One of the very first questions we’re always asked by people who have suffered a personal injury and are looking for legal guidance is: How long will take for my case to settle and for me to be compensated for my injuries?
Though Finney Injury Law has decades of experience helping hundreds of personal injury victims settle their cases or try their cases in court, we’re still unable to give a firm answer to this question of “when,” no matter how badly we may want to. That’s because there is always an array of other important questions to consider before trying to determine exactly where and when the end of the road is when it comes to your unique personal injury case.
Q: What is a personal injury settlement?
A: When a personal injury is suffered due to someone else’s negligent act, the victim may be eligible to file a claim or sue the responsible party for the injuries they suffered. Before that lawsuit ever reaches the point where it might need to be argued in court by a team of lawyers, it goes through a process to reach a settlement first.
A settlement is an agreement between these two parties that officially ends the dispute by the voluntary dismissal of related legal proceedings. This dismissal most often only occurs when the responsible party offers some amount of monetary compensation that the victim (and often their advising legal team), is willing to accept in agreement to drop the lawsuit.
Q: Should I accept a settlement offer from the insurance company?
A: A settlement should never be agreed upon solely for the sake of settling. Often, when it comes to the victim of a personal injury, it can be tempting to avoid the extended process of having to go to court. It can take many more years, money, and stress to fight a case in court, which can be hard on you and your family. Keep in mind; people who take an insurance company’s first offer for their injury claim typically get less money than those who negotiate a settlement. A good accident attorney can advise you if the offer is reasonable. But they shouldn’t be afraid to fight for you in court if they don’t believe it’s a fair settlement offer.
Q: How long does a personal injury case take to settle?
A: Though we can’t speak on behalf of other Missouri personal injury law firms, we can share our own firm’s analytics over the last few years in order to give you a general idea of how long the personal injury cases we work on have the potential to last. However, these numbers are by no means a promise of an expected timeline, and every case needs to be individually evaluated according to its own unique circumstances and necessities.
In each of these years, it took on average this number of days for the case to reach a settlement agreement:
- 2019: 481 days
- 2020: 405 days
- 2021: 434 days
- 2022: 470 days
As you can see, personal injury cases with our team take on average over a year to finally reach a settlement agreement. That’s because there are a lot of processes that take an extended amount of time to play out before any such agreement can hope to be reached.
Q: What can affect the length of time it takes to reach a settlement?
A: There are a number of factors that can impact the amount of time it takes for a personal injury case to finally reach a settlement agreement. Some of them are within you and your legal team’s control, while others unfortunately are outside that sphere of control.
For example, your medical treatment in relation to your injuries can be a big factor in how long your case may take to settle. That’s because the goal of reaching a full and fair settlement amount is to make sure it fairly and fully compensates you for the injuries you’ve suffered. So if your treatment is ongoing, and the extent of and treatment plan for your injuries is yet to be fully realized, it may not be wise to settle sooner rather than later. You may want to extend the process to make sure all your resulting injuries are considered in that final settlement amount.
The other factors that lend to longer settlement processes are just that: processes. There are certain rules that personal injury lawsuits must follow to be in accordance with the laws of the state of Missouri, and some of those laws involve giving necessary parties the time they need to review the evidence and make decisions.
For example, an insurance company’s investigative team typically has 30 days to respond to a Demand Letter from your attorney. After that, there is expected back-and-forth negotiation, and each step of that process is allowed specific windows of time for further investigation and response. So if a settlement isn’t reached within the first few rounds of negotiation, that time can add up.
Q: When should I just give up and settle?
A: If you feel like you’d be “giving up” if you agreed to settle, then the answer is: never! Remember, you filed this lawsuit because someone’s negligence caused you pain and suffering in a way that has severely affected your life. You’ve undertaken this feat not only because it’s the just and moral thing to do, but because you deserve to be fairly compensated for all the financial woes their harm has caused you.
If you feel like the settlement amount you’re being offered does not provide the reassurance for your livelihood that you’ve been missing, then don’t give up. And if your personal injury lawyer tells you that they don’t think it’s a fair offer either, but thinks you should take it anyways, then they’re probably not the right lawyer for you. The same is true when you’re first looking around for a lawyer to hire, and one promises to settle your case for you quickly no matter the circumstances. The point of these proceedings isn’t to just settle—it’s to receive the compensation you deserve.
Q: What happens if I decide I don’t want to settle?
A: You are not legally obligated to settle your case if you don’t want to. This is true even if the opposing side offers you the full settlement amount you have made clear you’re after. You are allowed to change your mind, deny their offer, and proceed to court if you feel that’s the right course of action for you. If that’s the case, you and your legal team will start the necessary preparations to fight your case in a court of law, and you should then be prepared for the possibility that your case may take additional years to reach its conclusion. But again, the point of these proceedings isn’t to just settle. So if you and your attorney believe there’s more to be rightly won by heading to court, then don’t be afraid to do so.
Do you need a personal injury attorney to review your settlement offer? Regardless of what stage your injury case is at, our attorneys are here to share their expertise with you. Give the trial attorneys at Finney Injury Law a call today, 314-293-4222, for a no-obligation case review.