One of the most popular questions that is asked during a Personal injury claim is how long will my claim take/why is my claim taking this long?
Many people without a legal background and/or an understanding of legal procedure expect claims to run quickly, a couple of weeks maximum. But the reality is very different, even a ‘straightforward’ claim can take several months and ‘straightforward’ claims are few and far between. There is a lot more to a claim than most people expect, and something that on the surface may seem straightforward can become complicated very quickly.
In this article, I will discuss how long Personal Injury claims can take and provide you with tips on what you can do to help your case proceed as quickly and as smoothly as possible.
How long will a claim take?
It is almost impossible to predict with any kind of accuracy how long an individual claim will take. A lot of legal professionals will try to give client’s a ballpark figure at the start of a claim but these figures are vague and for a good reason. They simply do not know. At the start of a claim, all you have is your version of events, you have no idea how the other side will respond to the claim and no detailed breakdown of the injury or losses.
There are a lot of things that can slow a case down.
During a claim there are a lot of variables to consider when trying to estimate how long the claim will take to resolve, such as will liability will be admitted or denied? Will the defendants respond at all or will they try the “ignore it and maybe it will go away” response
Spark: the “ignore it and maybe it will go away” response never ever works, ever. If you ignore a claim against you, the Claimant will get a default judgment which means you will be judged liable because you have not bothered to engage or try to defend yourself.
It is not only the other side that can cause problems, however. You will need to obtain copies of your medical records and that can take up to 40 days. If the police were involved you will need to obtain copies of their reports and that can take weeks.
Your experts can cause delays as well, will the medical expert be available to see you immediately? Or will you have to wait several weeks before an appointment becomes available?
Your own injury can slow your claim down, as it is difficult to value a claim when you’re not fully healed. It is advisable to heal as much as possible before settling your claim, this is because once you accept an agreed figure for the compensation you cannot go back at a later date if your injury doesn’t heal the way the expert initially predicts it will.
Spark: You stand a much better chance of receiving the correct amount of compensation if you are fully recovered when you settle your claim. If you settle early and then it turns out your injury is a lot worse than you initially realized you cannot go back to the Defendant to claim more compensation later.
As a general (very, very general) estimation, road traffic accident claims can take 4-9 months to settle (if everything goes smoothly aka the other side admit liability, the paperwork comes through quickly, the expert can see you immediately and your injury heals exactly as the expert predicts).
While it is nice for claims to go smoothly, it is the exception and not the rule. The above list of variables can, and often do, occur, either individually or more than one.
It is also commonly accepted that the more severe and complicated your injury the longer your claim will take, so a road traffic accident where the Claimant suffers multiple fractures will take longer than a low-speed accident where the Claimant suffers only bruising and soft tissue injuries.
Why do these variables slow a case down?
In a nutshell:-
- If liability is denied time must be spent arguing this point, to try and persuade the other side to see why they were at fault for the accident. They may change their mind, they may not.
- If the Defendant ignores your correspondence, then multiple, serious attempts must be made to make contact and receive a response before a default judgment can be applied for.
- The medical expert’s availability can slow the case down as an independent medical expert’s report is a must have to correctly value your injury.
- Paperwork not being readily available will slow your case down because you need evidence to support your claim, without it, your case will be weaker than it would be otherwise
- Not being fully recovered, as said above you run the risk of not getting the correct amount of compensation if you do not wait until you are fully recovered before settling.
What can you do to speed up your Claim?
This is an easy answer if you are running the claim yourself the best thing you can do to keep things going smoothly is to stay as organized as possible. Keep a calendar with notes of when you wrote to someone, or when you called them, and then if they have not fulfilled their obligation (e.g. sending you a requested document, or responding to your questions) then chase them. Keep on top of chasing the Defendant and third parties, and this will help your claim continue promptly. Respond quickly to correspondence you receive, even if the other side is slow to respond try not to delay your own responses in a tit-for-tat manner as all it does is slow things down further.
If you have a solicitor, the best thing you can do to keep your claim moving quickly responds to your solicitor when they contact you (they will be aware that you cannot drop everything to be at their beck and call but respond within 48hours is polite and helps keep your case running smoothly). Also, if your solicitor asks you to send in documents then doing so at the next available opportunity will help keep your case running smoothly.
There are a lot of different things that can slow your case down, from the Defendant ignoring you initially to the medical expert not being available for the next few weeks. There are also steps you can take to try and minimize these disruptions. You should now have a better understanding of what can slow your case down and why these delays happen.