A common question we get from a new client is “How long will this process take?” Almost everyone wants to know the answer to this questions as very few people have experience to know and understand what to expect. Your lawyer should take the time to explain the specifics of your case and what to expect along the way. To start, a personal injury claim or lawsuit is a legal process through which an individual who has suffered harm or injury seeks compensation from the party responsible for the incident. While the pursuit of justice is essential, the timing of the process can be just as important. The duration of such a case can vary significantly based on several factors, and it is essential for anyone considering legal action to have a realistic understanding of the timeline. I hope to provide you with the key elements that influence the length of a personal injury lawsuit and provide insights into what to expect during each stage.
Pre-filing Investigation, Medical Treatment and Negotiations:
When a client first hires an attorney, there is typically an initial investigation phase. During this stage, the injured party, the attorney, and the insurance companies gather evidence, review medical records, interview witnesses, and evaluate the potential for a successful claim. Depending on the complexity of the case and the willingness of the parties involved to negotiate, this phase can last several weeks to several months. Sometimes specialized experts get involved early such as accident reconstructionist, trucking experts, or architects and/or engineers. With a serious injury case, you can expect this stage to last a year or more as ongoing medical treatment needs to be considered before any settlement.
Filing the Lawsuit:
Once the pre-filing investigation is complete, and negotiations, if any, have reached a stalemate, the plaintiff’s attorney files the lawsuit in court. This process involves drafting legal documents, formally initiating the lawsuit, and serving the defendant with a summons and complaint. The time it takes to file the lawsuit varies depending on court availability and the workload of attorneys but typically takes a few days to a few weeks.
The Discovery Phase:
The discovery phase can be the longest and most time-consuming part of a personal injury lawsuit. During this stage, both parties exchange relevant information, evidence, and documents related to the case. This often includes both the investigation and the medical records and medical bills. Depositions may be taken from witnesses and experts, and written interrogatories may be exchanged between the parties. The purpose of discovery is to gather all the necessary evidence to build a strong case. Depending on the complexity of the case and the amount of information involved, the discovery phase can last several months to a year or more.
Mediation and Settlement:
At any point during the lawsuit, the parties may opt for mediation or settlement negotiations to resolve the case without going to trial. Typically, a Mediation is done within 2-4 months of the scheduled trial date. Mediation involves a neutral third party who assists in reaching a compromise. Settlement negotiations can occur throughout the process, but they may intensify after the discovery phase when both sides have a clearer understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments.
If the case cannot be settled through negotiations, it will proceed to trial. The trial date may be scheduled well in advance, depending on the court’s docket. The duration of the trial itself can vary, ranging from a few days to several weeks, depending on the complexity of the case and the number of witnesses and evidence presented.
Post-Trial Motions and Appeals:
After the trial, either party may file post-trial motions, such as requests for a new trial or appeals if they believe there were legal errors during the trial. The process of post-trial motions and appeals can add several months to the overall duration of the lawsuit.
As you can see, the length of a personal injury lawsuit can vary significantly based on numerous factors, including the complexity of the case, the willingness to negotiate, court availability, and the necessity of post-trial motions and appeals. While some cases may be resolved within months, others can extend for years. It’s crucial for plaintiffs and their attorneys to be patient, thorough, and prepared for the entire legal process. An experienced personal injury attorney can guide the injured party through each stage of the lawsuit, ensuring that their rights are protected and their case is diligently pursued. If you have any additional questions about your a personal injury case, feel free to call us at Cook, Bradford & Levy, LLC for a free consultation.