Some would have you believe that personal injury claims take forever to reach a conclusion. Many think they should be settled within a few weeks of a solicitor being instructed.
In reality a case may take anywhere from a few months to several years to resolve depending on a number of factors:
The most important is the type and seriousness of the injury and the time it takes the victim to reach a “final state” – the point at which their recovery has gone as far as it will ever go. At that stage, a medical expert will be able give an accurate future prognosis in a report and we will be able to fully value all aspects of the claim and proceed to settlement.
Obviously, some injuries take longer to heal than others. In a classic whiplash situation, most clients recover within 6-12 months and once a medical report has been obtained, claims are normally settled very quickly afterwards.
Serious orthopaedic injuries may result in surgery and treatment for five years or more and, often, when infants suffer serious injuries, such as brain damage, the claim can not be accurately valued and resolved until they reach adulthood.
Another crucial factor is the way in which the opponent, normally an insurance company, deals with the case. Pursuant to the Personal Injury Pre-Action Protocols, once they have received a claim they have from 3 to 8 weeks in which to admit or deny liability. Some insurers reply with within several days, yet others choose to reply outside the protocol periods and may take up to 3 months or longer to reach a liability decision.
Those of us who represent claimants are often frustrated by the apparently excessive length of time insurance companies, local authorities and other opponents take to deal with relatively straightforward matters.
A small number of cases require court proceedings to be issued, which will cause further delays. Normally, courts progress matters quite quickly and most cases reach trial within 12 months. Some take longer, but this is usually for reasons beyond the control of the solicitors such as if liability for the injury is in dispute or there are complicated medical issues. If the courts are busy, it will also take longer to obtain a hearing date.
Sometimes I have found that claimants’ solicitors do not move cases along as quickly as they should. In my experience, this is comparatively rare, but we do take on several clients each year who want to change solicitors because they are unhappy with the service they are receiving.
It is common for insurers to offer what are known as Pre-Medical offers to claimants very quickly after they receive details of a claim. Recently I have seen such offers varying from £1250 to £14,000. Although clients have the right to accept such offers, they are almost always advised not to accept them as we cannot properly advise them on the true value of their claim without a medical report and the offers are likely to be much less than the claim is worth.
If you have any questions about a personal injury claim, please contact us on 0114 218 4000 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you enjoy your weekend. I will be watching Sheffield United and then hosting an 18th birthday party at our house tomorrow evening. The house contents policy has been checked and the valuables (and bottles of ale) hidden!