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If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you’re likely interested in obtaining settlement—or a legal judgment—as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for the period of time a personal injury lawsuit will take to resolve. Some cases can be resolved in weeks or months, while others may last years.
By having an experienced personal injury attorney, you’ll be able to minimize delays and ensure that your claim is resolved as quickly as possible without compromising the amount you’re able to recover. Below, we discuss more about the personal injury lawsuit process and what factors can cause certain cases to take longer than others. If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you’re likely interested in obtaining settlement—or a legal judgment—as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for the period of time a personal injury lawsuit will take to resolve. Some cases can be resolved in weeks or months, while others may last years.
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The Personal Injury Lawsuit Process
The vast majority of personal injury cases settle before trial. However, some cases settle at the earliest stages—even before a lawsuit is filed—while others might settle on the eve of trial.
After the Accident: Get Medical Treatment
The earliest stage of a lawsuit occurs during the hours, days, and weeks following your injury. By receiving medical attention and getting treatment quickly, you’ll be able to reduce the risk of long-term complications. It’s also good to know approximately how much you can expect to pay in medical expenses, as a significant portion of the damages you recover are likely to go toward medical costs.
Meet With an Injury Attorney
After you’ve been treated for your injuries, meeting with a personal injury lawyer should be the next step. At the initial consultation, you’ll explain what happened and your attorney will begin to review the evidence to build your case. This can include reviewing the police report, requesting medical records, or even examining the at-fault party’s social media accounts to see what they’ve said about the incident. Your personal injury attorney or law firm may have investigators whose job involves gathering and digging into the evidence to see what supports your claim.
Some personal injury cases can settle even before a lawsuit is filed. Once your attorney has investigated the case and gathered evidence in your favor, they’ll open negotiations with the other party to see whether it makes more sense to mediate or settle the claim instead of resorting to litigation. Settling a claim before a lawsuit begins can help get money in your pocket sooner while allowing the other side to avoid an expensive court battle.
File an Injury Lawsuit
If pre-lawsuit negotiations are unsuccessful, the next step is to file a personal injury lawsuit. Because there are strict statutes of limitations on personal injury lawsuits, it’s important to work quickly; missing this deadline, even by a day or two, can cause your claim to be dismissed as untimely.
Once a lawsuit has been filed, your attorney will be able to request evidence, known as discovery, from the other party. This can include interrogatories (or a list of questions the other party is required to answer), requests for admission, and requests for documents. Discovery may also include taking depositions, or sworn statements, from the defendant and any witnesses who may be able to corroborate what happened.
This discovery goes both ways. The responsible party’s attorney will also be able to request evidence from you, including medical records, financial documents, and even cell phone records—anything that may be relevant to your claim.
In some situations, mediation may be a way for both parties to achieve a fair result without the uncertainty and expense of going to trial. In other cases, the judge may order mediation before a trial can be scheduled. During mediation, a neutral third party will work with both you and the opposing party to assess your goals and desired outcomes and see if a compromise can be reached. Mediation, unlike arbitration, isn’t binding—so if the process doesn’t yield an agreement, the case can proceed to trial.
After each party has finished the discovery process and gathered all the evidence needed to make (or defend) a claim, trial may be scheduled. Some personal injury cases are tried to a jury, although others can be tried directly to the judge in a “bench trial.” There are benefits and drawbacks to each kind of trial, and you and your attorney should carefully consider which is best for your unique situation.
What Might Delay Your Case?
Because taking a personal injury case from pre-lawsuit to trial involves several steps, there are opportunities for delay at each of these stages. For example, the opposing party may be slow in responding to discovery or turning over documents, requiring your attorney to seek a motion to compel. In other cases, the trial court’s calendar may be so crowded that it takes months to schedule your case for trial. There are a few other situations that can cause delays in litigating a personal injury claim, including:
Failure to Achieve Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
Once you’ve achieved MMI and no longer require medical treatment for your injuries, it’s much easier to put a dollar value on your claim. But if your injuries require ongoing care or physical therapy, it can be tougher to determine just how much medical debt you’ll incur over the coming years. If you haven’t yet achieved MMI or if you’re still being evaluated by your physician, your claim may be delayed while both sides try to assess your financial damages.
If you’re deemed to be partially or fully at fault for the accident that led to your injuries, it can be tougher to prove liability. Many defendants will argue that the plaintiff contributed to their own injuries, which can require the plaintiff to gather more evidence showing exactly who was at fault. This is one reason it’s so important to thoroughly investigate a claim before filing a lawsuit; the stronger your evidence on the front end, the easier it is to rebut any contributory-negligence arguments.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. At The Ferraro Law Firm, we’re focused on each client’s case and will use all our resources to ensure you have the most robust representation possible. To schedule your free consultation, call 888-554-2030 or just fill out our free case consultation form and a member of our team will soon be in touch. Our services are always free unless you win.