If you think you have a possible personal injury claim, you will wonder how long it can take to get to the end. Below is more information about how long a personal injury claim or lawsuit can take. But each case is different; you should have your case reviewed by a qualified attorney in your area. Lawsuit Info Center can be used to help you find a good attorney near you.
Step 1 – Get Medical Treatment
As soon as possible after the accident, you should get medical treatment by a licensed physician. If you suspect you have any injuries at all, you should see a doctor the same day as the accident. This is not just right from a health perspective. If you do not see a doctor for days after the crash, the insurance adjuster will assume your accident injuries were caused by something else.
Step 2- Get an Attorney
After you have taken a day or however long it takes to get medical attention, you need to choose an attorney. Lawsuit Info Center can help with this process. Choose a good attorney as soon as you can after the injury. While you can settle a small claim on your own, any case with serious injuries and property damage should be handled by a qualified attorney.
How do you draw the line between a small claim and a larger one? Generally, if you miss more than a day or two of work or if your medical costs are more than $2000, you should hire an attorney.
You should check with several attorneys to determine which one is the best fit for you. Choosing an attorney can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks. After you sign their fee agreement, they will begin to work on your case.
Step 3 – Attorney reviews claim and medical records
Your attorney will now interview you about what happened during the accident, your medical treatment and overall condition. The lawyer needs to know everything related to the accident as well as your treatment and injury. No good attorney wants surprises, so you should take the time to answer all of their questions.
The attorney will now work to get all of your medical records and bills, as well as records for the treatments you have had. This can take a few weeks or even months.
After the medical records are received, the attorney will see if there is a strong case. If there is no case, the attorney will let you know as early on as possible so neither of you waste your time.
Step 4 – Demand and Negotiation
Many small personal injury claims settle before the lawsuit is filed. If the attorney thinks the case may be settled, they will send a demand letter to the defense or insurance company. If not, your attorney will file a personal injury lawsuit in court. If the claim involves permanent injury, it is a rare attorney that will settle before filing the lawsuit.
Your attorney also should not send a demand letter until you have reached the level of maximum medical improvement or MMI. This is when you have completed your medical treatment and you have recovered as much as you can. The attorney does not know how much the case is really worth until you have gotten to MMI.
Your attorney will not file the case in court until MMI is reached. If you are not at MMI, the jury could easily give you less than you deserve. It is possible for you to take months or even years to get to MMI. But the best attorneys know to wait it out, if you can afford financially and medically to do so. If you need cash, then your attorney should file the case sooner than later.
Step 5 – Lawsuit Filed
When the lawsuit is filed, this begins the clock running on when the case could go to trial. The pretrial procedures for each state are different. But usually it will take one or two years for a personal injury case to get to trial.
Step 6 – Discovery
This is where both sides of the lawsuit investigate what the legal claims and defense are. Questions and document requests will be sent from both sides to the others, depositions of witnesses will be taken. This entire process can last up to a year.
Step 7 – Mediation and Negotiation
When discovery is done, the attorneys on each side will talk about settlement usually. It is possible the attorneys can settle the matter with an informal discussion. But if not, the case could go to mediation. This is where both attorneys and clients go to a neutral mediator to try to settle.
Step 8 – Trial
If mediation or settlement do not work, the case will go to trial. The trial could last a day, week or even months. The timeline can be extended because many states only hold trials for a half a day. That will double the length of the trial but allows everyone to get other things done.
Know that your personal injury trial may not actually start on the date that is scheduled. Rescheduled court dates are common due to the judge, and sometimes witnesses are not available to testify on the needed date.
The personal injury lawsuit process can take a very long time from start to finish. You should carefully consider settlement options with your attorney before going to trial. But in a case with serious injuries and/or damages, or a defendant who will not make a reasonable settlement offer, trial may be the only option.