Time It Takes to Reach Settlement in a Car Accident
I’m Ed Smith, a car accident and personal injury lawyer in Sacramento. After a car accident happens, an injured person may be unable to work and support their family. Doctor visits and medical bills start piling up and, without insurance, they may go unpaid. Settling an insurance claim quickly may appear to be the only way to recover from this terrifying experience. But deciding too soon can mean accepting an amount for a fraction of what the case is worth. Without the services of a seasoned lawyer, an injured person may be at the mercy of an insurance provider who cares more about saving money than issuing a just settlement.
Low Offer by the Insurance Carrier
Insurance providers are sometimes quick to offer what amounts to a portion of what they may offer later on or if the case goes to court. An insurer knows the real value of the case. Although the settlement is, in reality, a negotiation process, they bank on the injured person not knowing they can ask for more.
Obtaining Medical Treatment After an Accident
When a person has been injured in an accident, it is possible to use their own health insurance to pay for medical treatment. After the insurance company settles or the case is taken to court, the health insurer will expect to be reimbursed. This is called subrogation. In California, some drivers carry an option offered when they purchase auto insurance called Med Pay that covers the medical care they receive. It doesn’t matter who was at fault in the accident when this option is used, and payment is received quickly. Med Pay covers all passengers in the vehicle whose owner has purchased this option.
However, not everyone has Med Pay, and some do not have health insurance. Until settlement with the insurance company has been reached, it may be possible to receive care by using a medical lien. By placing a lien against the injured party/insurance payout, medical providers are assured they will receive payment in the future. The person receiving medical care will be asked to sign off on the lien and will be responsible for payment even if the case does not settle in their favor.
Maximum Medical Improvement
Maximum medical improvement is the stage beyond which additional treatment will have little or no effect. Technically, it is essential to wait for a claim to be settled until after an individual has reached this stage. If settlement occurs before MMI is reached and the injured party requires additional medical treatment due to the accident, the insurer will not pay. Once a settlement is accepted, the insurance company will ask that the injured party sign an agreement specifying that they will not hold the company liable if further treatment is needed.
Other Factors That Lengthen the Time It Takes to Reach a Settlement
Specific factors may lengthen the time it takes to reach a settlement:
- The extent and type of injuries can influence the time that it will take to reach a settlement. For example, a case involving traumatic brain injury, which is complex and more challenging to treat, will take longer than one involving cervical strain and sprain. Due to the increased treatment that is necessary for a severe injury, the cost is generally higher as well.
- Poor documentation can also hamper efforts to reach an equitable and fair settlement. The most common is the absence of a complete medical file. Aside from the doctor’s notes, it is essential to keep a record of all prescriptions and other expenses such as travel to and from medical providers.
- Disputed negligence can lengthen the time it takes to reach settlement also. For instance, in some cases, both parties might be partially at fault for the accident. In this case, the insurance company may refuse to offer a settlement, and the plaintiff may need to take the case to court.
- The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused their injury. Without this, the case will flounder until proof is provided.
- When the damages are high, the insurer may take longer to offer a fair settlement. They will investigate all aspects of the case trying to prove that either the person’s injuries are not that serious or that the defendant is not liable. Once they find that they have no way to avoid paying, a just settlement might finally be reached.
Sacramento Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer
I’m Ed Smith, a car accident and personal injury lawyer in Sacramento. If you are injured in a car accident, you need the help an experienced lawyer can provide. Call me at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for friendly and free advice. You can reach me online at my contact us page too.
I am proud to have helped many residents of Sacramento in the past 36 years. We have worked on traumatic brain injury and wrongful death cases with much success.
You might want to know more about my law practice before calling me. Look at the following pages to learn what clients think, and review some of my case settlements:
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