Like many other legal questions, there is never a clear-cut answer to this question because there are many factors that impact the length of a case. The short answer of advice we can offer to you without knowing the particulars of your case is that if you want to receive the maximum amount of compensation possible for your personal injury lawsuit, then you should be prepared to wait years for it to settle. In many cases, a personal injury attorney can help you settle the claim much more quickly for full compensation (especially if liability is not in dispute and all your medical and financial losses are known), but expect that it will take much longer. That way, you will not be unpleasantly surprised by how long it takes. This article will explain why your claim might take longer than someone else’s.
First, keep in mind that your attorney will not want to move forward until you have reached your Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), wherein you have fully recovered or have recovered as much as the doctors anticipate you will be able to recover. Many times, it will take six months to one year to fully recover or to know if you will have any lingering physical ailments from the accident. This variable is the first and longest possible delay in your case. You are always welcome to take the fast lane and accept one of the first offers the insurance company provides, but know that if you require any more medical attention, the bills will be out of pocket. Further, that amount will many times be a small fraction of the full amount the insurance company might ultimately be prepared to pay.
The second reason for a delay is that the process for writing a demand to the opposing party’s insurance company requires your attorney to request every page of your medical records and bills related to the case, and then write an expertly researched letter known as a demand. Much of this lag time is out of your attorney’s office’s control and depends on how quickly the different providers and billing agencies respond to requests. Then, because a demand is sometimes comprised of hundreds of pages, it may take several weeks for the insurance company to read through it all and decide how they will respond.
Third, if both parties cannot agree on a settlement in the initial stages, the legal process of discovery will begin, wherein both parties of the lawsuit attempt to gain evidence from each other through medical records and bills, property damage, depositions, requests for certain documents, et cetera. As you might expect, this immense amount of information gathering will also take a bit of time. If liability for the accident is disputable, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove that the defendant is in fact at fault. This may require you to hire experts and provide even more information before the insurance company would make a reasonable settlement offer. Fourth, your settlement may be delayed if your case involves large amounts of money, known as damages. Before an insurance company will pay you a large sum, they want to do their research and make sure there is no way they can reduce the amount they owe you. These insurers may even drag their feet longer on these types of cases to see if you will grow impatient and accept a lower offer to get any amount of money faster.
Fifth and finally, if the case does go to trial, it may take the Court one to two years from the filing date to schedule a trial—depending on the busyness of the Court. Once in court, the trial may last anywhere from two days to a couple of weeks, depending on how complicated the case is. In addition to more time, taking a case to trial also requires more money, so you will want to try to settle your claim before this point. Always keep in mind that every case is completely unique and that you cannot compare your situation with another’s to know how long it will take or how much money you will be able to recover. We know that you want to receive as much compensation for your loss as possible—as fast as possible—so you can put this traumatic experience behind you. However, if you are willing to wait it out, you may be able to be fully compensated for all that you lost—and will lose—because of someone else’s negligence.