Jill Kolodner | September 10, 2020 | Personal Injury
How long it takes for a personal injury lawsuit to settle can vary significantly depending on a number of different factors. One thing to keep in mind is that a case that is headed for trial will typically take a lot longer than a case where the parties involved are motivated to settle.
For those cases that are on track for trial, the process can take between one to two years and sometimes even longer if there is a lot of money at stake.
Instead of focusing on the number of years it will take for your case to be settled, it might be helpful to understand the entire personal injury claim process. That way you can know where you are on the timeline and have a good idea of what still lies ahead.
1) Seek Medical Attention Immediately
After an accident, the first step is for you to seek medical attention immediately. Making sure you are healthy and cared for is the number one priority. During this phase in the process, however, you may want to begin taking notes and keeping records of the cost of the care you are receiving and how you are feeling. Later on, your records and notes from this time will be helpful in determining what you think could be a fair settlement amount.
2) Contact a Qualified Personal Injury Lawyer
Soon after you have sought appropriate medical care, you should consider hiring an injury lawyer. A personal injury lawyer will know how to help you navigate the complex settlement process and will advocate on your behalf to ensure you don’t accept a low offer from your insurance company. Personal injury lawyers also have a good sense of what a case can be worth and will be glad to share their expert opinion with you.
Be careful not to wait too long to hire a lawyer, though, as the statute of limitations could run out on your case, taking away your chance to pursue compensation.
3) Investigation Phase
The third step in the personal injury claim process is the investigation phase. Your lawyer will investigate the accident by reading the police report, interviewing witnesses, gathering expert opinions, and more. It is during this part of the process that your lawyer is building your case.
4) The Demand Letter
With your case built, your lawyer will then write a settlement demand letter on your behalf and send it to the insurance company. The settlement demand letter explains your case and why you should receive the compensation you are demanding.
Even if the insurance company does not accept your demands, the letter is a good place to start negotiations.
5) Lawsuit is Filed
If your demands are not accepted and negotiations are not working, then you and your lawyer might file a lawsuit. This is the part of the process where things can really begin to slow down. In some states, it can take one to two years to even get to a trial once a suit is filed.
Even though that amount of time can seem daunting, it should be noted that there is still a lot going on during that one to two-year time frame and there is still a real possibility that a settlement can be reached during that time.
6) The Discovery Phase
During discovery, both sides in the case get full access to each other’s cases and defenses. Depositions will be taken and many requests for documents will be filed. This phase often takes between six months and a year.
7) Another Shot at Settlement
At the end of discovery, both sides have a pretty good idea of what the other is thinking. In many cases, after discovery, both sides can reach some kind of an agreement, settle the case, and avoid trial.
If all else fails, the case is headed for trial. While each case is different, a trial can last anywhere from a day to a week to months depending on the complexity of the case, how many witnesses testify, what evidence is admitted, and a number of other factors.
It should be mentioned here, that even during trial, it is still possible for both sides to reach a settlement agreement.
9) Appeals Process
After the trial, the losing side will still have a chance to appeal the case a number of times. This can take several years and bring the total length of time up to 3-5 years or more.