stopwatchOne of the most common questions I am asked by my clients is: HOW LONG WILL MY CASE TAKE?

That is always a tough question to answer as every case is totally different. I have had many cases settle within a few months and I had one medical malpractice case take almost 7 full years (granted, that was a case I wanted to take a long time because it involved an injured baby and we knew we would not be able to know the full outcome of her injuries until she was 4-5 years old).

Cases of multiple injuries, the value of which clearly exceed the limits of the defendant’s insurance coverage, can often be settled in months.

The majority of my cases fall in the 2+/- year range.

In most cases the entire first year is devoted to performing the initial case investigation and then waiting to see the outcome of my client’s injuries. The single most important factor in determining the ultimate value of any personal injury case is the extent to which the injured party has suffered a “permanent” injury — an injury you will live with for the rest of your life.

Doctors need time to make determination

Because “permanency” is such an important factor, I am usually reluctant to undertake any serious settlement negotiations until I have obtained a “permanency opinion” from my client’s treating doctor. A permanency opinion is simply a letter from a doctor, to the effect of “it is my opinion, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that my patient has suffered the following permanent injuries and limitations as a result of the collision: permanent limp, decreased range of motion in the right hip and leg, permanent surgical scar, etc.”

Most doctors are unwilling to provide a permanency opinion until their patient’s condition has “stabilized” – the patient is not getting better nor getting worse and “what you see is what you’ve got”. Most doctors use one year post-injury as the general rule of thumb for determining permanency and accordingly most of the time I am waiting until one year post-injury to request this very important permanency opinion letter.

Finding a balanced pace to proceed

Please appreciate that these are general time frames only and it is ALWAYS my goal to resolve cases as quickly as possible. As I always tell my clients: “I don’t get paid until you get paid, and with three college-bound teens, you can be sure I am not going to drag my feet on your case!”

With that said, I always caution my client’s that it can be HUGE mistake to try to rush your case because “you only get one bite at the apple” meaning that once you settle your case, it is settled ALWAYS AND FOREVER, so you better make as sure as possible that you know the full extent of your permanent limitations BEFORE you settle your case.

Finally, I also urge clients to NOT try to rush their cases because if the insurance company gets one whiff of the fact that you are eager to settle, it is the kiss of death and the insurance company will exploit your eagerness by low-balling their settlement offer in your case. This is a very common tactic that many insurance companies are using to take advantage of unrepresented people — they waive $500, $1,000, $3,000 of “quick settlement” money under a person’s nose with the hope that that person will quickly sign off on a case worth 10 times, 50 times, 100 times, more… The key is to resist the temptation of quick money to ensure that you get every penny to which you are entitled.

Sorry for this long-winded explanation but I think it is important for people to understand why taking the time to CORRECTLY pursue your case is so important. If you have any questions about this issue, feel free to let me know and I will be happy to explain further.

James B. Reed, Esq.
Personal Injury & Malpractice Attorney
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William St., Elmira, NY 14902
Tel. (607) 733-8866 Fax. (607) 732-6062
Toll Free 1-800-943-3529