One of the most frequent questions the lawyers of our firm are asked by our clients is whether their Tennessee personal injury or wrongful death case will settle.
We explain that an insurance company for the at-fault party may not settle at all. In Tennessee the insurance company does not have a duty to settle your case and in fact does not even owe you a duty to fairly evaluate your case. The insurance company can settle a case, or not settle a case, on whatever timetable it chooses. The only thing that can force an insurance company to think seriously about settlement is an approaching trial date, which is why our firm, after giving an insurance company a reasonable time to settle a case, will file a lawsuit and ask the court for the quickest trial date we can obtain under all the circumstances.
However, if the insurance company wants to settle the case it needs to have information/ At an absolute minimum, the company needs the accident report, medical records and bills, perhaps some of previous medical records, proof of lost wages from an employer, and an understanding of how the injuries have impacted the injured person. To the extent there is a claim for permanent injury, future medical expenses, future loss of earning capacity, or other damages, the insurance company will need proof of that.
Lawyers communicate this information by way of a settlement demand. All of the relevant information is gathered and the important information is highlighted in a letter. In our office we attempt to gather all of this information before the injured party is released from the doctor (except the final office note) and have a demand package ready to go to the insurance company within thirty days of when medical treatment is complete. Sometimes, lack of cooperation from one of the providers of information will affect our ability to get the demand package out on time.
Insurance companies always ask for more time to evaluate the demand package. Then, the negotiations start and those can last several weeks even if everyone agrees that the case should be settled.
So, there are too many variables to say if any particular case will be settled and how quickly it will be settled. Most valid cases are settled, but the timing of the settlement varies significantly. It is fair to say that a case will not settle if your attorney does not promptly gather and exchange information with the insurance company. This is yet another reason to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer who will aggressively pursue your rights.