You've been injured in an accident in Washington. Maybe you were riding a bus that hit another vehicle. Maybe you were a pedestrian crossing the street when a car. Maybe you were riding your bike and a car turned into you. However it happened, you were hurt. You've been checked out by a doctor and maybe you've started a course of treatment. Now you're looking for a lawyer to help you with your insurance claim. One question you probably have is "how long will this take?" The answer, as lawyers like to say is "it depends."
It depends on a lot of factors. How long will your treatment take? How quickly will your doctors and other health care providers get us copies of your records and bills? How difficult will the insurance company be? Will we be able to settle, or will we have to litigate? While the answers to all of these questions will factor into how long it takes for you to make a recovery, there are some general guidelines we can use to try to answer your question.
The most important factor in determining when we can resolve your case is the duration of your medical treatment. I strongly discourage clients from settling their claims before the treatment is completed and their injuries have stabilized. The reason for this is simple. Once you settle and sign a release, you can never go back for more. Never. Ever. If you settle your case and then three months later your doctor recommends surgery you still can't go back for more. You've let the insurance company off the hook.
If a client has personal reasons to settle a claim quickly we can try to get a report from their doctor estimating the nature and cost of necessary future treatment, but it's just much harder to get full value for treatment that hasn't happened yet, and we really don't know what kind of treatment might be necessary.
Once the treatment is finished, we go to work getting complete documentation of the case. Often we've already started this process, obtaining copies of police reports, photographs, repair estimates or bills and other documents. We supplement this with all of your medical records and bills. Usually this process takes 3-4 weeks, but it can take longer if your provider doesn't respond quickly to our requests. There are certain hospitals and clinics that we know are less than ideally responsive to these requests. We stay on them and make sure we get your records as quickly as we can.
Once we get all of your records in, it only takes us a few days to get your materials ready to go to the insurance company with a demand for settlement. We usually give the insurers 30 days to evaluate our demand before they must make an offer. Sometimes they request an extension, but most of the time they do respond with an offer of settlement within the 30 days.
Of course, getting an offer does not mean your case is resolved. Sadly, more often than not the insurance company offers are so low they are insulting. We work with the claims adjuster to persuade that your case has more values, sometimes supplementing the materials we originally submitted. Eventually, usually within 30 days of their initial offer, we can present you with the insurance company's top offer.
At that point, the decision is up to you. We break down the offer, showing you how much the attorney fee is, how much needs to be paid to health care providers or insurers, and how much will be left for you. We tell you what people with similar injuries and treatment have recovered. It's our job to make sure you have all the information to make the decision that's best for you and your family. It's your job to make the decision. If you decide to take the settlement, the case is over. If you refuse the settlement, that starts a whole new clock. The average case filed in King County Superior Court is assigned a trial date 18 months or so from the date of filing.
So, from the end of your treatment add 30 days to get the records, a week for us to prepare your materials for the insurance company, 30 days for them to evaluate your claim and another 30 days of negotiation. If we are able to settle your claim, you should be looking at about 90 days from the conclusion of your treatment.
Of course, every case is different, and these times are just estimates. We can't guarantee that your case will settle within a certain time, or that it will settle at all. We can guarantee that we will take your case as seriously as you do, and that we will give it our full attention and expertise.
If you have any more questions about car accidents, or any personal injury claims, please check out our website or just give us a call. We'd be glad to help.