Want to know why your car accident settlement is taking a long time? As these pattern jury instructions indicate, future medical expenses may be the most complicated issue in a personal injury claim. The difficulty in determining these expenses may be the leading reason car accident settlements take so long. As outlined below, meaningful settlement negotiations can’t start until a doctor nails down these costs.
Additionally, as most of us know, insurance company adjusters usually don’t negotiate. Instead, they specialize in making take-it-or-leave-it offers. That’s not a good faith negotiation position. Therefore, many settlement negotiations are over almost as soon as they start. To jumpstart these negotiations, lawyers must file legal actions. We all know how long the court process takes.
Personal injury lawyers are in a tough position. They want to settle cases as quickly as possible, but they don’t want to settle for less. That’s not meant to be a sob story. It’s just the way things are.
Back and head injuries may be the most common car crash injuries. They’re also the most likely injuries to involve significant future medical expenses.
Whoever said “time heals all wounds” probably didn’t have a bad back. A spine has thirty-three vertebrae, over 200 ligaments, and over twelve million neurons. Once something gets knocked out of place, even slightly, every step makes the misalignment worse. Therefore, spine injuries are a little like whack-a-mole. As soon as doctors fix one problem, another one pops up.
Similarly, head injuries are permanent. When brain cells die, they never regenerate. So, brain injury physical therapy isn’t a matter of strengthening existing muscles. Instead, it’s a matter of training uninjured areas of the brain to assume lost functions. That’s why many head injury victims must learn to eat, walk, talk, and do pretty much everything over again. Frequently, these victims show little or no progress for months or years, then they suddenly have breakthroughs.
We may have been a little glib when we discussed informal negotiations earlier. Occasionally, these negotiations bear fruit. That’s assuming all the issues in the case, including damages and liability, are crystal clear.
Damages, including future medical expenses, are often subjective, as outlined above. Liability disputes are common as well. Comparative fault is one of the most common insurance company defenses. Basically, this legal doctrine shifts blame for a car accident from the tortfeasor to the victim. Different states have different rules in this area.
Frequently, a mediator helps bring two sides together. That’s the good news. The bad news is that mediation usually doesn’t happen until late in the process, like almost immediately before the scheduled trial date.
Professional mediators ensure that both sides negotiate in good faith. So, there are no “my way or the highway” offers or counteroffers. Largely because of this requirement, mediation is about 90 percent successful.
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