What’s Taking So Long to Finish My Case?

Lawyer using a calculator at his desk

It is a frequent question among personal injury clients: why hasn’t my case settled or finished up?  The reality is there could be an almost infinite list of reasons delaying your specific case.  However, when a case hasn’t been filed yet, or is already settled, there are a few key issues that frequently delay you receiving your money.  These are among the most likely:

There Is An Issue With Your Insurance Billing

One of the first things your attorney wants to make sure is that you are not left holding the medical bills following your case.  If you have health insurance or Medicaid, this frequently means making sure your bills get submitted to your insurance, so that you can take advantage of their contractual adjustments.  This will reduce your overall cost of reimbursement, and put more money into your pocket at the end of the case.

The problem arises when your insurance carrier and your doctor or hospital aren’t on the same page.  This is almost never your fault, but will ultimately cause your insurance carrier to deny your claim. Your attorney will follow up and work to make sure this does not ultimately become your responsibility, but the appeals process can take upwards of 2 months, which is time you cannot settle and resolve your case.

There Is A Wait To Get The Records/Bills

When your attorney is reviewing your case, they need to know the full extent of the medical bills at issue.  This will help not only increase the amount of medical bills you can get recovered, but will also allow your attorney to claim more pain and suffering damages. 

However, this requires your attorney to send an authorized request to your provider, and give them up to 30 days to respond to the request.  Certain providers are better than others in complying with these requests, and when a dispute arises, further delay can occur.  This is the most frequent delay in the early stages of the case and can delay the attorney from having a complete picture of the value of your case.  Until they understand the full value of the case, you can’t get the case settled.

The Insurance Company Is Reviewing Documents

Once the insurance has paid your bills, and the records have been reviewed, a demand should be submitted to the insurance company.  Once that demand goes out, your attorney will give the insurance company a long period of time to review the demand, typically 30 days or more.  This is because insurance companies are overworked and take a reasonably long time to review these claims.  While the demand is pending, it may feel like your case is on hold, especially if you feel like an offer should be coming any day. 

It is important to be patient while the demand is pending.  If the insurance company fails to respond, you still have the right to file suit and proceed with the case.  By allowing sufficient time to review your demand and discuss settlement before filing suit, you may be able to avoid further delay in the court system.

Postal Service Delays

Modern law firms attempt to digitize as much client information as possible.  We can scan medical records, send emails, and even electronically sign documents.  However, there is still a need to send original documents through the mail.  We can speed those mailings along when absolutely necessary, but generally speaking standard mail speed is the fastest most documents travel.  It is not unusual for a letter you mail on Monday to not arrive at its destination before the end of the week or following Monday.  This can cost 2 weeks or more if you need to receive a document before signing it and returning it.  This can significantly delay a settlement that is already agreed to as you are waiting for the mail to arrive.

The Funds Are Clearing Our Account

The other major delay at the end of the case is that once a check is received, your attorney must deposit the funds into their trust account.  This is an account held on your behalf because the total settlement check is for the benefit of all lienholders in the case, including your attorney.  The process of clearing a large settlement check can take up to 10 days.

Your Attorney Is In Trial

Last, and certainly not least, your attorney just may be busy.  The largest reason for an attorney to seem like they are suddenly unavailable is if they are attending or arguing a trial.  Trials are a major commitment, often taking weeks of preparation with little time for anything else.  While every case your attorney addresses is important, he or she should be willing to respond before or after the trial within a reasonable period of time.  However, once that trial starts, the time to address other matters is fully occupied by the trial at hand.  While this can cause a short delay, it is better to have an attorney who is dedicated enough to focus on his or her trials, rather than one who would become distracted when your case finally reaches trial itself. 

These delays all add up, and together, they can significantly prolong the time to resolve pending claims.  Sometimes it is not your attorney’s fault for the delay, but a responsive attorney should still be able to explain why your case feels stuck on pause.