How Fast Should I Settle My Case?

There is an old expression in the law: “You can only go to the well one time.” This means that when you settle you cannot come back later and say “My condition is worse than we thought it would be. Pay me more.” It also means that you will not be able to settle your personal injury case or your medical malpractice case and “leave the medicals open” (to pay your doctor bills in the future as you get billed).

How then do you get compensated for future problems you may encounter with your health and in your life?

The answer is that your lawyer must hire experts in various fields who can make reasonable predictions about your future. In the field of health, this will mean doctors skilled in the specialty of your post-accident condition: someone who can testify based on scientific studies and his or her own education, training and experience in treating people with your condition. In the field of lost wages, this means a vocational expert: someone who can testify as to the types of jobs available to someone of your age, education, work experience (transferable skills) and level and type of impairments. In the field of economic losses, this means an economist who can predict what types of job benefits, raises, employer provided insurance and bonuses, career advancement opportunities and similar job related benefits would probably come to you over the course of your life. The economist would also often be asked to predict the future value of the dollar in order to determine how many of today’s dollars it will take to compensate for the loss of those future dollars (which might be worth more or less in the future, depending on inflation).

These estimates can only be made once your physical and mental injuries are fully known.

Let’s take an example of this concept. Assume someone is hit from the rear in an automobile accident. At the scene, the victim feels some stiffness and the next morning wakes up with neck pain. Typically, x-rays will be taken and physical therapy initiated. Major relief might be accomplished in two to three months. However, what happens if the victim settles at this point and a few months later severe pain in the neck running down into the arm signals that a disk in the neck was weakened in the accident and didn’t show up on a simple x-ray? Months or years and perhaps permanent injury might be the result and if the settlement was made too early and the victim will not have been properly compensated.

Unfortunately, we have all seen articles about “churn and burn” businesses that promise “quick settlement of your claim” without also advertising that this can carry some very real hazards.

Patience and preparation are the keys to full compensation. Reputable law firms will gladly set up your file, advise you as to how to protect your rights, make suggestions as to doctors known for their skills in the area of your injury, and help you avoid some of the common pitfalls in the early stages of a claim, all without charge unless there is a recovery for you at the end of the case.

The proper start to a case requires a good attorney and the wise accident victim will hire one as soon after an accident as possible to begin building the case with care and patience.