This is a question that I am often asked. The answer is easy… ‘it depends’! It depends on a number of factors. It is easy to enter into settlement discussions if the client’s injuries have completely healed and the client is back to their ‘normal’. If this happens within the first 6 to 9 months after the collision then a settlement should occur within a relatively short period after complete recovery. The settlement discussions should not normally take more than 1 – 2 months in such circumstances. Unfortunately, such circumstances are pretty rare. More commonly, clients won’t get back to ‘normal’ but will reach a point after exhausting all treatment/imaging/specialist referral where they are at ‘maximum medical improvement’ (MMI).
Once a client is at MMI, I usually will order all of the treatment charts from the medical people that have treated my clients. Some doctors/therapists are better than others in terms of responding to such requests in a timely way. It is not unusual for responses for requests for charts to take 3 – 4 months. If the injuries have not had any impact on employment income (and don’t look like they will into the future), settlement discussions can take place. Again, I am thinking here of those cases where there was complete resolution of injuries (or something close to that) over the course of 6 – 24 months. If the insurance company for the other driver is prepared to negotiate outside the ‘Cap’ (a big ‘if’) then a settlement in these sorts of circumstances can often be had within 2 – 3 months of MMI being achieved.
The biggest impairment to a timely settlement of claims these days is the so-called ‘Cap’ on personal injuries. The problem is that the insurance companies start from the position that all injuries are ‘capped’ and that they won’t negotiate anything beyond a minimal amount unless a lawyer is involved (on both sides) and that they can ‘paper’ their file in such a way that they can explain to supervisors why they paid anything beyond the ‘Cap’. This means that almost invariably we have to go through a ‘Questioning’ process (where the insurance company’s lawyer is allowed to ask you questions – with your own lawyer in attendance – about your injuries/treatment). Realistically, this Questioning process occurs somewhere between 3 – 4 years after the collision and settlement discussions most often follow the Questioning process.