How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take in Massachusetts?
There are thousands of car accident injury claims filed in Massachusetts each year. Every accident case is unique notwithstanding the fact that injuries may be similar. The time it takes to settle your car accident claim is based upon several factors – the allegations of the parties, the extent of the injuries, the various insurance policies available, and, perhaps most critically, the insurance companies involved.
Note too, there are different types of claims and different parts of insurance policies that apply.
PIP Benefits in Massachusetts – Payable Immediately
Massachusetts is a no-fault state when it comes to car accident injury claims so that you can recover a limited amount of compensation, which is up to $8,000, for certain damages regardless of who was at fault. The compensation will cover your medical expenses, and, up to 75% of your lost earnings up to the $8,000 PIP limit. In serious or fatal accidents, this amount will not be sufficient to fully compensate you. PIP coverage is available under your own auto policy or that of the other party if you have no vehicle.
Following an accident and having reported it to your own carrier, the insurer should pay PIP benefits to you upon request within 30-days. All too often, however, if the injured party is not represented, or even if he or she is, the insurer unreasonably delays payment or may make excuses as to why benefits, especially lost earning benefits, are not forthcoming. If this occurs, the insurer may be liable for bad faith under Massachusetts law. These claims should only be handled by an experienced car accident attorney.
Suing the At-Fault Motorist in Massachusetts – This Takes Some Time
You can bring a claim against the motorist, and the owner, whose negligent driving caused your accident and injuries so long as you meet a certain threshold requirement. These conditions are:
- Your medical expenses are more than $2,000, or,
- You suffered serious injuries such as broken bones, or permanent loss of sight or hearing or other essential bodily function, or permanent disfigurement, or,
- Your family member or loved one suffered fatal injuries.
The time it takes to settle your claim against another driver or entity depends on whether there is a liability issue, if the defense asserts that your injuries are pre-existing or are not as extensive as you contend, or if the insurance adjusters believe that all or some of your medical care and treatment was unreasonable or unnecessary. If the dispute is substantial, you will have to litigate. This takes time. If the damages are substantial, you may have to litigate, which, takes time.
If you are unrepresented by counsel and choose to handle the claim on your own, the insurer will often attempt to settle your claim quickly and for an amount less than what you could have obtained. The insurer may want a statement from you and may get you to state something that places some blame for the accident on you, or that minimizes your injuries. If you did not seek treatment for several days after the accident or received treatment from a provider other than your own primary doctor, this can often lead the defendant’s insurer to suspect your injuries are not real and that you sought treatment only for financial gain. Note too, there may be a medical lien that the insurance adjuster may not mention but will put the name of that medical provider on the check – which will render the check useless for your purposes.
If you do retain an experienced car accident attorney, you may expect the following – once you finish treatment, medical records and bills are obtained and, within months, a demand is sent. Within a month or two of that demand, the insurance company gives their position – a serious offer, a minimal offer, or no offer. There can be back and forth on all these types of offers. If the matter goes to litigation, it can take 2-3 years.
There are some settlements that take far less time. If liability is obvious, the damages and injuries are substantial, and the policy limits are relatively low such as $20,000 or $50,000, you can expect a much shorter time to settle. This is also true if your injuries are minor but there are no disputed issues.
Once a settlement is reached, you can expect a check to be delivered to your attorney within a few weeks after signing a negotiated release. In most serious injury cases cases, there are medical liens from your medical insurance company whose bill is expected to be paid out of your settlement. Medicare or MassHealth would have a lien if it paid out medical expenses and it will have to be reimbursed out of the settlement proceeds.
Uninsured and Underinsured Claims in Massachusetts – This is Arbitrated, but Still Takes Time
You can make a claim against your own insurer if the driver responsible for your accident was uninsured, fled the scene and is unidentified, and if the defendant driver’s policy limits were wholly inadequate to compensate you.
Both types of claims, if not settled, are subject to binding arbitration and not a court or jury trial. This can certainly shorten the time for your claim to get resolved. For an uninsured (UM) claim, you do have to prove the other party caused the accident in addition to proving your damages. This is already accepted in an underinsured (UIM) claim so the only issue is the damages including pain and suffering and if your damages warrant an offer or award of additional compensation.
Tips on Getting a Faster Settlement in Massachusetts
If your injuries are minor and barely meet the threshold for bring a claim against another party, then your settlement will be quicker and likely around $3,000 to $5,000. In more substantial cases, there are a few things you can do to get a faster settlement with your car accident attorney.
- Do not give any statements to the defendant’s insurer without your attorney present
- Be sure to get prompt medical attention
- Follow all of your doctor’s recommendations
- Get back to work as soon as possible if you can
- Be truthful at all times including disclosing any past claims, injuries, pre-existing injuries, and criminal convictions
- Follow your attorney’s advice and instructions
- Be reasonable in your demands. Your attorney usually has knowledge of (or can research) similar claims and give you a range of what your claim is worth
It is difficult to say what the average car accident injury claim settles for since there are so many factors and different conditions to account for. Depend upon your car accident attorney to give you a reasonable figure to expect.
Retain the Law Office of Burns and Jain
Our car accident attorneys are highly experienced in all types of car accident injury claims. If you would like your own claim handled in a professional manner and with the opportunity to obtain the highest compensation possible, then call our office at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim.