Anxious to Settle Your Claim?
Are you anxious to settle your injury claim? Don’t be too anxious! Many factors dictate how long it takes to resolve your claim and, as such, it is not always easy to predict at the outset. At a minimum, settling your claim will take as long for your lawyer as it takes you to either get better or for your health to stabilize. The doctors refer to this as reaching “maximum medical improvement.” In estimating the value of your claim, two of the primary factors that will affect the value of your claim are the duration of your injury and the magnitude of any permanent impairment. For this reason, it is crucial that your lawyer wait for maximum medical improvement before trying to assess your damage claim. If settlement is attempted too early, it is possible that long lasting or permanent injuries will not have been properly considered.
General Damage Claim
Many injuries will fully resolve without permanent effects. If this is your situation, your lawyer will need to take into account the duration and severity of the injury and the impact it has had on your ability to enjoy your normal activities of living. This assessment is referred to as your general damage claim, and it should reflect the magnitude of your pain and suffering and your loss of enjoyment of life. Clearly, in order to properly assess general damages, your lawyer must wait until you have recovered or stabilized for a full understanding of your damages.
If your injury impacts your ability to work, and specifically if your income decreased as a result of time away from work or decreased productivity at work, then this loss of income must be taken into account in assessing your claim. In Alberta, for injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents, your income loss claim is calculated by looking at decreases in net “after tax” income after taking into account all other sources of income replacement, such as disability plans or motor vehicle accident insurance benefits. One of the strange things about the law of Alberta is that the rules regarding calculation of income loss would be different if your injury was not caused by a motor vehicle accident. If you are left with a permanent injury that decreases your ability to work, then this could result in a future loss of earnings. Your permanent impairments must be assessed and understood for you to claim a future loss of earnings. This level of permanent impairment cannot be assessed until your injuries have stabilized and maximum medical improvement has been reached.
Once you have reached maximum medical improvement, aside from the pain, suffering and loss of income, your lawyer should consider the effect of your injury on your ability to perform your usual household chores, any out of pocket expenses you have incurred in seeking treatment, as well as the costs of any future care you may require.
Even after your injuries have fully stabilized, there are many other issues that can arise in any given claim, which may extend the period of time necessary to reach resolution. These issues usually revolve around the nature of the accident and the injury itself. For example, if liability for the accident or causation of the injury is in dispute, early settlement of a claim can be difficult. In car accidents, the other driver may have a very different story to tell about how the accident occurred. This may be true even when liability seems obvious at the scene.
Other issues that can delay resolution include disputes as to whether an injury was caused by the accident or whether it was a pre-existing condition. It may also be suggested that the injured party did not take proper care for his or her own safety. This is referred to as contributory negligence.
With so many variables, it is difficult to provide a firm answer as to how long a personal injury claim takes to settle. Each case will be unique and require expert assessment, with full knowledge of the extent of the claimant’s injury. In the end, it takes both parties to agree on all of these issues in order to reach a settlement. What your lawyer can do, and what we will do, is ensure that these issues are dealt with as they arise, putting the best possible case forward to overcome all hurdles, while taking the necessary steps to move the file forward toward resolution.