Personal injury cases can take a long time. Clients, who typically have no experience with litigation, usually perceive the normal lifecycle of a lawsuit as an agonizingly long haul. Even when we are able to move a case through the courts much more quickly than usual, the process can seem endless. Recently, and despite my best efforts to educate my clients from the beginning, I’ve even had a couple of clients impatiently ask me when our trial date is in cases that aren’t even yet ready to negotiate with the insurance company.
Sometimes, though, we can get results in an instant. The most extreme example is a recent referral from another attorney of a client who was injured in a car wreck. Despite months of encouragement from the referring attorney, the client didn’t call our office until three days before the statute of limitations was set to expire. Ordinarily we might have declined, out of an abundance of caution, a case with so little time left, but because this referral came from a friend and colleague whom we like and respect, we decided to take the risk and take the case on.
Fortunately, the client had all of her medical bills and most of her medical records on hand, so we quickly sorted them out and prepared them to send to the insurance adjuster. We ran a background check on the defendant to make sure we knew what court a lawsuit would need to be filed in and where to have the defendant served, and prepared a basic complaint to file in case we were unable to settle the claim before the statute of limitations expired.
I got on the phone to the adjuster, explained the situation and drew her attention to the impending deadline. I told her we would be happy to negotiate the claim if possible, but assured her that we would not miss the deadline and that this case would become a lawsuit if we couldn’t settle it reasonably. We mailed and faxed the medical records to the adjuster, and within a day the insurer came back with a preliminary offer. Over the course of the final day we negotiated back and forth a couple of times and concluded a modest (but respectable) settlement a few hours before we would have needed to file that complaint.
I believe our previous record for resolving an injury case was about 27 days, in a case where the defendant hit our client right before being arrested for his fourth DUI (the insurer was in no mood to contest that one at all). Three days will be a hard record to break, but I guess we’ll see!
We got a good result, but things could have become dicey with that legal deadline looming – if the insurer had not been willing to expedite the claim review, or if the defendant had moved and we had trouble finding him – and we probably could have gotten a better result if we had had more time. As proud as I am of our team for taking care of this client so quickly, this case is a great reminder that putting things off to the last minute can be costly. Although the client was hesitant to spend the time dealing with a lawyer, the truth is that she would have spent no more time on the claim if she had come in to see us months earlier, and we probably could have put more money in her pocket in the end.
Hopefully you will all stay safe out there, but if someone in your life is injured by careless driving or some other negligence, have that person give us a call. We will give your referrals VIP treatment, can advise them throughout the whole process from the very first days, can save them time, aggravation, delay, and money — and when the situation absolutely calls for it, we can make a frustratingly slow process move at ludicrous speed.