Great Article on Why Settlement Often Takes So Long
NAPIL, which is an organization I belong to, has a great article on its website authored by Chris Robideaux explaining why personal injury cases take so much time to reach the settlement stage. Here is the article:
Why Personal Injury Cases Can Take So Long To Reach a Just Settlement
Written By: Chris Robideaux
In this article, I will attempt to pin down the inherent causes of the anxiety and impatience some people feel when their personal injury case seems to drag on forever, with no clear resolution in site. Personal injury litigation can sometimes take years, with little hope in sight, at times, of seeing any substantial reward. But that's no reason to lose hope, as with a little perseverence and the law (and a good personal injury lawyer) on your side, justice isn' so far-fetched an idea after all.
It's very common to be upset at your lawyer after your personal injury lawsuit is filed, due to such a long time passing between the time the lawsuit commences and any settlement or trial. In most states, the other party's insurance company owes you no duty to settle quickly. Your case can be settled before trial, or consequently drag on long after the trial is over. The insurance company knows you're in a hurry to settle your case, and uses this fact to try to get you to settle for less. Here's a partial list of some of the things that can happen to slow down your case: Discovery This is the insurance company's opportunity to "discover" everything about you and the accident. You'll get lots of written questions to answer under oath. You'll have to produce documents and medical records, plus admit or deny specific written statements put to you.
You and your lawyer will need to gather up all the medical records, bills and other documentation of your injuries. Some of these must be obtained in a specific way to make them admissible at trial. You'll likely to be subjected to grilling over the smallest of details. Motion Hearings The insurance company lawyers may have what feels like an endless capacity to file motions and go to hearings on motions. Some of these motions are unimportant to you, but some may be critical to your case. Mediation Many courts are forcing lawyers to mediate or arbitrate cases prior to trial. Some courts won't even give you a trial date until you do so.
Mediation is typically a settlement conference without the formalities of court. A neutral party will try to help the parties reach a middle ground. It's not usually "binding" – meaning the parties are stuck with the result – unless the parties reach an agreement and write up a settlement agreement. Arbitration is a different breed altogether. It's often a binding "mini-trial" of the case in front of an arbitrator, or panel of judges who listen to an informal presentation of the matters involved in your case. Trial If your case doesn't settle, it must go to trial, where six or twelve strangers will decide what your injury is worth.
Trials are scheduled on the court's schedule, not the lawyers' schedule. This means cases sometimes take years to be scheduled for trial, especially in some major urban areas. Having a case that is two or three years old before going to trial is not uncommon. And once you have a trial, your case may not terminate.
There may be an appeal as well as further motions and hearings to deal with. Collection Issues You may experience difficulty collecting from the insurance company or the person responsible for your injury . The insurance lawyer will have to have a check or draft issued by the company. And before they send you your money, you will be required to sign a release document and file some sort of dismissal motion. Settlements after litigation can be very disappointing after spending years battling in the courts to get what's rightfully yours. Sometimes it is better to settle before trial for a certain amount, rather than to go through the process and end up with a small settlement or perhaps a bad result at trial. The main thing is to hang in there, and try to find the most competent personal injury lawyer possible for your case. They will know what the best course of action is.