When is it Time to Settle My Personal Injury Case?
You hear the line on the television ads all the time – “We get you your money, faster” or the like. It makes sense – we often think faster is better. But is it?
There are many cases where “fast money” isn’t such a good idea, and you should hire an attorney who knows that. Let’s take an example – you’re in a car accident and you’re taken to the hospital via EMS. The doctors check you out and refer you for a short course of physical therapy. You miss a small amount of time from work, but you recover well, and within a few weeks, you’re feeling back to normal. There’s no doubt in your mind that you were lucky and came out of the accident with no serious injuries, and the medical opinions support that.
In this situation, it makes perfect sense to go ahead and settle your case. That’s because your case is going to be worth the same a year from now that it is today. There’s nothing to be gained by delay, so if you can resolve it, you should.
But take another example – you are in a more serious car accident and you fracture a bone in your elbow. The doctors at the hospital immediately perform surgery, which includes installation of some hardware. They then refer you for a course of physical therapy.
If you go to the wrong law firm, your lawyer may tell you to go ahead and settle out. If there’s only a small amount of insurance available, that can make sense. However, in most cases, this is the wrong approach.
The reason is that, when you settle with an insurance company, they always have you sign a Release. And if you sign that Release, then you’re finished – you can’t collect another dollar from that insurance company or the defendant who caused the accident. So, let’s say that your physical therapy gets extended (as often happens). You can’t get those additional bills covered by the defendant’s insurance. Let’s say you have complications from the surgery and need follow-up appointments or even an additional surgery. Who pays for that? Not the defendant’s insurance – they’ve been released. Say your recovery doesn’t go well, and you’re left with permanent impairment. Too bad – you’ve signed the Release. Your lawyer has gotten his fee, and you’re left holding the bag.
When you hire a lawyer on an injury case, you don’t want one who gets you your money faster. You want one who will make sure you get the full value of your claim. Your lawyer is working on lots of cases. You only have this one, and it will impact your life.