It’s a hard question to answer, because every case is different. If you have big medical bills or need checks for lost wages, we know that even a week can seem like an eternity. You shouldn’t, however, need to wait forever to hear back from your lawyer. And there’s no reason why they shouldn’t explain to you what’s going on and how long it will take.

Here are some common delays:

The insurance company is fighting your claim. If your claim was denied, you can request a hearing to argue for benefits. This is called a 19(b) petition or a petition for immediate hearing and it can be filed at any time. You’ll have to wait a bit for your hearing date to come around, but your attorney should file the motion without delay.

The insurance company is ignoring you. If you are at the end of your medical treatment and waiting for a settlement offer from the insurance company, it can seem like a long wait. In fact, you might be waiting forever. The insurance company doesn’t have to offer you anything, and they might just ignore you and hope you go away. This changes if you have a proactive attorney with a good reputation.

Your medical treatment is ongoing. Until your treatment is over and you’re at what’s called maximum medical improvement (MMI), your case isn’t ready to settle or go to trial. It shouldn’t be over until you’re as good as you’re going to get. Be aware that the insurance company might try to settle your case too early in order to get out of paying for any more of your medical care.

You hired the wrong lawyer. Unfortunately, one reason why a case can drag on is because of a lazy or inattentive lawyer. Don’t settle for the explanation that these things get held up and take a long time. Your attorney should file a claim for benefits if you haven’t already. If that doesn’t get you benefits, then they should request a hearing in front of an arbitrator, argue your case and do what they can to get your benefits started and any past-due benefits paid. You can switch attorneys if you have tried to get answers, schedule a meeting, etc., and you’ve gotten nowhere, especially if it’s been months without any response.

By Michael Helfand