Personal injury case: the number one question always asked
2/26/2010The number one question always asked by each prospective client is “how long is my personal injury case going to take.” In an age of instant messaging, downloadable files, connectivity by fire wire and wireless technology, the legal profession and the settlement of claims has slowly crept along. Claimants want quick resolution, as they receive in almost all other aspects of their life.
James E. Ballidis
James E. Ballidis
Unfortunately, the legal and medical profession are slow to change and remain in the age of dinosaurs. There are good and bad reasons for the delays. Here are some frequently arising delays and the need for improvement.
The first step in any claims management and settlement is to collect the medical records and bills associated with the claim. They need to be thoroughly reviewed, but before they can be reviewed, they have to be obtained.
There is inherent delay in obtaining medical records and medical bills in any case. The medical profession is just now starting to see the benefit of digitizing medical records. Hospitals and medical providers are busy practices, and typically have a three to four week minimum timeframe for scheduling of an appointment to pull and copy records. We cannot simply ask for a disk of records. The wait is longer if the records are in archive.
Medical providers are also required to prepare reports to explain the injuries and damages sustained by an individual resulting from an accident. Those reports are drafted independently, and after all treatment has been rendered by the medical provider. Occasionally, these reports come in quickly, but for the routinely, the doctor does not want to prepare the report, it is paperwork, and we all know what we do when faced with paperwork, delay and procrastinate. However, would you prefer a quick report or one that is prepared properly and thoroughly? Of course we prefer the latter, which is why as an attorney we do not want to squeal too much if there is a delay.
Even after we obtain all the reports, bills and prepare a demand letter, insurance companies are inherently slow to respond to any demands provided to them. Many times, insurance companies' adjustors have stacks of other files and are overworked. Thus, your file goes on the bottom of the stack. It rarely helps to incessantly call; instead you again pay the price of a rushed review and response that can delay the claim further. Polite reminders are always well received, but the attorney that “bugs” the adjuster gets little action.
Inevitably, the insurance carrier makes an initial low offer on virtually all cases unless there's inadequate insurance to cover the damages. The archaic process of negotiation has been developed over hundreds of years. We stay high, they stay low. Otherwise the party thinks they gave too much. The negotiation dance is a slow gyration between the parties to arrive at the least the insurance company has to pay to settle your case.
It's best to relax, let the case unfold and never, ever, ever give the indication that you're anxious to have the case settled quickly. Otherwise, you'll likely not see a reasonable recovery.
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