3 min read
Personal Injury 101: The Timeline of a Claim and Common Delays
Benjamin Kline, Esq. Jan 25, 2021 12:00:00 AM
If you are injured in Minnesota due to someone else’s actions, you have rights and may be entitled to seek payment for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages related to your injuries. One of the most frequent questions our clients ask is how long it will take to receive compensation for their injuries. In short, the timeline may vary depending on how the claim is handled by the insurance companies and how the claim is eventually resolved. Unfortunately, delays are common. Settling a claim typically results in a quicker payment, while cases that go to trial typically take longer, depending on the court’s calendar.
That said, most personal injury claims tend to follow a similar timeline. The following is a rough outline of this timeline along with a few of the common delays you might see along the way. Note that some of the steps may overlap depending on the unique facts of your case.
Date of Injury: You or a loved one become the victim of an accident or sustain an injury. The most common personal injury cases involve car accidents or slip-and-falls.
Medical Treatment: The injured person seeks medical treatment. We encourage all of our injured clients to seek medical care as soon as possible—even if the injuries are not always immediately evident. Your health is valuable, and medical reports are the best way to prove your damages to both the insurance company and the court, if necessary. The amount of time spent seeking medical treatment can change how long a claim might last, with more severe injuries that require extensive rehabilitation potentially causing further delays. But it is imperative that an injury victim wait to settle their claim until they have finished treatment or until it becomes clear how long they will need to continue with treatment. That way, the client can avoid missing out on compensation for long-term or slow-presenting injuries.
Consultation with an Attorney: Hiring a personal injury attorney is a significant step toward protecting your rights and obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled. Attorneys can help their clients obtain significantly higher settlements than clients who try to go it alone. At an initial consultation, the attorney will take the time to review your case and gain a detailed understanding of the accident and your situation.
Notifying the Other Parties: If you choose to hire an attorney for your case, they will send a notice to all of the other parties involved, telling them that you have obtained legal representation and demanding that you be compensated for your injuries. When someone pursues a personal injury claim, the claimant must notify all parties that they will be seeking compensation for their loss.
Gathering Evidence: At this point, your attorney, with your help, will need to gather all the evidence of your claim. This could include a police report; footage from body, security, or traffic cameras; witness statements; medical records; wage loss documents; and more. Delays can often occur at this stage because anyone seeking to gain access to these materials is at the mercy of the government agency, medical provider, or employer who holds the evidence, and who may decide to take their time fulfilling information requests.
Investigation: While the client and their attorney work to gather evidence, the insurance companies will also want to investigate the claim for themselves. The investigation stage can often present one of the biggest delays in a personal injury claim. Insurance companies will engage in delay tactics, hoping that you will decide that it’s too much effort to pursue the claim and simply give up or accept a lowball settlement offer. They will play the delay game by taking every possible avenue allowed by the law to investigate your claim and delay payment. They may request that you provide medical authorizations so they can examine your treatment records, ask that you sit for a recorded statement, demand to examine your car, or even ask you to attend a medical examination conducted by their own doctor—who will often state that your injuries didn’t occur, or your treatment wasn’t necessary. They may also try to create a “coverage dispute” in which they attempt to shift the responsibility for your damages to a different insurance company.
Settlement: Many personal injury claims are settled at this point in the timeline, though not all claims should be. Your attorney will attempt to negotiate a settlement that is acceptable to both parties, but each case is different. Sometimes it’s not possible to reach a settlement, especially if the insurer insists that they are not responsible for your damages.
Lawsuit: If negotiations prove unsuccessful, the claimant will need to either file a lawsuit with the court or seek payment through arbitration. Delays at this stage are largely due to the scheduling procedures of the court or the arbitrator. During the COVID-19 pandemic, court calendars are booking many months into the future.
For help navigating the personal injury timeline, dealing with insurance companies, and getting the full financial recovery that you are entitled to, please call Aaron Ferguson Law at 651-493-0426 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.