No, Your Montana Injury Case Will NOT Settle Fast

One of the first questions I hear from clients, or people just interested in what I do, is “how long does it take to finish a case?” For starters, every case is different. That’s why it’s so important that you consult with a Montana Injury Lawyer about the specifics of your situation. But in general, the hands of justice are not swift.

Negotiating with an insurance company takes time. And before we can even start getting down to the nitty gritty of really settling your case, we need to make sure your injuries are at their maximum. It may sound awful, but if things are going to get worse for you – that means settling your claim while things are still good would be a huge mistake.

And once your case is ready to proceed, the other side has no interest in a quick resolution. Montana’s bad faith laws require insurance companies to proceed at a reasonable pace. But as they say: reasonable minds can differ. The reality is that insurance companies have a strong interest in making even simple cases very time consuming and difficult to pursue: they think it will deter lawyers from taking those cases. Add to that the fact that defense attorneys are paid by the hour, and you have an adversary that is interested in stretching things out as long as possible.

I never counsel my clients to recommend a quick settlement. And anytime I speak with someone who seems only interested in a fast pay-day, I get suspicious. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, but that doesn’t mean the process should take any longer than it has to. I work hard for my clients to push the insurance companies and their attorneys to make a reasonable settlement offer as quickly as possible. And if that doesn’t work, I move on to trial because you deserve to be able to move on with your life.

Montana Bad Faith Insurance Claims: What is Reasonably Clear?

Montana has passed a series of statutes known as the Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA). Among other things, the act states that an insurer may not neglect to attempt in good faith to effectuate prompt, fair, and equitable settlements of claims in which liability has become reasonably clear. An insurer who fails to do this may be liable for a bad faith claim and subject to substantial damages.

Montana case law has established that there is a duty under the UTPA to provide coverage for an injured third party when liability for the underlying accident is reasonably clear. In making this determination, a Court is to look at the operative facts of the underlying accident and the information available to the insurer during the adjusting process.

For the purposes of a bad-faith claim under the UTPA, liability is reasonably clear when a reasonable person, with knowledge of the relevant facts and law, would conclude, for good reason, that the defendant is liable to the plaintiff. The Montana Supreme Court has stated that this is an objective test in which a trier of fact judges the reasonableness of the insurer’s conduct under the facts and circumstances as presented.

Reasonably clear liability is established when it is clear enough that reasonable people assessing the claim would agree on the issue of liability, and the facts, circumstances, and applicable law leave little room for objectively reasonable debate about whether liability exists.