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Why do claims take such a long time?

Why do claims take such a long time? This is a question that clients, contacts and friends ask me all the time. It’s not an easy question to answer. In short, there are two reasons: complexity and dispute.

Let’s take the first one: complexity. The issue of who is responsible for the accident may well be simple to resolve and the insurance company may admit liability quickly. However, that’s often not the whole story. An insurance company will only be liable for losses arising out of your accident. They could well continue the fight by arguing that some or even all the injuries (and therefore losses) have nothing to do with the accident in question – and that the injuries caused had everything to do with another event. This other event could have been both before or even after the accident that you are claiming compensation for. This issue is legally known as causation.

Let me give you a simple example. You are a motorcyclist who is knocked over by a car driver causing you to injure your right knee. Unfortunately, a few years before the accident you sustained a right knee injury when you went skiing. You have had ongoing problems since then. The insurers will likely argue that some or even all of the injuries that you complain of have nothing to do with the accident that they are compensating you for. Medical evidence will be key to resolving this issue. It is extremely important as your compensation could be significantly reduced, especially your claim for loss of earnings, if the medical expert believes that the length of time off work does not relate solely to your accident.

The second issue is more obvious. If there is a dispute about who is responsible for the accident, then it is likely that the matter will take time. In my experience, if I think the insurers will dispute a claim I try to gather all the evidence together so an early decision can be made about whether or not the claim has merit. This may well involve instructing a barrister to advise in more detail. Assuming the matter continues to be a runner (what we call having “reasonable prospects of success”) then medical evidence will need to be prepared before commencing court proceedings. This all takes time and on many occasions it will take at least 18 months from the start of the claim before the case comes to trial.