As an injury lawyer, I have heard this question many times. It really is one of the most asked or considered questions of clients. Most clients come to us seeking a resolution to their case—they want to end the process, want us to handle the process and want to get a just and fair result. And that is what we aim to do at our office—expedite, resolve and close. We want to move cases quickly and efficiently for our clients so they can get back to their lives. However, there are some things beyond the lawyer’s control that the lawyer must consider in order to act in the best interest of the client. There are 2 types of cases—one is pre-suit and the other is in-suit. Basically, one case has not been filed as a lawsuit (pre-suit) and one has (in-suit). In this post, I will only discuss pre-suit.
Almost every case we agree to accept is pre-suit. That means no lawsuit has been filed and usually there is not another lawyer on the other side. Ideally, we have agreed to representation within 2 weeks of the incident but that does not always happen. When we have been retained in that 2 week timeframe, that gives the case the quickest and best opportunity of resolving quickly. What really slows cases down is the scenario when an individual tries to handle the case themselves for a few months, gives statements to the insurance company and allows them to go through all the medical records of a client’s entire life AND then the client is unhappy with the offer. The client then comes to us and expects a resolution in no time. Well, it doesn’t work that way. The lawyer now has to undo the mess that has been created and most of the time it requires a lawsuit being filed. The reason is that the insurance company has already committed to a financial position and the only way to change their mind is to file suit and get a fresh set of eyes on the claim.
Nevertheless, here is the typical time frame on cases we see every day—the cases that don’t cause devastating injury but interrupt and disrupt lives for a certain period of time.
Day 1—Crash or negligent act of defendant that caused injury. Treatment or ER visit usually follows and there is follow up care. Full extent of harm is still unknown.
Day 7-14—Lawyer selected and agreement signed. Treatment continues and evaluations of whether specialists are needed occurs.
Day 14-180—Treatment and management of care happens. The human body is extremely complex and unique. It is a joke to assume each body responds the same to each injury. That is not the case. Each individual has a varying degree of how they respond and the body is on its own timeframe. We have seen cases where treatment can go on longer than this.
Day 181—Usually about this time is either a resolution to the pain or a decision on surgery. If the injury has not resolved to all the conservative measures of treatment (physical therapy, chiropractic, pain injections, etc…) a more invasive solution is needed. The last stop is surgery.
Day 270—the ideal settlement time as either the treatment worked or the client knows additional care is needed. At this point, the attorney must provide an in-depth analysis of the available insurance coverage and evaluate the amount available to the client. Is it enough to cover the surgery? Enough to cover past care? Will the damages to the client exceed the policy limits? Have all insurance carriers been notified? These are all questions your attorney should be addressing throughout the case but at the 9 month mark, the attorney should have a very good idea of where the case is going. Ideally, the answers are better known at the 4-6 month mark but as I said, the body is individualized and goes on its own clock.
At this 9 month mark, on the average case, a decision to file or attempt to settle is made. But why does it take 9 months to get this seemingly straightforward case resolved? Remember the main idea—each person’s body is different. Your back may respond to treatment that my back does not. The biggest mistake a lawyer can make is to settle a case without knowing the full extent of the harm to the client. The typical disc injury ( a neck/back injury) or shoulder injury may not fully present for a few months. It takes time for doctors to pinpoint exact injuries—many symptoms do not occur at the site of the injury so there is plenty of trial and error on behalf of the physicians. But the goal is to get it right and get you cured. And to get you the justice you deserve for the dangerous choices the defendant made. In order to do that, I need to know everything that is wrong with you and know if or how it can be fixed. Only then can I, as the lawyer, fully inform you of what your best option is. Think about it, how can I adequately settle your claim for you if I don’t know what is wrong with you? How can I show the insurance company the extent of your injuries if I don’t know what they are? I can’t.
Here is the worst case scenario—you come to our office with an injury. Say we settle it 2 months in because you say you are feeling better (this is not uncommon). Well, say at month 6, that nagging pain has just not gone away and now you need surgery to fix it. If I settled your case, there is nothing we can do. The impatience by us severely hampered your ability to recover fully and justly for this injury. Had we been patient, your surgery could be paid for and you would have the money you need to recover.
If you remember one thing from this blog—Patience Pays Off. When it comes to your injury and your body, you should not make hasty decisions. Give your body time to recover. Give the physicians time to care for you. And give yourself your best shot and getting justice.