Timeframe for Claims & Lawsuits
“How long until the insurance company pays me?”
This is one of the most common questions asked by injured Iowans. It is a good question and, like most areas of the law unfortunately, is very situation dependent.
An insurance company can pay on a claim anytime following an accident. While they sometimes will agree to pay medical bills and sometimes other damages on an interim basis, many times they wish to make one lump sum payment to settle the claim.
The question then becomes:
“When is the best time to attempt to settle the claim?”
The answer is actually simpler than one might expect: as soon as you are aware of a reliable estimate of the total damages incurred in a case. However, when this actually is varies greatly based upon the circumstances of each case as well as the claimant’s progress with treatment, diagnosis , and prognosis. See also: When does a claim exist?
All Medical Bills, Care & Documentation in order
First and foremost, it is never advisable to resolve a claim prior to obtaining all necessary documentation regarding damages. One of the most important steps is to obtain all of the medical records and bills from all health care providers that an injured person sees. This obviously cannot be completed until the person has finished receiving medical care.
Therefore one of the most important factors in determining the timeframe of a claim is to determine the estimated length of treatment necessary. It can often take a month or more following the completion of treatment for an attorney to receive all of the requested medical documentation. Following receipt of the requested information, it all must be reviewed and compiled with a demand for the insurance company.
Response to Demand Letter
After an Insurance company receives a demand package, it takes them time to review the demand and respond. Depending upon the amount of information and the size and complexity of the claim, it can take days or weeks for the insurance company to respond. Thereafter, the negotiation can take days or weeks depending on many factors, such as the distance between the claimant and the insurance company. All told, after an injured Iowan completes his or her treatment, negotiating a resolution, if one is to be reached prior to filing a lawsuit will take a minimum of a few months.
Sometimes a claim cannot be settled prior a lawsuit being filed. In some cases, it may be advisable to wait to file a law suit as it may be possible to settle a claim without having to go through the time and expense of litigation. For example, if liability is clear, or, in other words, the defending insurance company is taking responsibility for the negligence of its insured, and the injuries are not extraordinarily severe, an insurance company may be willing to resolve the case before a lawsuit is filed.
Another example is when the amount of the damages in a clear liability case will clearly be in excess of the policy limits. For example, if a certain insurance policy only has $50,000 in coverage but someone was seriously hurt and incurred over $50,000 in medical expenses, the claim is clearly worth more than the policy limits and so it may not take long to resolve the claim.
It also depends on what insurance company you are dealing with.
Some insurance companies are notoriously worse than others when it comes to settling lawsuits. As always, speak to your experienced claimant’s attorney to determine the best strategy and timeframe for your specific claim.
No Good Faith Negotiations
It should also be remembered that insurance companies often do not negotiate in good faith prior to a claim being filed. While some do, some insurance companies or adjustors simply will not make a reasonable offer if they have not been sued.
This is certainly the case if an injured Iowan is not represented by experienced counsel.
Lawsuits Start The Litigation Time Clock
Furthermore, depending on the complexity of the case, civil trials do not have to be set for trial until between 18-24 months after filing. Accordingly, the proverbial clock does not begin to tick until the lawsuit is filed. Therefore, unless you have reason to believe that there exists a reasonable possibility that a claim may be resolved prior to filing, it is sometimes advisable to simply file a lawsuit so as to begin the litigation process.
Lawsuit Also Encourage Settlement
After a lawsuit is filed, an insurance company may reevaluate its position and want to settle the claim at that point. If this is the case, they may ask to delay proceeding with litigating the matter and attempt to negotiate a resolution. This can be good, as the clock is already ticking, but at least the insurance company knows that the injured party is serious and willing to litigate the matter if necessary.
Insurance companies are keenly aware of the amount of money that is necessary in attorney fees and expenses. This is one of the key factors that they consider when evaluating a claim, and if they can pay a reasonable settlement and avoid paying attorney fees to defend the case, sometimes they will do just that.
On the other hand, more often a lawsuit will proceed and a case will not be resolved until after the discovery process is complete. The discovery process is the phase of the lawsuit where each side obtains all relevant information from the other so that each has all necessary information regarding the claim. Discovery takes months following all initial filings. Correspondingly, if a case is to be litigated, it generally is not settled until 12 to 18 months on average from the date of filing.