Personal injury claims can take a few months or can be drawn-out affairs. The time cases take will often cause understandable frustration and further turmoil for injured people. This blog aims to give you a realistic idea of the likely time frames and help you understand why cases may take longer than they expect if you are unfortunate enough to become involved in a claim.
As a rough guide, a straightforward claim when an injured person recovers from the injuries quickly, and a settlement is negotiated without much fuss will usually last between 9 -18 months.
In more complicated claims, particularly those with serious injury where Court proceedings are necessary, it is not unusual for claims to take 2-3 years, and can, in some cases take around 4 years.
The main elements, which may shorten or lengthen the claim process are examined in more detail below:-
Returning documents and forms of ID:
There are a number of forms, identity documents and authorities which we need clients to complete, sign and return before we are allowed to progress their claims. Dealing with these as soon as possible enables solicitors to proceed quicker than if clients take weeks or months to return them.
Storing information for later use.
It is strongly advised that injured people should keep evidence of any financial or other losses in a folder, computer file, special drawer from the date of the injury to the time when we need them to value the claim. If in doubt if a document is relevant, a client should keep it. This will save time at a later stage.
Delays by the opponent:
Many insurance companies and local authorities take weeks to reply to even the simplest letters. There are time limits imposed by protocols which, to the frustration of Solicitors and clients are routinely ignored by many Defendants, thereby extending the life of a claim.
Recovery from your injury:
The time it takes the injured person to reach their “final state” (the point at which their recovery has gone as far as it will ever go), differs from person to person. Injured people should not generally settle their claims until they reach that point as it will be almost impossible for their solicitors to accurately value and settle their claims.
Clearly, 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.
Liability decisions by the Defendant’s insurers or solicitors:
Once a claim had been submitted to the Defendant (usually an insurer, claims handler or individual Defendant) their liability decision determines the length of time the claim takes. If a Defendant admits liability, then this speeds up the process considerably.
If liability is denied by the Defendant, then you may expect the claim to last considerably longer, usually 12-24 months in most cases. This is because Solicitors and usually a Barrister will need to assess why the Defendant has denied liability, then gather evidence to try to prove the case. This usually involves speaking to witnesses, obtaining documents and other evidence as well as organising meetings with Barristers, called conferences. At a conference the Barrister usually tests the evidence and advises on whether or not the case should be pursued. Generally speaking, if a case has a better than 50/50 chance, it will be pursued further. When this happens, we go to the next stage below…
To prove a personal injury claim, regardless of whether liability is admitted or denied by a Defendant, an injured person needs to be examined by a medical expert and a report prepared.
In many cases, save for the most straightforward road traffic accidents, the Solicitor will need to obtain copies of medical records from the injured persons GP and any hospitals or medical institutions they have been treated by. This usually takes about 6 weeks, but in some cases the delays can be significant. This is generally due to understaffing in the NHS.
Once medical records have been obtained and reviewed by the Solicitors it is not unusual to have wait between 6-12 weeks for an appointment with the medical expert. Generally speaking, most medical experts will supply their report within 2-6 weeks after the appointment.
The medical report needs to be checked carefully by the Solicitor and the injured person. There may be further questions which need to be put to the medical expert.
Often, a medical expert will recommend some further treatment (such as physiotherapy or behavioural therapy) or further investigation (like an MRI scan) to identify the cause of any oncoming pain or symptoms. In many cases, further reports might be needed from experts in other specialities, such as psychologists, orthopaedic consultants, or pain experts. As before, this can add many weeks onto the process.
Negotiating a settlement:
If a Defendant admits liability then, once the medical evidence is finalised, your Solicitor will gather together evidence of any other losses the client might have suffered – for examples, please read our blog ‘How we calculate what an injury is worth’. Send all this information to the Defendant with an offer to settle the claim. The sooner the Solicitor gets this information, the sooner the evidence can be sent to the Defendant with a part 36 offer to settle.
Generally speaking, most Defendants will respond within 3-6 weeks. In 99% of cases they will make a lower counter offer, which, with your Solicitors’ advice, you may either accept, or refuse and continue to negotiate. Most negotiations take 1-3 months.
Court proceedings- if settlement cannot be negotiated.
If a settlement cannot be reached with a Defendant then it may be necessary to start Court proceedings. When this happens, insurers have to pass claims to a firm of Solicitors. Generally speaking, it is possible to negotiate with those Solicitors and the settlement could be wrapped up in 3-6 months. However, if a negotiation is not possible, and you are advised to continue in the process by your Solicitor, then a Judge will assess the value of the claim. From starting the Court proceedings, to the final hearing with the Judge, usually takes between 12-18 months, although the claim may settle at any stage between the start and finish of the Court timetable.
Added together, some or all of the above factors will determine the length of a personal injury claim. We always try to ensure that your claim proceeds as quickly as it should and that it is settled at the correct time and for a suitable amount.
We are here to guide and support you through every stage in the process. For help and advice in making a personal injury claim, call out friendly Solicitors on 0114 218 4000 or email us at P.I.Dept@tayloremmet.co.uk