Why do personal injury claims take so long?
One of the key questions when making a personal injury claim is how long will the process take? After a significant injury it is understandable that clients will want their lives to return to normal, or as near to this as they can, as quickly as possible. However, it can often take a few years before a claim is settled and the monies owed are finally received. Although this may be frustrating, it is often best not to rush your claim in order to see the best outcome.
There are a number of reasons why a claim will not be swiftly resolved, and understanding these reasons may help to decrease the frustration at a lack of progress.
Firstly to determine the extent and overall effect of your injuries, assessment must wait until they have fully stabilised; this is where a medical professional deems that the severity of your injuries are unlikely to change to any significant degree going into the future. This usually takes at least 12 months and often takes longer. Accordingly, a considerable period will pass before determinations on the likely value of you claim can be made.
The requirement for your injuries to stabilise comes down to a number of reasons. Often you need to be assessed to have sustained a certain level of incapacity, in other words to reach certain thresholds, before you are entitled to claim for non-economic loss. Before you can be assessed to obtain the level of your incapacity, your injuries must have stabilised. Moreover before your injuries have stabilised, your need for treatment and care and your reduction in earning capacity cannot accurately be determined.
To add to this your injuries may require invasive treatment. This will again delay the timeframe of your claim, especially if surgery is required, as your injuries must re-stabilise before the effect of the treatment can be determined.
Other considerations also need to be taken into account such as time consumed corresponding with the insurer, organising and scheduling medical appointments, analysing the strengths and weaknesses in a claim and agreeing on a suitable figure for settlement. These can all add considerable time to the process. Other unforeseen delays may also arise to push back the resolution of your claim.
Claims are likely to be dragged out even further if there are irreconcilable disputes about liability and quantum. Such issues may require lengthy and expensive investigation and if the dispute cannot be agreed upon, the claim will likely be required to be heard by an assessor or judge.
It is usually a lengthy process before an assessor or judge makes the final decision. Court schedules are often busy and this means that timetabling alone can course considerable delays. Further to this, the time required to properly prepare a case before court is a detailed process that needs proper consideration.
Therefore, a quick resolution to a personal injury claim is unlikely and this should be expected when engaging in the process. Things are likely to progress quicker if there are no large disputes, the effects of your injuries are reasonably clear and both parties have assessed the claim at a fairly similar level. However even when proceedings do move quickly, it is still likely to be a slow process when compared with the average expectations of the claimant.
Written by William Temple-Smith.
William Temple-Smith is a paralegal for Ruth Hudson’s Practice Group. William works on a variety of different compensation matters, with a particular focus on motor vehicle accidents and public liability claims.