How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?
When you’re injured or ill, you need help fast. For that reason, it’s understandable that one of the most common questions we get as personal injury lawyers is, “How long is my personal injury lawsuit going to take?”
Clients want to know when they can expect to finish the process and when they can expect to receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. (After all, they’ve got bills to pay.)
Today, we’re going to tackle that question, from how long the typical process takes to factors that can delay your claim.
The Long and Short of the Personal Injury Timeline
Unfortunately, we can’t give an exact answer to the question of how long your personal injury claim will take–not in one blog post.
That’s because each person’s claim is so different. Every person is a unique case: the type of injury or illness, circumstances of the injury, and individual situation can vary widely.
However, it is possible to give a general time frame for the average personal injury claim: one to two years.
Does that seem like a long time? It might seem like too long to wait for money that you need now, with bills piling up. Nonetheless, there is good reason that personal injury claims can last months or even years.
The personal injury process is complex and involves all of the following:
- You are injured in an accident or develop an illness because of someone else’s negligence, and you seek medical treatment.
- You decide to seek help from a personal injury lawyer to file a claim.
- Your lawyer investigates your claim and compiles all of the evidence needed, from your medical records to all bills resulting from your injury.
- Your lawyer determines how much your case is worth and whether or not your case can be settled. If it can be settled, they negotiate with the other party to try to reach a fair settlement for you.
- If the other party refuses to settle your claim for a fair amount, your case moves to litigation. Your lawyer files a personal injury lawsuit in court.
- Before the trial begins, lawyers for both sides investigate the other side in the “discovery process.” This is when depositions (interviewing witnesses) and document requests happen.
- After the discovery process, your lawyer and the lawyer for the other side will begin talks. At this point, your lawyer may be able to settle your case or may advise mediation. (Mediation is when a neutral third party helps both sides agree.)
- If mediation does not work to get you a fair settlement, the case will go to trial. At the end of the trial, your lawyer will present your case, and a judge will determine the outcome.
As you can see, it’s a complicated process! (Also, that’s why it can be invaluable to have a personal injury lawyer on your side.)
How long your unique case takes will depend on several factors.
First, it depends on how many steps your case goes through. Obviously, if your case is settled (step #4), your case will be resolved sooner than if you have to go to mediation (step #7). If your case is successfully mediated (step #7), your case will finish more quickly than if you have to go to trial (step #8).
Second, there are a number of other factors that can cause personal injury cases to extend in each step. Let’s look at these more closely.
What’s Taking So Long?
In general, there are a few reasons that some personal injury lawsuits take longer than others: problems with the facts of the case, significant damages, and “maximum medical improvement.”
The Facts of the Case
Some cases are pretty cut and dry; others, not so much. For example, if your case involves uncertain liability (who was at fault?) or questions about whether or not you have the right to sue, this can delay it.
“Damages” are the legal term for the amount of money you can receive in a personal injury claim. If you are likely to receive a lot of money—from damages for medical bills, wage loss, pain and suffering, etc.—this might stall your case.
Unfortunately, that’s because insurers and companies simply don’t want to pay out a lot of money. They might hope that by delaying things as much as possible, they can get you to give up and settle for less.
Maximum Medical Improvement
In many cases, it’s important for you and your lawyer to wait until you reach “maximum medical improvement.” This means that you are finished receiving medical treatment. You’ve improved as much as possible.
Why? By waiting, you and your lawyer will know how much your case is worth. You’ll know how severely the injuries have impacted your life. If you settle before you finish medical treatment, you might find that down the line your injuries are more serious (and expensive) than you thought. Once you settle, however, you can’t go back and ask for more money.
Settling for Less
Many clients want to get the personal injury process over as quickly as possible, which is understandable.
However, it’s important to weigh how much your case is worth versus how quickly you need the money. For example, sometimes settling early means settling for less. If it is important to you to receive compensation right away, this might be the best option for you. On the other hand, if you would rather receive maximum compensation for your personal injury lawsuit, it might be best to continue into the mediation or trial phase.
Before making this decision, it’s vital that you talk about your options with a personal injury lawyer. Your attorney will advise you of how much your case might be worth. They can help you decide when to settle, mediate, and litigate.
Contact Us Today
For help with your personal injury claim, contact Casper & Casper today. Our firm’s experienced and knowledgeable personal injury lawyers are here for you.