How Long Does It Usually Take to Settle a Personal Injury Claim?
You or a loved one is injured. Medical bills and other expenses mount quickly, and you would like to be made whole again. When you start to think about filing a personal injury claim, you may ask yourself how long this process will take before your claim gets settled.
The reality is that the length of time it takes to settle a personal injury claim depends on a wide variety of factors that are unique to each case. About 95% of personal injury cases settle. It may take a few weeks or even a few years to settle a claim. Various stages of the process take different amounts of time.
Phases of a Personal Injury Claim
A personal injury claim starts with an injury. After you have been injured, there are various phases that the claim goes through prior to settlement. The time that each of these phases takes will depend on a variety of factors.
Hire an Attorney
The first step in most personal injury claims is hiring an attorney. Some people are reticent to hire an attorney because they think it will be costly. However, settling a personal injury claim often involves complicated legal issues best suited to someone with education and experience, especially if serious injury or damages occurred.
Most attorneys offer free consultations, but you may have to wait a few weeks to meet with an attorney, especially if you are severely injured. Ask around for recommendations, and don’t be afraid to meet with more than one attorney.
Initiate the Case
Meeting with an attorney does not initiate a lawsuit or amount to filing a claim. In order to actually file a lawsuit, your attorney will have to file a complaint, pay a filing fee and serve the defendant with a copy of the complaint and summons. These documents set forth your claim and identify the parties who may be at fault.
There are time limitations called statutes of limitation that dictate the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. These vary by state and can be anywhere from 1-3 years. Your attorney may take a while to draft the complaint depending on the complexity of your case, the extent of your injuries and the difficulty it takes to identify the defendant(s).
Proceed with Discovery
During discovery, parties exchange information about the facts that gave rise to the lawsuit. What type of information is exchanged? Things like medical records, police reports, camera footage and photographs.
Sometimes depositions will take place in a lawsuit. A deposition is sworn testimony taken in front of a court reporter where both parties have the option to question a witness.
Lawyers involved in a case get the chance to file motions prior to trial. Motions are filed before trial to get the trial court to rule on particular issues, like the venue or to compel the production of documents.
Motions can usually be filed at any time after a lawsuit is filed.
Attempt to Negotiate a Settlement
The overwhelming majority of personal injury cases settle prior to trial. Settlement negotiations often begin as soon as a complaint is filed. Your attorney will likely have ongoing discussions with you about potential settlement offers. In fact, your attorney will be required to get your approval before agreeing to a formal offer.
Settlement of a case often takes time with a lot of back and forth negotiation. Try not to worry if this seems to drag on for a while. It may take weeks or even years, depending on the severity of the injuries and the amount of compensation being sought.
Begin the Trial
When negotiation and mediation fail, your personal injury case may go to trial. At a formal trial, a jury or a judge hears evidence and decides who is responsible for your injuries.
Trials can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on the complexity of the case and the issues. However, it can take up to years for a case to proceed from the filing of the complaint to trial.
Receive a Verdict
After the evidence is presented during a trial, the judge or jury determines who is responsible for your injuries. Once that determination is made, either the judge or jury decides how much money you should receive. This is called the verdict.
Wait for an Appeal
After trial, each party usually has a right to appeal the verdict. This process can take several years. If the party appealing wins, there could be a new trial, or the parties may agree to settle the case. There are time limits on how soon an appeal must be filed.
After the verdict, if there is no appeal, the successful plaintiff can collect the judgment on the case. This may come as one lump payment or a series of payments, and your attorney will have you sign a settlement agreement.
There are many types of personal injury cases. While auto injuries make up a large portion of personal injury cases, with approximately 20-50 million people suffering non-fatal injuries per year, work injuries and other injuries are also considered personal injury cases. Many of these injuries result in personal injury claims that eventually settle.
While the process may take years, if you or someone you love has been injured, we understand that it can be frustrating to wait to receive compensation. With an attorney on your side and patience, your case will hopefully settle for a satisfactory amount of money. If you are ready to meet with an attorney to discuss your specific case, call McManus Law at 770-645-8801