It’s a fairly natural question to ask, “when will I get compensated for an injury that I suffered in San Francisco, California?”
Even after you’ve identified an attorney and are just about ready to file a personal injury lawsuit, there are several external factors that we have no other choice but to wait on (such as health recovery, documentation, and cooperation from the defendant). In most cases, it comes down to you.
Personal injury in San Francisco, California usually boils down to a battle of attrition and wits. The defendant and their insurance company will use every legal tactic under the book to delay the process in hopes of tiring you out. It isn’t uncommon for people to cave in and accept a lowball settlement.
Recovering from Injury: To Wait or Not to Wait?
To cut the timeline of your lawsuit short, you could rush your case by choosing not to wait for recovery. Or you could wait to recover (highly recommended) thoroughly.
Recovery can be a complicated and drawn-out process that depends on how badly the defendant’s actions injured you. The healing process may range from a few weeks, months, or even years to fully complete.
In most cases, we’ll get the full picture after six months – legally classifying you as permanently impaired under the American Medical Association Guidelines for Permanent Impairment.
Good San Francisco personal injury attorneys will advise you to wait for the healing process to reach a stable point (unless there is a policy limit issue where there isn’t enough insurance available to cover all damages), which brings us to an essential term: the maximum medical improvement.
What is the Maximum Medical Improvement (MIM)?
Maximum Medical Improvement (MIM)is a legal term defined as “the point at which there is no other reasonable expectation of further improvements.” This doesn’t mean you’re done recovering. It also doesn’t mean you’re not going to get worse. Instead, it’s an indication that you’re as good as you can get.
Once you reach your MIM, we can determine a few things:
- Your medical bills
- The extent of suffering and pain you have gone through as a result of the injury
- Your future health prospects (as they relate to the injury)
For most individuals with soft tissue injuries (such as muscle, ligament, sprains, bruises, and tendon strains), the healing process takes less than six months or less, depending on the extent of damage done.
Even after having made a real recovery, a large percentage of injured people will suffer from symptoms that linger on for over a year, and about half of those will have symptoms significant enough to interfere with their daily routine. As attorneys specializing in personal injury in California, we are familiar with almost every type of injury. We can use this evidence to present various scenarios to your doctors and get them to sign off on them.
This also allows us to put a number on the medical bills you may incur in the future. In doing so, we can recover a sufficient amount of money to safeguard your future health.
Should I Settle Earlier if it Means Saving Time?
You can choose to settle earlier, but the true extent of your injuries’ will not be properly addressed in the settlement proposal. To properly document your injuries, you need an accurate picture of your damages. You will need medical doctors and health care practitioners to formulate a treatment plan. This documentation alone can push the other side to come to the table and negotiate resettlement.
However, in most cases, prompt medical intervention and completion of treatment result in an earlier settlement in your favor.
Just make sure to follow your treatment plan to the tee once you receive it, even if you don’t believe it’s working. This includes necessary physical therapy and treatment for medical issues such as PTSD and flashbacks. Remember, being reckless with your health will not look good if your case goes to trial.
Never Accept a Lowball Offer!
You should get medical treatment even if you’re not sure about the full extent of your damages. This will often prompt the other party to issue a check and reach for an early settlement. Sometimes, accepting this offer could prevent you from maximizing your compensation.
To get the best compensation in your case, it’s in your best interest to let the defendant believe you’re willing to go the distance. This means rejecting the first, second, or even third offer. Do not accept anything less than what you deserve. It’s essential to work with your personal injury attorney in California for a professional opinion on whether to accept or decline a settlement offer.
Does the Injury Aggravate Pre-Existing Medical Problems?
Suppose your injury causes aggravation of a pre-existing medical problem. In that case, your attorney will have to meet with your doctor and review prior medical records (as well as records from the date of injury), and seek the doctor’s medical opinion. Then the doctor has to dictate a formal report and send it in writing to your attorney.
Once again, the correspondence with your doctor is a long and drawn-out process that takes several letters and phone calls before an appropriate medical record is obtained. As you can imagine, this process takes time.
The Documentation Process Will Take Time
For the best possible compensation in San Francisco, California, you will need the best possible documentation.
This means pursuing all your medical records, both past and present, and getting in touch with your employer. If you missed work, you would need to get a statement from your employer, verifying your period of employment, salary, and hours or days missed from work.
This documentation level requires complete cooperation from all parties involved – and that could take time, sometimes even months. Once your personal injury attorney in California has prepared all the documentation, it must be sent to the defendant’s insurance company.
You could decide to forego the documentation entirely, but your case will fall on deaf ears should it go to trial. The jury may not be sympathetic to your story if you don’t have evidence backing your claim up. This leads to an even longer time trying to get insurance companies to pay what is reasonable for your injuries.
Once your documentation has been received by the insurance agents and your damages ‘itemized’, this will encourage their cooperation.
Problematic Issues With Your Case
These issues often lie beyond your control. There are so many moving parts in a personal injury case; it’s hard to keep track of everything. There are four types of issues that can cause a delay.
First, there will be questions of liability (identifying the faulty party). Suppose you, the investigating police officer, or anyone else did not obtain the names of eyewitnesses present at the scene of your injury. In that case, the defendant will cast doubt on your version of the events. This means it won’t be clear who the person at fault was.
Secondly, there will be questions about what injuries resulted from the accident and how serious they are. Often, the victim cannot tell their doctor about all their injuries or informs them of these issues at a much later date. The insurance company will try to write off these medical issues as injuries that did not occur from the accident.
Similarly, if the injured person didn’t follow the doctor’s treatment plan, that will also create an issue. You may think that your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan is not working and stop it altogether, but the insurance company will use this to argue that you weren’t hurting that bad, to begin with (and thus, offer you less money).
Suppose you stop visiting the doctor even though you are still injured, due to work-related obligations, transportation issues, or other reasons. In that case, the insurance company can use this to argue that you weren’t really in pain.
Thirdly, it is possible to encounter problems when collecting documentation and paperwork that reveal your injuries’ true extent. Perhaps the doctor retired or moved to another state. Your employer went out of business or maybe unwilling to provide documentation covering the time you were absent or your actual pay. Or you may have a job where your wages are variable, and it’s hard to document your real losses when you were unable to work (as is often the case with waiters, waitresses, and real estate agents).
These issues make it all the more difficult to obtain your records to document and estimate the damages done, causing further delay.
Fourthly, and this often gets underestimated, it may be hard for your doctors to accurately diagnose your medical problems (and whether they occurred due to your injury). Medical science is still developing, and it’s often difficult to objectively verify a person’s physiological state of being in real-time. This estimation process can take a long time for doctors to determine your exact issues accurately, and they may never get around to doing it.
Without accurate diagnosis and testing, it may be challenging to negotiate a settlement that reflects your injuries’ true extent.
The Amount of Compensation is Large
Expect insurance companies to delay paying the settlement if your personal injury lawsuit demands a large amount of compensation. They will investigate all aspects of the case before settling. They’ll thoroughly go through the investigation and seek out every detail of the damages and liability. This is why it’s imperative to obtain documentation and bills from your healthcare professionals. Without supporting evidence, the defendant may succeed in getting the case thrown out altogether.
During this time, your lawyer will have to convince the defendants of the following:
- Your injuries were severe and exclusively occurred due to the accident
- You are a credible individual, and your statement can be relied upon (the defendants will try to go down this route if it means saving money)
- That there’s no point in further defending against your lawsuit
In some cases, the insurance company will deliberately delay the settlement to see if you’ll give up and accept a smaller settlement. It’s a psychological battle of attrition that they know they’ll win if the victim is seriously injured and in need of quick money. As the saying goes, you give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile.
Whether the Defendant Cooperates or Not
When it comes to the settlement timeline for personal injury lawsuits, the defendant wastes most of the time, rejecting the victim’s side of the story and offering lower compensation. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for insurers to try to get away scot-free if that is within the realm of possibility.
After all, that is their job: to shift all the liability on you and delay (or deny) payments. Through deception, they will often try to get the victim to sign a statement that releases them from paying them. This is why it’s important to never speak with insurance adjusters without first consulting with your personal injury attorney.
When the defendants try to delay the process, it will be up to your personal injury lawyer in California to keep the ball rolling in the desired direction.
The defendant will pursue delaying tactics, such as deliberately ignoring correspondence, refusing to provide insurance details or outright lying about their involvement. The courts could be used to enforce compliance with the process, but this will cause further delay.
One recurring problem with insurance companies is when they pull the fraudulent card. Their default approach is to treat all claims as though they are a case of fraud. This is a common scare tactic used to bully the claimants into abandoning their claims altogether (no one wants to be labeled a fraud).
Whether or Not Your Case Goes to Trial
When filing personal injury lawsuits, the goal is to settle before the case goes to trial. If that doesn’t happen, it will take longer to settle and may result in lots of expenses and stress. Courtrooms will need to hold the trial, a judge will have to hear the case, and a jury will be required to decide the compensation amount that you should receive.
Taking a case to trial will require additional legal paperwork by the attorney and taking testimonies from witnesses who were present at the injury scene.
If your case does go to trial, it may not always end up in success if the jury doesn’t decide in your favor. This means you will receive next to nothing for your injuries and damages. Trials require a significant amount of resources from all parties, which means everyone tries to avoid them at all costs. It’s up to your attorney to negotiate the case and secure a settlement before the case goes to trial.
Impatience is Not in Your Best Interests
Nobody wants to spend a long time waiting for their personal injury case to end. But the result is worth the wait. In many cases, a quick settlement is also a cheap settlement. Be careful of hiring personal injury attorneys who promise a quick settlement. You don’t want to work with someone who treats your case as just another number.
Their primary goal is to move on from one case to another in rapid succession, even if they don’t get much money for their clients. If you’ve been hurt, you need someone who’s on your side and can empathize with your situation, even if that means having to work harder and longer before collecting money for you.
Personal injury lawyers specialize in helping people struggling with injuries due to accidents caused by negligent individuals. They are empathetic to your cause and have an understanding of how difficult it can be to wait for a settlement or verdict. They can also get you the treatments you need and may be able to help you find financial help for your living expenses if you’re unable to work during recovery.
But when plaintiffs settle for less because the process is taking longer than expected, the only person who wins is the negligent party and the insurance company. The juice isn’t worth the squeeze!
Before accepting a lowball offer from the defendant to get the process done quicker, make sure you consult with your personal injury attorney to understand all your options.
Injury attorney Anh Phoong, has a reputation for being the go-to attorney for personal injuries in San Francisco, California. She can explain your options and represent you against any insurance company trying to dodge from their responsibilities.