After you have been hurt in a medical malpractice case, car accident, slip and fall, or another type of personal injury, you may be in a difficult place. Many people are unable to work after this type of event, and find themselves with less money and more bills. When you add the stress of being in pain, it can be a lot for anyone to handle.
It is little wonder that most victims of personal injury cases would like their cases to be settled as quickly as possible. Yet moving too fast can actually harm your claim, and lead to a lower recovery that doesn’t fully cover your expenses. The negotiation process can take time — particularly if it is done right.
It can be difficult to know exactly how long a settlement negotiation will take for a given case. A seasoned Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer may be able to give you an idea after reviewing the facts of your case. Read on to learn more about the process and the factors that influence settlement negotiations.
The Settlement Process in a Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Case
For many people, the legal process is a mystery. Most Washingtonians are fortunate to not have the experience of dealing with insurance companies and the civil legal system after an accident or another type of personal injury case. Learning about the steps that occur after an accident can help you get a better understanding of what is to come — and may reduce your stress.
After a free initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer, the process will start with a thorough investigation. Your attorney will collect police reports, medical records, witness statements, and other evidence to put together a detailed timeline of events. If necessary, experts, such as an accident reconstruction expert, will also be used to assist in this process.
The investigation will continue as you recover from your injuries. Once you have recovered at least 90%, we will send a demand package to the insurance company. This will include a letter that sets out the facts of the case, explains why their insured is responsible and includes a demand for damages. This demanding process begins the settlement process.
Once the insurance company receives the demand package, they will consider it and likely conduct their own investigation. They may deny your claim entirely, or make a counteroffer. At this stage, a counteroffer is likely to be significantly lower than the initial demand.
This starts the back-and-forth process where your Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer will negotiate a settlement that fairly compensates you for your injuries. Throughout the negotiation process, your attorney will make legal arguments, provide new evidence (such as updated medical records), and continue to strategically push for a settlement.
Most cases do resolve in a settlement. However, if the parties cannot reach an agreement, then you may decide (in consultation with your attorney) to take the next step of filing a civil lawsuit. Importantly, there is a 3-year time limit to file lawsuits for personal injury cases in Washington, D.C.; this is known as the statute of limitations.
Factors That May Impact the Length of Negotiations
Each Washington, D.C. personal injury case is unique. For this reason, there is no set timeframe for resolving a claim. However, there are certain factors that may affect how long it takes to settle your case.
First, the seriousness of your injuries and your state of recovery will influence how long it takes to settle your case. The reason why is simple: until your attorney knows an approximate amount of what your current medical expenses are as well how your injuries will affect your future, it will be impossible to make an appropriate settlement demand. As a general rule, the negotiation process cannot start until you have reached what is known as maximum medical improvement, or “MMI.”
While this may be frustrating, particularly when your finances are affected by being out of work and mounting bills, it is important to wait to submit a settlement demand until you have significantly improved. Otherwise, you risk getting a settlement that doesn’t come close to covering your current medical expenses — let alone your future costs.
Second, the complexity of your case will affect the length of negotiations. If you were involved in a rear-end accident, that will generally be easier to settle with an insurance company than a crash involving three cars and a big trucking rig. Similarly, if a government entity is involved in the lawsuit, then the negotiations will become more complicated.
In some situations, the nature of the case itself makes for a longer negotiation process. Medical malpractice claims often involve consulting with numerous expert witnesses to determine if a medical professional has met the standard of care. A product liability claim may rely on engineers and other experts to explain how or why a product was defective or dangerous.
In any personal injury case, there may be voluminous evidence to go through, such as security video, photographs, witness statements, and more. This can extend the negotiation process as attorneys for both sides work through the information. Although this can be aggravating, it is important that your Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer fully understands the facts of your case to get you the compensation that you deserve.
Third, a settlement negotiation may take longer if there is any dispute as to what happened in the underlying cause. This is particularly true in situations where you (the victim) may be partially to blame, as Washington, D.C. uses the principle of pure contributory negligence. This means that if you are at fault for an accident — even slightly — then you cannot recover any damages. (There is an exception to this rule for pedestrians and bicyclists, thanks to recent legislation from D.C. City Council. Those cases are subject to a comparative fault formula where the victim’s damages are reduced proportionately to their share of the fault.)
For this reason, if there is any question that you may be at fault in a personal injury case, then an insurance company may draw out negotiations in an attempt to prove that you are partially responsible, and therefore barred from recovery. Importantly, as mentioned above, the principle of contributory negligence does not apply to pedestrians, bicyclists and others not using motorized vehicles when involved in an accident with a car, truck, or SUV.
What If Negotiations Fail?
While the vast majority of civil lawsuits result in settlements, there may be situations where an insurance company is unwilling to pay fair compensation to a victim in a personal injury case. At Patrick Malone & Associates, we believe in fighting for our clients’ rights. While we make every attempt to settle cases without going to trial, when necessary, we file lawsuits on behalf of our clients — and aggressively pursue justice.
Our team of lawyers has substantial trial experience and isn’t afraid to take on big insurance companies and other corporations. In fact, our founding partner, attorney Patrick Malone, won one of the largest collected judgments against a pharmaceutical company on behalf of a client. We are fierce advocates for our clients and will work hard to get our clients the money that they deserve.
Questions? Contact Us Today
We know that the time after a personal injury can be particularly hard. You are likely in pain, and coping with unexpected bills as well as the inability to work. We can help.
Patrick Malone & Associates represents everyday Americans who have been victims of negligent, reckless or wrongful conduct. We understand that this is a difficult time — and we are here to put our knowledge and experience to work for you. Contact us online or call us at 202-742-1500 to schedule a free initial consultation with a skilled Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer.