What is the time-line for a settlement process and just what are the rules of engagement?

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What is the time-line for a settlement process and just what are the rules of engagement?

I was T-boned by a ticketed red light runner. My car was totaled. I suffered 5 broken ribs and a punctured and collapsed left lung. I have a $36800 hospital bill, a $6200 (and counting) lost wages. $5000 in aftercare and pain treatment for back (cramps up everyday after 3 hours work). 4 months later, I still have rib tenderness and back discomfort. Insurance company offer was $69500. I have liens for maybe $30000 from hospital, X-ray, and follow-up. There will be some more but after awhile I may have to live with pain or switch careers. After 4 months in, I am broke and angry. Should I speak with a personal injury attorney? In Phoenix, AZ.

Asked on March 12, 2011 under Personal Injury, Arizona


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Sorry to hear about your situation.

You don't want to settle the case until you have either completed your treatment and are released by the doctor or are declared permanent and stationary by the doctor.  Permanent and stationary means that you have reached a point in your medical treatment where no further improvement is anticipated.  If you settle the case prematurely and then need additional treatment, you won't be able to go back to the insurance company for additional funds.  Your settlement can include compensation for the estimated cost of future treatment discounted to present value.

The amount of time it takes a personal injury case to reach the point of settlement depends on the nature of the injury and the extent of medical treatment.  The sooner that medical treatment is completed and you are either released by the doctor or declared permanent and stationary will determine when to attempt to settle the case.  The amount of your settlement should include compensation for the medical bills, wage loss and compensation for pain and suffering.  Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount in addition to the medical bills.  The medical reports which document the nature and extent of your injury will be used to determine the amount of compensation for pain and suffering.  Compensation for the medical bills and wage loss is straight reimbursement.

If you are dissatisfied with settlement offers from the insurance carrier, you can file a lawsuit against the other driver for negligence.  This of course will require additional time before the case is resolved, but if you are dissatisfied with settlement offers would be the appropriate procedure.  Unless the case has been settled, you will need to file a lawsuit prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter. 

Depending on the recovery from the injuries, it may take several months after the accident or possibly longer before the case is settled.  If a lawsuit is filed, it will probably be more than a year after the accident before the case is resolved.  From the time the lawsuit is filed, it may take a year or longer to resolve the matter.  The amount of time depends on the extent of litigation.  Sometimes cases are settled without going through all stages of litigation.

The property damage is separate from the personal injury claim and is usually resolved early in the case.

It would be advisable to speak with a personal injury attorney.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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