurance company will deny liability for the incident, which means you may need to work with your lawyer to show evidence of who caused your accident and how it occurred.
- The insurance company denies the extent of your injuries or when they occurred. Sometimes, the insurance company may accept that their covered party caused your accident, but not that your accident impacted you in the way you claim. The insurance company may use several strategies to show that you did not sustain the injuries you claimed in the accident:
- The insurance company may claim your injuries did not occur during the accident but at another time or incident.
- The insurance company may try to insist that you did not sustain the injuries you claim during the accident: that you have faked those injuries, and that, as a result, you should not receive compensation for them.
- The insurance company may try to establish that you might have suffered the injuries you claim, but they do not cause the limitations you claim and that you do not deserve as much compensation as you requested. If the insurance company denies the extent of your injuries, you may find yourself locked in a much longer struggle to get the compensation you deserve. In many cases, you may have to clearly show that you did sustain those injuries in the accident and that they caused the limitations you included as part of your claim.
- Paperwork gets lost during the processing of your claim. Missing paperwork can considerably complicate receiving a settlement for the injuries from your accident. Sometimes, the insurance company may even claim that you never sent the paperwork or deliberately delay by claiming to lose the paperwork. Keeping a clear record of all information provided to the insurance company, including digital records when possible, can help streamline the claim process.
A Lawyer Can Streamline Your Claim
Many factors can increase the time needed to reach a reasonable settlement for your accident. Working with a lawyer can help streamline that process and increase the odds that you will get the compensation you deserve.
A lawyer can help negotiate with the insurance company, ensure all needed information gets submitted on time, and even ensure that you have the evidence needed to establish liability for your accident and the extent of your injuries. Furthermore, in many cases, having a lawyer means that the insurance company will give your claim more attention and thus resolve things more quickly.
Did you suffer injuries in an accident? Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to get the help you need to receive your compensation and get your life back on track.