Why Is My Accident Settlement Taking so Long?
If an accident caused by someone else hurt you and you filed an injury claim with their insurance company or had an attorney do it for you you might wonder why the accident settlement is taking so long. After all, the accident was some time ago, and you have bills to pay, including medical co-pays and deductibles and the costs of repairing or replacing your car.
What’s more, you had to take time off work to recover, or your injury may still keep you out of work, and you don’t know where the money will come from to make ends meet.
You had likely hoped the accident settlement process wouldn’t take long. Turns out, it is taking far longer than you expected, and you want answers as to when you can expect to receive your settlement so you can get the compensation you need.
Since each personal injury claim is unique and so many factors affect the process, there’s really no way to accurately determine when you will receive your settlement check. The accident settlement process can take weeks or even months. However, certain factors can slow down or speed up the process.
Contact a personal injury lawyer to understand more about how the accident settlement process works, you can gain insight into why it takes so long and how you can move the process along.
An Attorney Can Help You
In most cases, the first step in pursuing compensation for injuries caused by someone else is to file a claim with the other party’s insurance company. You stand a much better chance of getting positive results, and quicker results, if you work with a personal injury attorney.
If you do not have an attorney, get one right away. Ideally, you will want to choose an attorney in your area with extensive experience handling accident settlement negotiations who can provide documented results they obtained for other clients. You will also need a lawyer with trial experience to fight in court should settlement negotiations break down or you can’t find a favorable resolution for your claim.
If you already have an attorney but feel like they are dragging their feet and not handling your case effectively, discuss the matter with them. If you can’t resolve the issue, you can reach out to a new personal injury attorney for help.
Preparing a Claim and Gathering Evidence Takes Time
For your injury claim to have merit, it will have to show:
- You suffered injuries or property damage.
- The other party caused your injuries.
- You experienced financial losses for which you deserve compensation.
You can also include figures for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering for the ongoing emotional, physical, and mental toll the accident and your injuries had (and will have) on your life.
To show how the other party caused your injuries and provide proof of your financial losses, you will need to gather a lot of information, documents, and other evidence.
Some of the items you will need to submit include:
- Police and accident reports
- Medical bills and treatment costs
- Auto shop estimates and other repair bills
- Evidence of lost wages, such as pay stubs
- Witness statements
You will also want to gather as much evidence as you can to fully support your claim and prepare your case as if it were to go to court. Doing this will show the insurance company you mean business, and it can expedite their approval of your claim since they likely don’t want to go to court.
Along with the items listed above, you will also want to include:
- Photographs or videos of the accident scene
- Photographs of your injuries
- Doctors’ opinions and prognoses regarding your condition and its probable effect on your life going forward
Gathering all the evidence you will need can take time, and if the accident involved several parties or victims, it could increase the amount of information and evidence you need and further slow down the process. If your claim does not contain enough information and evidence, the insurance company will request more from you or deny your claim altogether. Gather everything you think you will need as soon as possible and make copies of it all.
Calculating Damages Is Not Always Easy
Determining the dollar figures for the compensation you need can require complicated calculations. The costs for vehicular or property damage are relatively straightforward in most cases because it requires little more than a visit from the insurance adjuster and an estimate from the body shop. However, it could take an insurance adjuster several days, or even weeks, to get around to your claim and then even longer for you to receive a response from the insurance company.
The process grows more complex for injury claims. You need medical treatment and must provide documentation of those expenses, which includes out-of-pocket expenses such as co-pays and deductibles. You also need to provide documentation regarding any income or benefits you missed from losing work, which can include tips, bonuses, and other financial perks you would have received had you continued working.
You may need testimony from doctors regarding the ongoing effects and costs your injuries will cause. This will determine the extent of your injuries and the impact they will have on your future so that you can include those factors when calculating compensation.
You will want a personal injury lawyer to compile all of that for you.
When filing your claim, your attorney will include a demand letter that specifies the extent of your injuries, what makes the other party liable and the dollar figures for the compensation you seek. The letter will also include a settlement figure the insurance company can pay to avoid going to court.
However, the insurance company may refute your compensation figures and offer a lower amount. If they counter-offer with a low settlement, your attorney can negotiate to get a higher amount, but the back-and-forth of settlement negotiations can take considerable time.
Insurance Companies Can Move Frustratingly Slowly
One reason your accident settlement may take so long is that many insurance companies slowly respond to injury claims. In New York, insurance companies must acknowledge a claim within 15 days of receiving it, and they will also usually send you a proof-of-loss form and other paperwork to complete and submit. After receiving your claim, they will initiate an investigation, which includes assigning an adjuster to your case.
However, no laws govern how long the insurance company’s investigation can take.
Insurance companies are businesses, and they must maintain a profit to survive. As such, they rarely accept an initial settlement amount, especially a large one, and they will usually drag their feet and wait as long as possible to respond.
After completing their investigation and getting all the information they requested from you, the insurance company will have another 15 days under New York law to determine if they accept or deny your claim. This doesn’t mean they will say how much they will pay but whether they will pay anything at all. If they deny your claim outright and refuse to settle, you may have no choice but to take them to court.
The insurance company may claim the policy doesn’t cover certain damages or that you need to provide additional information. Some insurance companies will wait until the last minute to inform you that you need to submit more information before they can process your claim, or they may keep you continuously waiting for answers as they drag out the process.
Accident settlement negotiations can take a long time, and you may not see any money as quickly as you’d like. Unfortunately, neither you nor your attorney has many legal options to get the insurance company to respond, but an attorney can remain on top of your case and reach out to the insurance company regularly to demand answers.
Don’t Rush to Accept a Settlement
Although you want your settlement check as soon as possible, some injuries may not present symptoms right away. You can suffer brain injuries, nerve damage, or other internal injuries that may take time to manifest. However, if you accept a settlement offer, you cannot submit another claim, and you cannot obtain further compensation if your injury proves more severe than you initially thought.
Your lawyer can consider any future medical treatments you may need and their costs, and should establish a projected timeline for how long the injury will affect your life.
Your doctor may provide vitally important testimony and professional opinions, but don’t let the insurance company surprise you if their medical experts try to refute your claim.
Speeding up the Accident Settlement Process
Despite the long, complex accident settlement process, you can help speed it up:
- File your claim as soon as possible – The sooner you get the ball rolling, the sooner you can get your money. All states limit your time to file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court, and New York allows you three years from the date of your injury in most cases, and as little as 90 days if you need to file a claim against a government body or agency. You must also file any insurance company paperwork by the deadlines they establish, and send any correspondence return receipt so you have proof someone at the company got it. A lawyer can complete all of these tasks on deadlines for you.
- Respond to the adjuster promptly – Even though it could take weeks before you hear from an insurance adjuster, respond to them promptly and double-check that you send them everything they really need. Again, a lawyer can do this for you and ensure you don’t send irrelevant information that could sabotage your claim.
- Get medical treatment – Get the medical care you need and carefully follow your treatment guidelines. This will prove you received treatment for your injuries.
- Follow up – Let your lawyer deal with the insurance company, but touch base with your lawyer periodically for updates.
The insurance company’s lawyers will try everything to discount the cost of your suffering and will likely request exorbitant documentation and evidence to support the compensation figures you provided. They will look for every avenue to reduce the total accident settlement they will have to pay, and they are not eager to accept your claim and cut you a check.
Get Help from an Attorney
If you feel your accident settlement takes too long, one of the best ways to speed up the process is to work with a personal injury attorney. A lawyer can gather all the information and evidence you will need and submit forms and documents by the required deadlines. They understand how insurance companies work, can serve as a zealous advocate for you, and increase your chances of getting positive results quicker. This is particularly true if you pursue intangible non-economic damages.
Your attorney should always have your best interests at heart by seeking the maximum amount possible for your claim. However, they may struggle to get timely responses from the insurance company as they negotiate to get you more money. Many times, insurance companies don’t respond promptly in the hopes the claimant will simply give up out of frustration.
Regardless, a diligent and assertive attorney should provide regular updates regarding your case and inform you of all they are doing to get the compensation you deserve.