Is An Auto Injury Claim a Sprint or a Marathon?

Category: Auto Accidents

Kevin runs a marathon (one of many!)

This cliche analogy is so common that I’m surprised you are still reading. I have to assume that most people using the comparison have little or no experience with either activity. But I have some experience running both distances. When I was in high school, I spent a couple years as a sprinter on the track team. I was so good that I only ran in school meets if pandemic levels of injury or illness had taken out the runners above me on the team. But I still had to practice, to be ready for those rare occasions. Now, as an older, amateur distance runner, I only sprint when . . . well, never. But, I continue to regularly train for, and run, marathons. Consequently, I may appreciate this overused “sprint or marathon” comparison more than most.

The reason the comparison is so common is that it is a great analogy to so many other things. A sprint involves a high level of intensity, all-out exertion, for a short distance–say 100 meters. That level of intensity cannot be sustained for a long distance. On the other hand, a marathon requires a lower level (although still hard) of energy, but for a much longer period of time–to cover 26.2 miles.

So, if we impose the comparison on an auto accident claim (where I have more experience than I have in either running distance), which distance better illustrates the approach necessary for success? It is the Marathon. Here are a few reasons why:

First, a properly presented injury claim is often a long process, because the necessary steps should not be rushed. For example, before the work of proving the proper compensation for a claim can begin, the injured person has to go through the difficult process of healing from their injuries. This can involve months or even years of medical treatment, difficulty with every-day tasks, missing out on hobbies, and challenges in employment. When I run a marathon, I am usually pretty tired (and tired of it) before it is actually over. Most of my clients feel the same way about the time and effort it takes to heal. This is a marathon effort, not a sprint.

Then, once my client has healed as much as they can, the claim can be properly evaluated, the proof compiled, and presented to the insurance company. Often, the early (sprint) offers will not fully reflect what the injured person feels they should be compensated. So, a “sprint” level resolution may result in an inadequate outcome. On the other hand, holding out for a better result will take more time, often through the legal structure of litigation. Another reason to be ready for a long run is that insurance companies are built for marathons. They are in no real hurry to pay out on a claim. In fact, most of their business incentives are served by either paying a lower amount quickly (sprint) or putting the claimant through a marathon to get more. This does not make them “evil;” insurance companies are large, well-funded companies, so they can run a long distance on a claim without feeling much fatigue. The claimant often needs to match that  marathon ability to keep going even when tired of it all, to avoid taking too little, and receive an amount more reflective of their losses.

And it is not just the claimant that needs marathon-like stamina and patience. Their lawyer needs it, too. If a lawyer gets too anxious to resolve a claim, it may cloud their judgment and advice to their client.

So, as the cliche often goes: It’s a marathon; not a sprint.” I hope that my experience doing actual marathons has helped me understand better how to help my clients through their injury claim version of one.