If you have recently been in a car accident, you likely have 1,000 questions running through your mind.
If the car accident was due to someone else's negligence, one of those questions is, "How long is it going to take to settle my personal injury case?"
The easy answer to that question is no one knows for sure. Every accident and every client's health afterward is different.
Your settlement could be as quick as a couple of weeks, or it could take a couple of years.
Contacting an attorney right away is the best way to ensure that your case gets settled as quickly as possible.
The single biggest factor in most personal injury cases is the severity of your injuries and the treatment you need after the accident.
If your injuries are minor, your case is usually settled relatively quickly.
If your injuries are severe and require extensive treatment, it could take years to settle.
But, that's not the only factor that influences how long it will take to settle your case.
In the article below, we will walk you through a typical timeline of a personal injury claim and lawsuit.
The very first thing you should do after being injured in a car accident is to receive medical treatment. If you're injured, the first thing you need to do is go to the emergency room.
This is obviously the best thing you can do for your health, but if you choose not to see a doctor after your accident, the insurance adjuster will likely assume that your injuries aren't severe or your accident didn't cause them.
Choose Your Lawyer
After you've received medical treatment, you need to select your lawyer.
It is possible to settle a small personal injury claim by yourself, but it isn't recommended.
Your lawyer will know the legal system inside out and will be able to get you the highest compensation available.
Having a lawyer will also allow you to focus on your health instead of making sure you get what you deserve.
If you suffer any significant injuries, you will definitely need a lawyer to assist you.
As soon as you hire your lawyer, they will be able to begin your case and get you your settlement as quickly as possible.
Your Lawyer Begins The Investigation
The first thing your lawyer will do is talk to you about how the accident happened, what your background is, and your medical condition and the treatments you need.
Your lawyer will need to know everything that you know about the accident and your injury. Lawyers don't like surprises, so you'll need to answer the questions as completely as you can.
Once that's finished, your lawyer will collect all of your medical records and bills relating to your accident.
They may also need any other medical records you have for any treatment you've ever received related to the injury you suffered in the accident.
This part alone can take months, depending on the severity of the injury and your injury history.
Once they've received the medical records, your lawyer will review them all to see if you have a case.
Demands and Negotiations
The majority of personal injury claims are settled before a lawsuit is ever filed.
If your lawyer is confident they can settle your case, they will make a demand to the other attorney or the insurance company of the negligent party.
If your case can be settled outside of court, it will be finished much faster than if you have to go to court.
Your lawyer will likely choose to go to court if your claim involves a permanent injury or impairment.
Most lawyers won't make a demand until you've reached a point of maximum medical improvement or MMI.
MMI means that you've finished all of your medical treatment and have recovered as much as the doctors expect you to recover.
Until you reach MMI, your lawyer won't know how much your case is truly worth. That's why a good lawyer never files or makes a demand before MMI.
It can take months or years for you to reach MMI. But it's still best to wait it out.
Your Lawyer Files A Lawsuit
If necessary, now is when your lawyer will file the lawsuit.
As soon as your lawyer files the lawsuit, the clock starts running on when the case will make it to trial.
Every state differs when it comes to pretrial procedures, but for the most part, it takes one to two years for a personal injury case to get to trial.
Each state also has a statute of limitations that require a personal injury claim to be filed within a certain amount of time after the accident.
The discovery phase is when each party investigates what the adversary's legal claims and defenses are.
Each party will ask questions and send document requests to one another.
They also take depositions of all of the relevant witnesses in the case, usually beginning with the plaintiff and defendant.
The discovery phase can last six months to a year, depending on the deadlines of the court and the complexity of the case.
Mediation and Negotiation
When the discovery phase ends, the lawyers will usually start talking about settlement.
Sometimes the lawyers can settle a case by themselves, but other times they will need to go to mediation.
Mediation is when both lawyers and their clients meet with a mediator to try to settle the case.
Last but not least is the trial. Usually, cases are settled out of court, during negotiations, or with mediation.
But if none of that works, your case will go to trial.
The trial itself can last a day, a week, and sometimes even longer.
An important thing to keep in mind about trials is that just because a trial is scheduled for a specific date doesn't necessarily mean it will begin on that date.
Trials are often rescheduled due to scheduling conflicts with the judge.
If your trial gets canceled, don't worry. Trials are delayed all the time for various reasons.
It Depends On The Accident
As you can see, several factors can affect how long it will take to settle your personal injury case.
If it was a minor accident, your injuries aren't severe, and everything is pretty straightforward, it will be settled relatively quickly.
If it was a major accident with severe injuries, it could take years to settle.
One of the best ways to ensure that your case is settled as fast as possible is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney.