The short answer is: it depends to a large degree on the injury. There is no set timeline, but the reality is that it can take from months to years. At Roebothan McKay Marshall we’ve learned that, as a rule of thumb, the more severe a personal injury is, the longer it will usually take to reach a final settlement. To some of our clients, that may seem unfair, as the more serious the injury the more a settlement is needed by the victim.
However, there are a number of issues that go towards determining how long it will take to reach that elusive “fair” settlement. And also, of course, what that settlement should actually be. First and foremost, serious injuries usually take a long time to recover from. Or for doctors to determine conclusively that a person will not fully recover from those injuries. And to what percentage they will actually recover. So, a settlement for injuries sustained in an accident simply cannot be determined until everyone knows with some kind of finality what degree of temporary or permanent impairment a victim has suffered.
Serious Personal Injuries Require Serious Healing Time
Claims for what we call “soft-tissue” injuries, or things such as mild whiplash, can usually be settled within a year or so. But accidents that result in chronic pain, brain damage, or compound fractures take a long time to sort through and resolve. With this kind of serious accident, it can take up to two years to have a clear idea of the extent of damages. After two years, physical recovery has usually plateaued, and some determinations can safely be made. Furthermore, most doctors want a person to be off work for two years before they are willing to say that person is permanently disabled. Even then, after all parties involved are clear on what the final outcome of an accident will be to the victim, it can still take a long time to agree on what a fair financial settlement should be.
Newfoundland & Labrador’s Personal Injury System
The process can be very slow because it is thorough. Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, we have a private insurance system. So, an insurance company has to agree to any settlement, as they are paying out the money. Every insurance company is a for-profit business, with their major expense being the settlements they pay out. The larger a settlement is likely to be, the more vigorously a firm will usually fight to minimize it.
If there are disputes about facts and liabilities, these issues also need to be sorted through. This is called the “Discovery Process”, where all evidence and testimony must be reviewed by lawyers on either side. Everyone on both sides want all facts to come out before they agree to anything. That, too, takes time. Nobody involved wants to realize after the fact that they made a mistake by acting to quickly. For us, it’s an issue of providing good care to our clients. Rarely are we helping them by accepting a quick settlement.
If an insurance company and an injured person simply can’t agree on a financial number, then the case has to go to trial. Again, booking court time and getting all the lawyers, witnesses, and experts prepared for that trial can take months. Even after a trial is finally over, a judge may reserve their decision, to allow themselves time to review all the evidence and come to a good decision.
A Fair Personal Injury Settlement Takes Time
At Roebothan McKay Marshall we recognize that these delays are hard on our injured clients. But we ask them to remember that the worst thing for them would be to agree to a quick settlement without knowing all the facts. They might then discover that the injuries they sustained are more serious than we knew at the time of the settlement. While the door will have closed on their opportunity for a fair redress. So, unfortunately, you cannot expect this to be a quick process. But, with us on your side, we believe that the end result will be as fair to you as anyone could possibly make it.