How Long Does it Take to Settle a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

by The Roth Firm
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Accidents or injuries are something that we want to avoid all the times.

But when it happens, and you decide to take appropriate steps in protecting your legal rights, you need to know more about what “personal injury law” is all about.

Personal Injury cases are a type of legal dispute where an individual(s) suffered harm due to an accident or injury. This will always involve a victim and an individual legally responsible for the damage.

This case can be formalized with civil court proceedings where it will seek to find through a court judgment, the individual legally at fault.

Personal Injury Lawsuits

  • Formal Lawsuit: A formal personal injury case will only start when an individual or “plaintiff” files a formal complaint against a “defendant” who can be another individual, business, or government agency. This is due to the alleged act of carelessness and irresponsibility that is linked to the accident or injury. This certain action is called “filing a lawsuit.”
  • Informal Settlement: This is the “go to” arrangement most of the time when there is a dispute over accident or injury. The parties involved will be the insurers and their attorneys who are representing both sides. A settlement will usually take the form of negotiation through a written agreement where both sides agree upon and dismiss any further action like a lawsuit. Choosing this path will resolve any matter through payment of an agreed amount.

 It is important to consider all options. Settlements are not always the best solution to finalizing a lawsuit.

For more information regarding lawsuits and settlements, look at How to Maximize Your Car Accident Settlement and How Insurance Companies Decide On a Settlement Amount After a Personal Injury.

The Laws of Personal Injury Cases

The development of personal injury law has been through court decisions as well as treatises that are written by legal scholars.

This is entirely different from other areas of the law like penal codes in a criminal case where they find their rules in statutes. There are states that have summarized the development of these personal injury laws in the form of written statutes.

But court decisions remain the main source of law when it comes to legal cases of personal injuries.

Personal Injury Lawsuit: The Timeline

After the accident or injury has taken place as a result of negligence and you may have decided to seek legal compensation for the damages and losses.

Medical bills are usually the primary reason for filing for personal injury compensation and the wages or income lost. 

 If you believe that the other party is at fault, then you should not suffer the consequences both physically and financially.

The process may not be as easy and as fast as you think it would be. But the more knowledge you have about the process, the better. It will be less stressful for you.

The following are the necessary steps taken during the personal injury case:

  1. Accident or Injury Incident Occurs
  2. Seek Medical Attention Directly After the Accident
  3. Consult the Best Personal Injury Attorney
  4. Claim Investigation Starts and Medical Records
  5. Filing a Claim or Demanding a Settlement
  6. Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
  7. Start the Discovery of Both Sides
  8. Mediation or Arbitration
  9. The Trial
  10. The Estimated Case Settlement Time Frame

1. Accident or Injury Incident Occurs

Accidents are inevitable.

It is not something that we have in mind that will happen on a daily basis. These are unexpected circumstances. The least that can happen would be stress and inconvenience on your part.

But what if it becomes permanently disabling to you or it becomes deadly? These are the possibilities that you have to consider.

It is your right, and you have to take the proper steps to earn it. The things that you do after the accident are straightforward. As an example, for motor vehicle accidents, here are the simple steps that you should follow.

What To Do:

  • Take plenty of pictures and videos of the incident if you can.
  • Get copies of everything that you need including the IDs, insurance cards, license plates, and so on.
  • Make sure that you gather witnesses’ contact information
  • Do not forget or take for granted any relevant information about the incident. This will include the traffic cameras, weather conditions and also the construction zones.
  • Notify the Police Immediately.
  • Seek medical help as soon as possible.
  • It is critical that you do not make a formal statement.

Staying calm and collecting facts may be difficult right after an accident, but it is key. For more information on necessary actions to take after an accident, refer to What to Do After an Accident.

2. Seek Medical Attention Directly After the Accident

If the injuries you incurred is due to an auto accident, you need to seek medical attention right away.

Injuries may not appear right away, especially after a traumatic incident. This happens a lot, especially after a severe vehicular accident. You may experience a rush of adrenaline and shock at first which blocks and eliminates your bodies snesations to feel any pain.

This is the body's’ natural response which is why people can do unthinkable things during this "rush".        

What To Do:

  • Make sure you take pictures of any visible injuries. This may include bruises, cuts and scrapes, and also abrasions that you may have sustained from the incident. The injuries may not be as severe as you think, but you should still make sure that you check with a medical professional as soon as possible.

Why Seek Medical Attention?

There are two reasons why should be seen by a medical professional regardless of the injury that you have incurred.

  1. You may have gotten injuries that cannot be seen by the naked eye. You may not feel it at all. These may include signs of concussion or whiplash that you would not notice but an EMT would.
  2. Once you start feeling pain, you can provide evidence that you have seen a doctor right after the incident happened. This is very important since the insurance companies will deny treatment when you fail to prove that you were injured because of the accident.

The first 14 days of the incident are critical.

Depending on the state the accident took place, you may lose your $10,000,000 entitlement for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) made available to you under your own auto insurance policy.

When you visit a doctor, make sure that you are sharing every symptom and injury that you are currently experiencing. Do not hold back any information or any feeling of discomfort that might cost you your life. These will also be very important in your insurance claims.

You may choose not to go in the ambulance provided. But you need to make sure that you seek medical care right away, even if you are or you are not experiencing any significant symptoms or discomfort.

Remember that denial of emergency care can be taken against you by the insurance company. The gaps in medical care can significantly affect your damage claim.

3. Consult the Best Personal Injury Attorney

Other people may think that it would be too early for you to consult an attorney about your personal injury claims and wait for the insurance offer first.

This advice should not be followed.

Remember, an attorney has the right to refuse a case where they deem legal assistance is unnecessary. So there’s nothing to worry about.

If the lawyer thinks that you do not need legal advice, they will say so. But attorneys can help you get a settlement that is much more than what an insurance company will give you. There are even law firms that provide free consultations to their clients.

Meeting with an attorney can greatly help you with your case. According to research studies done, anyone who hires a personal injury attorney may receive 40% larger settlements than those who just depend on their own insurance. When you have an attorney to handle your case, they can help work out the intricate details of your case to make sure you are compensated adequately.

If you're not sure whether or not you could benefit from contacting a personal injury attorney, research Most Common Cases Personal Injury Attorneys Handle and 7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Personal Injury Attorney.

What To Discuss During Your First Meeting With A Personal Injury Attorney

  • The Fees: Fees should be discussed right away. If the attorney fails to mention the fees, bring it up before you agree, this will help you avoid any misunderstandings in the future. They should be able to provide you with the breakdown of the fees and costs.
  • The Time Frame: You and your attorney should also be able to talk about the time frame of the case. Inquire how long it will take the firm to build a case before sending out a demand to the insurance company.
  • The Lawsuit: Will the lawsuit be filed by the firm on your behalf? This is one of the most important questions that you should ask during your first meeting.

4. Claim Investigation Starts and Medical Records

Investigation

Once you have a hired attorney, they will start reviewing your case details.

The Intake Specialist will do the interview which will start with you. They will need to know everything about the accident.

The information about your background as well as the medical condition you were in after the incident will be discussed as well. Where you sought medical help for the injuries that you received will also be noted.

Remember that you need to provide precise information in this phase.

Some of the information that they need might be a bit personal and irrelevant for your liking, but there is a reason for this deep interrogation. These attorneys should be ready for any questions that may come their way in the future process. The client and the attorney should be able to trust each other with the information that passes between them.

Honesty is essential.

Medical Records

The lawyer will then start to gather all of the medical records and bills that are related to your injury.

This will always include the information about the doctor that you saw after the incident, the medical documentation and the recommended course of treatment.

This will be as important as the first part of the investigation and, depending on your treatment; this may be longer than you expected.

If for example, the first doctor you had after the incident referred you to another doctor or a specialist, this should be noted. No information should be skipped or neglected. This helps to make sure your files are updated correctly, and nothing is left out.

5. Filing A Claim or Demanding A Settlement

There are personal injury demands that can be agreed on with a settlement and will not reach court.

This is best for some, but not enough for the others. Your attorney will be able to thoroughly analyze the whole situation and use the threat of court to your advantage. This is a key advantage of having a good attorney

If you're curious about the inner workings of a settlement between your attorney and insurance companies, refer to How Insurance Companies Decide on a Settlement Amount.

Claim File Process:

  • The claim will first be filed with the defendants’ insurance company before the lawsuit will be filed.
  • For non-auto accidents, your personal injury attorney will find the individual or company at fault to start the claim with their insurance provider.
  • For slip-and-falls, the premises where the injury took place will be liable for the insurance claim and medical malpractice, it will be the hospitals’ insurance carrier.
  • A claims adjuster will then be assigned for the investigation of the case and the negotiation of the settlement. When there is no insurance company involved, your attorney can arrange a demand letter to be sent to the at-fault party for the settlement needed for the injuries they caused.
  • The letter would include the theory of the liability, the injuries according to the medical records, and the amount that you are demanding for the compensation.
  • Once the offer is made after the demand letter, before accepting the settlement money, your attorney will discuss the pros and cons of accepting the offer.
  • Sometimes there is a counter-offer made as your attorney tries to negotiate for a higher settlement amount compared to the initial offer.

6. Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

When a settlement is not successful, the next step is filing a lawsuit.

Remember that in most cases, whether the accident was fatal or relatively minor, the lawsuit should be filed based on your state's statute of limitations. 

You have medical bills to pay, so the lawsuit should be filed promptly in order to get what you deserve.

If this period passes you up, you may be prohibited from ever bringing suit to recover for your injuries.

7. Start of the Discovery of Both Sides

This is where each party will investigate what the other party claims.

Their defenses will also be questioned in this stage. This is where the interrogation begins. Everything will be checked, including the injuries that you claim as well as the damages incurred.

This may become too personal since even the slightest detail that seems irrelevant will be asked. And you have to be completely true to what you are telling. Your attorney will be your guide in answering these questions during the interrogation process.

This is a very long process, and this is where witness testimony and documents you and your attorney gathered will become useful.

8. Mediation or Arbitration

After the discovery process, both sides will start to agree with a settlement again through their own attorneys. This is the alternative dispute resolution.

Sometimes, this is where your lawyer will decide whether both parties can settle on this part or not.

Mediation” will be attempted. This is when both parties including their lawyers will meet with a mediator that is approved by both parties. The mediator will try to help both sides reach a settlement that both can agree upon.

The court system will want the case to be settled at this point. If not, a set of jurors will have to hear the case and reach a verdict on their own.

The mediator acts as the third party who doesn’t take sides and has nothing to do with the outcome of the case. The mediator will not decide for both parties. His or her role in this process is to facilitate the negotiations between parties in hopes of coming to an agreement.

What is Mediation?

Mediation normally held in a conference room includes the parties involved, the council, as well as the mediator.

The insurance company of the Defendant will also send an adjuster. This adjuster will be able to offer a certain amount of money to try and resolve the case. The mediation will start with each attorney of both parties will make an opening statement which will be on behalf of their client.

Remember that Mediation is very confidential. Everything that is being discussed in the room will never be mentioned during the trial.

What is Arbitration?

This is when a hearing will take place that involves the plaintiff and the defendant.

It will be judged by a neutral third party. What makes this different from mediation is that mediation is not binding whereas arbitration is. As soon as the arbitrator makes a decision with regards to the settlement, it cannot be changed anymore.

This is a mini-court case. There are some instances that the court will require the case to go to arbitration rather than the actual court. This only happens when the judge thinks that a reasonable settlement makes more sense.

It may save both parties court costs.

Overall, it is important to know the differences between mediation and arbitration.

9. The Trial

When all efforts are exhausted a settlement still hasn't been reached, the case will eventually go to trial.

Trials for personal injuries can take from hours to months. Every case is different.

During the trial, all of the information collected from the discovery process will be shown to the jury. Here, they will decide on the settlement amount.

No one can guess the outcome of every trial. This is because different people make up the jury who will come up with a solution.

The Role oF Personal Injury Lawyer During the Trial.

At this point, your attorney will conduct a focus group, or maybe a mock trial to present the case to a group of people to have a better idea of what the jury may think of the points and weaknesses of your case.

You and your attorney should be able to sit down and discuss this information before the trial, so you will have a better understanding of the process, as well as the risks and benefits of the case.

10. The Estimated Case Settlement Time Frame

The estimated time frame for each case is not exact but the average time depends on the type of claims. Your solicitor will update you on the progress of your claim depending on how fast they can process it.

On average, here are the estimated times:

  • Road Accident Claim may take 4 to 9 months.
  • Workplace Accident Claim can be expected to take 6 to 9 months.
  • Slip, and Fall Claim can also take 6 to 9 months.
  • Industrial Disease Claim may take 1 year to 1 ½ years.
  • Medical Negligence Claim can be as long as 1 ½ years to 3 years.

Where to Go From Here?

Filing a claim can be both stressful and challenging.

There will come a point where you would want to give up.

Do not give up.

This is your right and you should fight for it. Don't let the other party get away with it or they may do this to other victims as well. Remember that this does not only involve you but your family as well.

As long as you have the right personal injury attorney, this process will be easier for you.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© The Roth Firm | Attorney Advertising

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Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about how we use cookies and other tracking technologies, please contact us at: privacy@jdsupra.com.

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