How long will my personal injury case take to settle or resolve at trial?
It is important to remember that at the center of every claim for personal injuries is a real person who is now forced to live with the effects of those injuries on a daily basis. And a big component of the “value” of this claim comes from how well that person recovers from the injury.
So before you can settle any claim, it is in the injured person’s best interest that they have a good handle on their prognosis, which is the likelihood of recovery.
Every injury case is completely different, and depending on who and where you must sue, the statute of limitations must be kept in mind. As long as these time limits are followed, a case can be resolved early on in the process, deep in the litigation, or at points along the way.
Typical Timeline of a Personal Injury Case
While every case differs in how long it takes to settle, the timeline for a personal injury case is usually the same. It generally goes as follows.
After an Accident, Seek Medical Treatment
After any accident, you must seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if you do not think you have been harmed, some injuries may not be evident right away. Receiving medical treatment not only helps your wellbeing but also provides evidence to be used for your personal injury case.
Consult with a New York Personal Injury Attorney
Meeting with an attorney gives you a chance to ask questions and get all of the information you need. This also allows the attorney to learn about your case to provide you with the best legal advice. If your attorney feels you have a strong case, you may proceed with a representation agreement and start working on your case right away.
Your Lawyer Prepares and Files Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
Your attorney will draft and file a formal complaint and submit it to the court. The defendant will then be served with the paperwork and has a limited amount of time to file an answer to your complaint.
After you file your lawsuit, both parties begin the discovery process. Discovery allows both parties to investigate the other side’s legal claims. The discovery process includes:
- Depositions, and
- Requests for documents.
The time discovery takes can vary depending on the type of case and how much information is sought.
Once all discovery has concluded, both parties may attempt to settle. This typically leads to mediation, where both parties meet with a mediator to try to reach an agreeable settlement. The mediator goes back and forth between both parties until you reach a settlement. If both parties agree, the settlement will be put in writing and presented to the court to conclude the case. If you don’t reach an agreement, your case will go to trial.
At trial, all of the information gathered during discovery will be presented to a jury. The jury will then deliberate and decide on an award amount. After the trial, your case will be concluded.
Cases Resolved in Claim
Some cases can be resolved in claim, which is early on in the process and before a lawsuit is started. Even these cases can take at a minimum 6 months up to 1 year or more to settle because, as discussed above, you must have a good idea about the injured person’s recovery. It is often difficult to settle a case in claim because either the insurance carrier will make smaller, nuisance value offers of settlement or the injured person has not yet completed their course of treatment.
Cases Settled During Litigation
Other cases are settled during litigation. A “litigated” case is one that has gone through the court process: the opening “pleadings,” document discovery, depositions and motion practice, and up to trial. It is not uncommon that an insurance company will refuse to make any reasonable offers of settlement until you’ve gone deep into this process. A case that is litigated will last, on average, between 3-4 years, perhaps longer.
Car accident lawsuits usually fit into the 3-4 year window depending on the County where the case is pending. More complicated matters, including any kind of premises matter – a trip and fall or slip and fall accident case – or construction site accidents, can extend longer. But it is also true that each of these types of cases can be resolved within 1-2 years.
The length of a case depends on many different factors including:
- How extensive the injuries are;
- The amount of the insurance policy;
- The insurance carrier;
- The defendant’s attorneys; and
- The court you are in.
For this reason the only answer to this question is that every case is different.
Usually, there are three main reasons why your personal injury settlement may be delayed:
- Your claim involves a large amount of damages and compensation;
- There are legal or factual issues with your case; or
- You have not reached maximum medical improvement.
Maximum medical improvement simply means you have improved as much as you’re going to improve from injuries sustained during the incident. Achieving maximum medical improvement is imperative, as it allows your attorney to truly valuate your medical expenses and damages.
What Should I Do If My Case Isn’t Receiving Adequate Attention?
If you feel your current attorney is not giving your case the attention it deserves, reach out to your attorney and discuss this with them. If you still feel unsure, get a second opinion from a different attorney.
Anthony A. Ferrante is a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney based in Brooklyn, New York. He is dedicated to his clients and seeking the justice they deserve. Contact us today to discuss your case.