How Long Will it Take? Factors That Affect the Timeframe of a Virginia Personal Injury Claim

Most people who are injured through no fault of their own are unfamiliar with personal injury claims. In the aftermath of an accident, these claims can often be complicated, confusing and overwhelming. After a thorough consultation discussing the facts of the accident, the injuries sustained and the medical treatment plan going forward, the most frequent question new clients have is how long it will take before the claim can be resolved. Unfortunately, as every personal injury claim is unique and the insurance company plays an important role in resolution, there is no definitive answer to this question. The following factors all affect the duration of a personal injury claim.

As a starting point, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Virginia is two years. [1]  That means that someone who is injured in Virginia has two years from the date of their injury to file a lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for causing them harm. If a lawsuit is not filed within two years, the right to bring a claim for injury is lost forever.[2] Once a lawsuit is filed and the litigation process begins, the court’s availability determines when the case can be set for trial, the evidence can be presented and a judgment determined.

Often, personal injury claims resolve by negotiated settlement. While the amount of time it takes to reach a settlement also varies on a case-by-case basis, it is important to remember that, a personal injury claim cannot be fully evaluated or settled until after the injuries have healed and the injured person has received all the medical treatment they need. Once the medical bills are totaled and the time spent in recovery is tallied, all losses related to the injury can be accurately determined. Only then is it appropriate to negotiate a full and fair resolution with the insurance company.

Waiting until the injured person has returned to their pre-injury state of health or has reached maximum medical improvement in the eyes of their treating physician is key to achieving a full and fair settlement in a personal injury claim. Once this has occurred, all of the documentation required to present the complete picture of the injured person’s losses can be obtained and submitted to the adjuster handling the claim for the insurance company. With this documentation, the insurance adjuster can see the full value of the medical bills and the complete duration of the associated pain, suffering and inconvenience. Obtaining an accurate summary of the damages is the single most important factor in determining how long a personal injury claim will take before its conclusion.

After the injured person has healed and the medical bills have been submitted, a general rule of thumb is that it takes between six and eight weeks for the adjuster to complete their evaluation and be ready to discuss settlement. Assuming that a fair settlement amount can be agreed upon, many personal injury cases are subsequently settled within a few months after  that time.

In some cases, the amount of available insurance coverage can cause a claim to settle before the medical treatment is complete.  The minimum limits of automotive insurance required in Virginia are $25,000.00 per person.[3]  If the injured person’s medical bills exceed the amount of available insurance coverage but the person is still receiving medical treatment, the claim may settle for “policy limits” before the person has recovered completely. In these “policy limits” cases, a complete investigation performed by an experienced attorney who is familiar with insurance law is imperative as many times the injured person can utilize multiple sources of insurance coverage. Identify these sources is paramount to full and fair recovery.

Occasionally, an injured person knows they will need a certain type of medical treatment at some point in the future.  As long as a doctor can say what treatment is necessary and what that treatment will cost, these “future medical expenses” can be totaled, the claim can be settled or suit can be filed before the treatment is actually received.  In cases in which the ongoing or future medical treatment cannot be predicted, a lawsuit can be filed in order to “toll” the statute of limitations.  Tolling the statute preserves the injured person’s rights to recover while affording  time to get the medical treatment the injured person needs.

Unfortunately, there is not a definitive answer to the question of how long it takes to settle a personal injury claim in Virginia. There are many factors and considerations that come into play on an individual basis. No matter how long a particular personal injury claim takes to resolve, the most important aspect of any claim is that the injured person’s rights are protected while they fully recover so they can receive maximum compensation for their injuries. If you are someone you know are injured through no fault of your own, the experienced attorneys of Allen and Allen will work diligently to protect your rights from the beginning of the claim until its resolution – no matter how long it takes, we will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

About the Author: Bridget Long is a Richmond, VA personal injury lawyer working out of the Richmond Office of Allen & Allen. She is a seasoned litigator dedicated to protecing the rights of her clients. Serving injured victims across Virginia, Bridget is experienced in handling cases involving motorcycle accidents, car accidents, truck accidents and pedestrian accidents

[1] Va. Code § 8.01-243

[2] Other notice requirements may apply in cases involving claims against counties, cities, towns, or the state and federal government.  See Va. Code § 8.01-195.6.  The statute of limitations is also different for minors and persons under a disability. See Va. Code § 8.01-229.  Always consult an attorney immediately to determine the applicable notice and limitations requirements for your case.

[3]Va. Code §46.2-472