Personal injury claims vary extensively in their nature depending on the type of accident (i.e. an accident at work, a tripping accident, a road traffic accident) and the injuries which have been sustained, which can range from broken bones, whiplash, head injuries, fractures and serious injuries or fatalities. The amount of time it takes to achieve settlement of a personal injury claim will depend on a number factors.
Your solicitor is unlikely to advise you to settle your claim until you have either made a full recovery from your injuries or you have a firm medical prognosis in place, outlining how your injuries are likely to affect you in the future, from a medical expert who will have been appointed to examine you. The reason for delaying settlement of your claim in this way is that if you were to settle your claim before you had made a complete recovery, or before you had a firm prognosis in place, you would not be able to apply for further compensation if your injuries persisted for longer than expected and your recovery became prolonged.
In order to calculate how much your claim for your pain and suffering may be worth (also referred to as your "general damages" claim) your solicitor will use the report prepared by the medical expert to compare your injuries to Claimants in previously settled cases (referred to as case law), who have sustained injuries similar to your own and who have taken a similar amount of time to recover. Your solicitor will also refer to a source called the Judicial Council guidelines for guidance on how much your claim may be worth.
As a very general guide, the more severe or complex your injuries, the longer it will take to gather medical expert evidence which inevitably prolongs settlement of your claim. Your Opponent (person or company you are claiming against) may also want to appoint their own medical experts of like expertise to provide their opinion on your injuries.
As severe cases do take time to reach the point of settlement, it is usual to request interim payments to cover things such as your lost earnings from your Opponent while the case is being progressed. The aim is to help Claimants who may be suffering financially as a result of being off work. An interim payment is essentially an advance payment on your damages and as a result it is taken into account at the end of the case and offset against the final compensation award.
Ultimately, there is no 'formula' which states how long a compensation claim will take to settle. Each case is different and whether settlement of your particular case takes several weeks, several months or even a couple of years to achieve will depend largely on the extent of your injuries, the amount of time you are expected to take to recover and whether or not liability for the accident is in dispute.
Another factor to take into account when considering how long your claim may take to settle is whether or not liability for the accident is in dispute. If your Opponent has admitted full liability (responsibility) for the accident from the outset then matters can proceed in a straightforward manner. However, if your Opponent is arguing that you, in some way, contributed to the accident then it may take some time for these issues to be resolved and agreed upon which may lengthen the amount of time it takes to settle your claim.
Once conclusive medical evidence has been obtained and evidence gathered in support of your special damages claim, your solicitor may be in a position to begin settlement negotiations. The length of time it will take to reach the point where settlement negotiations can be commenced will depend on how severe your injuries have been and how long you are expected to take to recover. It is important to note that Court proceedings must be issued within 3 years of the accident date, so this is usually the final backstop date in any negotiations.
A streamlined settlement process was introduced by the government in 2010 which applied to Road Traffic Accident (RTA) cases valued between £1,000 and £10,000. This streamlined process has now been extended to cover not only RTA, but also Employers Liability and Public Liability cases valued between £1,000 and £25,000.
So in a straightforward claim of this nature, the case would ideally settle within 4-6 months. However some cases are expected to exit this streamlined process due to complexity or liability issues which may then extend the length of time required to reach a settlement.