The length of time from the date of your injury until the completion of your workers’ compensation claim is something that varies from person to person. Insurance claims, lawsuits and other legal matters often take longer than expected, and that is an unfortunate reality in the legal industry. The key is understanding the timeline in your case and knowing the reasons behind it.
In many areas of law, delay happens because the courts are overburdened and move slowly. In workers’ compensation, perceived delay is often a result of ongoing medical treatment from the injury. As long as your case isn’t languishing because your lawyer is lazy or doesn’t know what they’re doing, it’s not necessarily a bad sign that your claim hasn’t been resolved.
A good lawyer should strive to move your case along as quickly as possible. But their main goal is getting you all the benefits you’re entitled to under the law and making your health the top priority. Having a lawyer who is upfront and honest about how long it should take is important in setting realistic expectations. Be suspicious of a lawyer who promises anything, whether it’s a result or an end date. An estimate is fine, but even the most experienced lawyers can’t predict the outcome of a claim.
A quick outcome isn’t necessarily a good thing. Your case should not end until you are completely recovered. Most work injury claims end in some sort of settlement, which is a lump sum you get from the insurance company in exchange for closing your claim completely and agreeing to forgo all future medical benefits. Once you settle, you can’t go back to the insurance company and get them to cover additional treatment you might need. This is why it’s important to have all of your treatment completed, and have a good idea of what (if any) treatment you might need in the future before agreeing to a settlement and ending your claim for good.
Another time that a case might take longer than you expect is if you have to go to trial. Going to trial is sometimes necessary in order to get fair compensation for your injury and/or ongoing medical benefits. You and your lawyer should make this decision together, weighing the pros and cons while keeping the big picture in mind. Your lawyer should explain the timeline of a trial and the possibility of an appeal, which can delay the end of your case even further.
If your claim is taking longer than you expected, but the reason for the delay is ongoing medical care or a trial, then the system is probably working as it should. As much as you would like closure, it’s in your best interest to wait. On the other hand, if your claim is taking longer than expected because your lawyer is lazy, then things are not working as they should and it might be time to push for answers or get a second opinion. It’s usually possible to switch attorneys and doesn’t cost anything to do so.