How long does it take to resolve a personal injury case?
How Long Does It Take to Resolve a Personal Injury Claim?
One of the most common questions that our clients ask is: how long it will take to settle my personal injury case? Unfortunately, no lawyer can answer that question for certain because every case is different and it can take time to reach the best outcome possible (if you encounter a lawyer who claims to be able to resolve your case in a fixed time period, that may be a red flag). And of course, if the insurance company refuses to offer an acceptable settlement, your case may go to trial which will extend the timeline a bit further.
To help you understand what to expect in a personal injury case, our experienced personal injury litigation team at Munley Law explain the timeline of a typical case and the factors that can impact your recovery.
Understanding the Stages of a Personal Injury Case
In order to understand how long a personal injury case will take to resolve, it is necessary to understand the various stages of litigation that follow a catastrophic accident. After obtaining emergency medical treatment for the injuries you suffered, gathering information and pictures from the scene of the accident, and, if necessary, filing a claim with your insurance company, you are ready to take the action required to file a lawsuit and win the money you deserve.
Stage 1: Choosing an Attorney
Typical Length of Time: Days
The first thing you will need to do in order to begin the legal process is to select the lawyer who will represent you. It is important to act quickly, but you also want to be sure to choose your lawyer carefully. Consider their track record of past settlements and verdicts, reviews from past clients, as well as their credentials, experience, and areas of expertise. At our office, the process always begins with a free, confidential consultation where you can meet with a lawyer and ask any questions you may have before moving forward.
Stage 2: Investigation of Claim and Medical Records
Typical Length of Time: Weeks to Months
After choosing an experienced legal team that you trust to represent you, your lawyers will investigate your claim. You will be asked to detail absolutely everything you know about the events leading up to your accident, how you were harmed, the extent of your injuries and medical treatment, and how your life has been and will continue to be impacted.
To help in this process, you should save all reports, including reports made by police officers, hospital staff, insurance companies, and witnesses. You should also save any medical bills, information regarding pay and hours that you receive from your employer, and other financial documents detailing any costs relating to your catastrophic accident. You should give all of this information to your legal team so that they can make copies and begin to build your case.
The amount of time this process takes will depend on your unique situation and type of case. There may be a delay at the precinct responsible for preparing your police accident report. Hospitals can take weeks or longer to release medical records which can be thousands of pages long. We always do our due diligence to make sure we carefully review all of your information to ensure you get everything you are owed.
Stage 3: Demand and Negotiations
Typical Length of Time: Weeks to Months
Many personal injury cases, especially those involving smaller claims, settle without ever filing a lawsuit. After reviewing all of the documents that you and your lawyer obtained, your lawyer will give a professional opinion about whether the opposing party is likely to be willing to settle and an estimate about what the party would likely settle for. Based on those projections, your lawyer may assert a “demand” for a settlement amount to the opposing party. Negotiations then commence and if both sides reach an agreement, the case will settle for the agreed upon amount and no lawsuit will need to be filed.
Good lawyers will keep you informed about the realistic prospects of settling your case and settlement discussions. Your lawyer may not wish to assert a demand until you have reached the point of “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). MMI is the point at which the injured party has finished all major medical treatment and has physically recovered as much as possible. This is important because until you have reached maximum improvement, there is no telling what your total medical costs will be and how much you will need to recover. Waiting until the MMI stage gives lawyers the most accurate information about how much each case is worth.
Step 4: Filing a Lawsuit
Typical Length of Time: Depends on Your Jurisdiction’s Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases
If the parties cannot agree on a pre-lawsuit settlement amount, your case will move to the “litigation” stage and your lawyer will file a lawsuit in court. This stage involves many technical and strategic decisions and therefore sheds light on the importance of selecting an experienced and knowledgeable legal team. Your lawyer will need to understand and comply with your jurisdiction’s statute of limitations, otherwise the court will reject your case because it was filed too late. Not every victim can file their case in every court. You need a legal team that understands the full range of options where your case can be filed and what the strategic advantages and disadvantages of each court are for your claim.
At Munley Law, our experienced litigators have won hundreds of cases in courts across Pennsylvania for over 60 years.
Step 5: Discovery
Typical Length of Time: Months, but Occasionally Years for Very Complex Cases
Discovery is the process by which both sides of a case obtain information from each other. This phase involves taking depositions and trading medical records, employment information, and expert reports and allows lawyers figure out what facts they will be likely to prove to a jury at trial and can adjust their strategic approach to the case regarding the possibility of settlement.
Lawyers are often required to sift through thousands and thousands of pages of discovery produced by the defendant in a medical malpractice case. A good attorney knows what they need, how to request it, how to spot it amongst all of the extra information, and how to use it to win a trial or obtain a larger settlement for the client.
Step 6: Settlement Negotiations, Round II
Typical Length of Time: Weeks to Months
Because the discovery phase provides lawyers on both sides with far more information about what a case is worth and what is likely to happen at trial, a second attempt to settle the case usually takes place towards the end of discovery. Over 95% of civil cases settle before going to trial, so it is very likely that these discussions will lead to a settlement.
Step 7: Pretrial Rulings
Typical Length of Time: Weeks to Months, Depending on the Judge and Jurisdiction
Cases that do not settle during the discovery phase must prepare to go to trial. The judge who will oversee the trial, or in the event of a bench trial the judge who will decide the case, will set the ground rules for the proceeding through pretrial rulings. These pretrial rulings dictate which witnesses and evidence each side may present, how that evidence and testimony may be presented, and other important determinations that can make or break a case.
Experienced trial attorneys know how to use the law and the facts of their client’s case to make sure that a jury will hear the evidence needed to win a case and make sure that unfair and manipulative evidence will not lead a jury in the wrong direction.
Step 8: Trial
Typical Length of Time: Days to Weeks, Depending on the Complexity of the Case
Cases sometimes settle the night before trial, but a jury or bench trial will take place for those that do not. An attorney representing you at trial must understand how to pick a jury who will understand your claim, the rules of evidence, how to direct and cross-examine witnesses, when and how to use expert witnesses, when to object to violations made by the defendant’s legal team, and how to compel the jury to rule in your favor and award the right amount of damages during opening and closing statements.
Step 9: Collecting a Judgment, Post-Trial Motions, and Appeals
Typical Length of Time: Months to Years
You may think that a case is over once a jury returns a verdict awarding you damages for your catastrophic injury, but it can be months or years before a personal injury plaintiff is paid. Parties are entitled to file certain post-trial motions and appeals of various decisions that occurred in the litigation leading up to the case or at trial. The process of collecting a judgment can also prove complex and contentious, so it is important to have a lawyer you can trust to do what is best for you and get you the compensation you need as soon as possible.
Were You Injured in an Accident?
If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto, workplace, medical malpractice, or other catastrophic accident, you may have a right to recover money for your costs, pain, and losses. The Personal Injury Team at Munley Law has spent decades fighting against culpable businesses and insurance companies in Pennsylvania and we want to help you get what you deserve.
Call us today or use our online contact form. We provide FREE consultations and we only collect a fee if we win for you!
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