One of the questions most often asked by clients is “How long will it take to get my case settled?” Good question! Most people who have been injured want to get their claim settled and move on with their lives. The answer varies depending on the severity of injury, whether liability is clear, and whether there is an insurance carrier or company with adequate assets to pay for the damage caused. When you are injured through the fault of another, you first go through the claims stage. If you can get your case resolved in the claims stage, you’re fortunate, because that’s not the norm in major injury cases. Most insurance carriers want to drag things out so they can hold on to their money longer. Also, they rarely want to pay fair (i.e., full) value right off the bat. They have found that dragging claims out tends to help them settle more cheaply. This is especially true for people without lawyers. Carriers know they can settle those cases far more cheaply, because a lay person has no idea how to value a claim. In building a claim, it is my job to obtain all your medical records and bills. This can take a few months, since health care providers (especially SF General Hospital) do not make us their priority. It can also take months to get records of Medi-Cal and Medicare payments. I have settled many cases in the claims stage, but it usually takes at least three to four months. A major exception to the rule that cases rarely settle quickly in the claims stage is where there are low insurance policy limits, such as a $15,000 state minimum policy in an auto accident case. It does not take much of an injury to max out a $15K policy. But even major injury cases can settle quickly if there is the right policy limit. Example: a broken tibia with surgery, and the driver has a $100K policy. That claim should settle quickly for the policy limit, unless the driver has lots of monetary assets. (In general, chasing after the negligent person’s personal assets is a waste of time, because he doesn’t want to pay, and he can declare bankruptcy if you get an above limits judgment.) If you have been seriously injured and had surgery, you will take many months to recover. Your level of recovery dictates when the case is ready to settle. You never want to settle prematurely, because when you do settle, you will sign a release of all claims forever and for all time. So if there is any possibility you might need more surgery, you cannot settle until you know your prognosis accurately. If your case cannot settle at the claims stage, either because of liability issues or the carrier is being cheap, the only way to get justice is to move on to litigation. Then you truly have a case, i.e., a filed lawsuit. In most California counties, it will take about a year and a half to actually commence a jury trial. Fortunately for you, 97% of all civil cases settle, some early, some on the eve of trial. It is not uncommon for a filed lawsuit to settle within about six months after the carrier realizes you’re serious. The takeaway: if you want to maximize your settlement, you need to be patient and prepared to have your claim take several months to a year or more to resolve.Keep Reading
San Francisco Personal Injury Attorney
When you choose Chuck Geerhart, you're choosing to be represented by one of the finest trial lawyers in California. You're choosing personal attention from start to finish. And, you're choosing to never be passed off to a paralegal or junior lawyer.
- A friend recommended Chuck Geerhart. It was an excellent recommendation.
As a British journalist, recently based in San Francisco and without medical insurance, things seemed pretty messy after I found myself in an airport shuttle, driven by a lunatic, who struck a parked cab. I had to go to hospital, who diagnosed a head injury – as, later, did a neurologist – but the shuttle company’s insurance company continually balked at paying the bills.
A friend recommended Chuck Geerhart. It was an excellent recommendation. He was a great lawyer to have on my side, persistent in his battles with the insurance company, supportive of his client and a pleasure to work with, resolving the claim with the minimum of fuss.Susan
- Chuck made sure I was fairly compensated for this life altering injury.
I was working as an air traffic controller at SFO when a notoriously faulty elevator slammed to a stop between floors, throwing me against the wall and rupturing discs in my neck. I had to have major surgery on my neck. The City and the elevator maintenance company denied liability, until Chuck Geerhart obtained copies of all prior repair records which showed the elevator was continually resetting due to a power supply issue.
During the discovery phase of the case, to protect my privacy rights, he filed a motion with court to block a subpoena issued by the defense that sought to obtain my complete confidential employment file and complete health history in violation of the law. We ultimately settled the case for $1,000,000 after mediation.
I feel that Chuck did a great job making sure I was fairly compensated for this life-altering injury.Denise
- Chuck Geerhart dealt with my case in the most humane way I could imagine.
I was fortunate to have been referred to Chuck Geerhart when I was dealing with a very painful and tragic case of abuse by religious leadership, which was stretched over five years.Frank
Chuck Geerhart dealt with my case in the most humane way I could imagine. He was intelligent and strategic in his approach, always very communicative; an attentive ear, fearless and confident support for someone who was very confused and seeking answers where there were only walls. He always involved me in the process, sharing crucial information with me and allowing me the time and space to decide and move forward. He treated me like a partner, which helped me recover the power that was taken away from me.
At the same time he provided the professional expertise which I needed in order to win the case. The process of winning this case was as empowering as the actual outcome. It was a healing experience in itself. I am very happy with the support and guidance I got from Chuck as well as with the monetary result from such a serious injury. It has truly helped me move on in a good way.
Meet Chuck Geerhart
Chuck Geerhart was admitted to the California bar in 1989, and is a graduate of Cornell University and the UCLA Law School. He has tried 16 cases to jury verdict. He has also sat as a juror in three cases in San Francisco County. Chuck is a longtime member of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association (SFTLA), and will be SFTLA President in 2022. Chuck is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), an invitation-only organization of premier trial lawyers who have tried at least 10 jury cases to verdict.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What should I do if I am injured because of someone else's fault?
Q. Should I give a statement to the other party's insurance carrier?
Q. What is a contingent fee agreement?
Q. Is it important that I seek prompt medical treatment?
Q. Is there a fee to speak with you about a case?
Q. Should I authorize the release of my medical records to an insurance company?
From the Blog
We often tell new clients that the most important advice we can give them, apart and separate from our prosecution of their claim, is to buy as much uninsured/under-insured motorist insurance coverage as they can afford. This is to protect themselves as fully as possible from losses from an automobile accident caused by another driver who has no insurance, or inadequate insurance. (California law requires drivers to only have $15,000 of liability insurance to pay other people they injure in an accident.) Time after time we talk to people who have been seriously injured in a car accident who will not be fully compensated because the other driver had too little or no insurance, and the injured person did not have enough uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage. A typical scenario is this: the other driver has a $15,000/$30,000 liability insurance (per person /per accident) and causes serious injury to our client justifying compensation of more than $200,000 for medical expenses, income loss and pain and suffering. The other driver’s insurance company pays the $15,000 per person limit, and now the injured person looks to his or her own insurance to pay the balance of the compensation under the under-insured motorist coverage of our client’s own insurance policy. We can recover adequate compensation only if our client has adequate under-insured motorist (UIM) coverage. Often, our clients need to have $500,000 or more coverage; far too often they do not. Our personal experience is that the cost of acquiring the additional higher uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage is a small price to pay to be fully protected, and the additional premiums usually seem to be a bargain ($500,000 UIM coverage is only $112 per year at one major automobile carrier). At the very least, the issue should be discussed with your insurance agent so you know how much more it will cost, and can make an informed decision.Keep Reading