When it comes to settling your personal injury claim, patience is a virtue. Insurance adjusters will commonly give a low settlement offer shortly after an injury. They know that many people will be anxious to have the matter resolved and not get attorneys involved. However, waiting until you know the real nature and extent of your injuries, and even waiting to reach the point where you reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), your settlement results will generally be better than accepting a quick settlement.
Reaching MMI means you've recovered from your injuries as fully as doctors expect you will be able to recover. For minor injuries, this is generally full recovery so you have no remaining problems with your injuries. For more serious injuries, your MMI may be a point at which any existing pain or physical limitation have stabilized, but the injuries are expected to be permanent. Doctors can make an educated assumption as to what your ongoing care will involve, but they may not be able to forecast many years into the future.
Your doctor will decide when you've reached MMI based on physical examinations and the results of any diagnostic tests applicable to your injuries. In some cases, a second opinion might be needed to decide if you've recovered as fully as can be expected.
The Importance of Waiting to Reach MMI Before Settling Your Claim
Once you've accepted a personal injury settlement, you're releasing the other party from any future liability for your injuries. You can't go back and ask for more money if your injuries turn out to be more serious than you thought. This can make settling before you reach MMI a risky gamble. In some situations, settling early can be your best alternative. Utilizing the skill of a good personal injury lawyer to judge the best time to settle is key to maximizing your best recovery.
Although doctors can provide a general timeframe for your physical and emotional recovery from specific injuries, everyone's case is different. What first looks like a simple problem may turn out to be something more serious. For example, a small percentage of people who suffer a concussions experience what's known as post-concussion syndrome and remain bothered by headaches, dizziness, and mild cognitive deficits months or years after the initial injury. Another example would be broken bones that don't heal properly and require repair or surgery.
Handling Expenses While You Wait for a Settlement
Watching unpaid bills accumulate can be very stressful, but you have several different options for handling your finances while you wait for a settlement.
- Utilize your own health insurance to pay your medical bills until you recover from the opposing party
- Have your attorney negotiate a lien agreement with the medical care providers to wait for payment until you receive a settlement
- Have your attorney negotiate reductions or payment plans on the amount owed on your medical bills, then pay cash from your personal savings until you get paid back when you finally reach a settlement
- Borrow money from friends or family to be repaid from settlement proceeds
- Temporary cut out unnecessary expenses such as restaurant meals or buying new clothes
- Sell unwanted items to generate extra income
While your claim is pending, you may be contacted by companies offering to loan you money now against a settlement you will receive in the future. This is known as a personal injury settlement loan, advance settlement funding, or lawsuit advance loan. When the loan is approved, the financing company will place a lien on the proceeds of the settlement. There is no credit check involved and only cases with a high likelihood of reaching a settlement will qualify. However, the interest rate and fees on this type of loan can often be more than what you'd pay with a credit card or personal loan. This type of loan is also not federally regulated, which means it's your responsibility to investigate the trustworthiness of the lender thoroughly before agreeing to the terms.
Seeking Legal Representation
Personal injury law is complex and insurance adjusters are often counting on you being anxious to settle your claim. The insurance adjusters are also hoping you will not go to an attorney who can assist you in protecting your rights of recovery. Having an experienced attorney to advocate for your needs is the best way to maximize the size of your settlement.
Personal injury attorneys accept cases on a contingency basis, which means legal fees are paid as a percentage of the settlement. There is no upfront payment required, so you're not pressured to settle early in order to reduce the fee for representation.
Inland Empire Law Group's attorneys are committed to helping California residents who've been injured due to the negligence of others resolve their personal injury claims or to fight for them in court. Call today to schedule a consultation at our Victorville or Rancho Cucamonga offices.