After suffering an injury accident, the injury victim may be faced with immediate financial stress. The injury victim may have medical bills piling up, while facing more medical expenses in the future. The injury victim may not be able to work after an injury, leaving their family without a paycheck. How long will it take before the victim can get money after an injury accident?
A personal injury lawsuit can take longer than you’d expect. However, before you stress about not being able to pay the bills, talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to explain the personal injury claim process, timelines, and give you options for what you can do in the meantime to make sure you are getting the care and support you need.
At Gilman & Bedigian, our attorneys have handled most types of personal injury cases with a proven track record. Our personal injury experience includes:
- Medical malpractice
- Motor vehicle accident
- Truck accidents
- Dog bite injuries
- Nursing home abuse
- Construction site accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Wrongful death
- Defective products
Contact our personal injury law firm today online or by phone at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.
Personal Injury Lawsuit Process
To understand how long a personal injury lawsuit may take, it is helpful to have an overview of the personal injury lawsuit process. A personal injury claim is a civil law process, where the injury victim is seeking financial compensation for their losses. Some personal injury claims can be settled in a matter of weeks but complex injury cases may take years. The claim process may include:
- Demand letter and negotiations
- Filing a complaint
- Settlement hearings or mediation
- Pretrial motions
It is important to understand that the majority of personal injury cases are settled before trial. The injury victim may settle with the defendants or the insurance companies before ever showing up in court, sometime during discovery, or even right before trial.
Talk to a Lawyer Before Signing a Settlement
Many of the common mistakes injury victims make is settling the case before they talk to a lawyer. The insurance companies may try and get a quick settlement to pay out as little as they can. The insurance providers know that people may be desperate after an injury, and need money to pay their bills. Even if the injury victim knows their claim is worth more, they may accept a lower payment to get what they can. Before signing a settlement agreement with the insurance company, make sure you understand what you are giving up.
If the insurance company sends you a check, cashing that check may mean that you are giving up your rights to sue. Even if the money seems like it is enough to pay for your losses, injury accidents can be deceptive. A minor injury may turn into a chronic condition, which could require lifetime care or lead to a permanent disability. If you accept a settlement, you cannot go back later and say the injury was more serious than you expected and you need more money. By then, you may have already signed away your rights.
Your personal injury attorney can help you understand the full extent of your injuries, and make sure you are getting the full compensation you deserve. With a free initial consultation, you have nothing to lose by talking to a lawyer before you accept the insurance company’s offer.
The initial consultation is your first opportunity to talk to a qualified attorney about your case. The initial consultation could take place over the phone, or even through a video chat. The legal team will ask some initial questions about what happened, your injuries, where the accident occurred, if there were witnesses, or other relevant questions.
It is important for you to make sure the law firm is the right one to represent you. We have some recommendations for what you should look for in a personal injury attorney, including:
- Personal injury experience
- Resources to take your case to trial
- Clear communication with lawyers and staff
- Understanding of insurance company practices
- Explanation of the timeline for your case
- Concern for your health and well-being
- Around the clock availability
- Explanation of fees
- Reputation in the legal community
- Free consultation
If you and the lawyer agree to move forward, the lawyer will usually ask you to sign a client agreement that has information about the contingency fee agreement. A contingency fee means that you will not have to pay anything unless you win your case. The fee is taken as a percentage of your award. This allows an injury victim to pursue their legal rights without worrying about paying the costs of a lawsuit until after they win or settle the case.
Investigation and Medical Review
The initial investigation will gather evidence relevant to your claim, including talking to any witnesses and getting photo and video evidence. The investigation will also identify the potential defendants, or those who may be liable for your injuries. Defendants may include those who caused the injury, negligently contributed to the accident, or who may be vicariously liable for the negligence of another.
A doctor may conduct an examination and identify your injuries, the cause of the injuries, and the extent of injuries. Generally, the injury victim will reach the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI), where the injury is stabilized and no further recovery is expected.
Your personal injury lawyer may have a medical expert review the medical examination report and your medical records, to provide an expert assessment of your injuries, disability level, and future medical care that may be required. This can provide a general idea of your total damages.
Demand Letter and Negotiations
The first step in interacting with the defendants responsible for your injuries involves sending a demand letter. A demand letter sets out the general basis for the dispute and makes a request for damages or else the injury victim will file a lawsuit. The defendant or defendant’s lawyer may respond with introductory negotiations. In some cases, the demand letter is enough to reach a mutually agreeable settlement.
Filing a Civil Complaint
The complaint is the beginning of the legal claim. The plaintiff files a complaint with the civil court which states the basis for the claim and a demand for relief. A complaint is not the full case but an overview of what happened, the parties involved, and the damages requested. The complaint is generally amended later on. The complaint is served upon the defendants.
The defendants respond with an “answer.” The answer does not usually have a lot of substance, other than to deny the allegations or state that they need more information. The answer may raise counterclaims and defenses. The answer may also be amended later. The answer is also served on the plaintiffs.
Discovery is the process of exchanging information. Each side requests any documentation or statements from the other parties. Discovery includes requests for document production or other evidence, interrogatories, and depositions. Discovery can take a long time if there is a lot of evidence or there are multiple parties involved. If the defendant is suspected of holding back some information, the plaintiff can file a motion to compel disclosure by the defendant.
Settlement Hearings and Mediation
When talking about settlements, it is important to know that you are in control. The client has the ultimate authority to decide whether or not to settle the case. Your lawyer can recommend settlement or taking the case to trial but the decision is up to you. Your lawyer can’t settle the case without your consent.
Negotiations may take place throughout the discovery process. Towards the end of discovery, each side may have a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of their case. At this point, the parties may be more likely to settle. There are some primary benefits to settlement instead of going to trial, including:
- Saving time
- Saving money
- Guaranteed outcome
Even if you think you have a very good case, juries can be unpredictable. It can be devastating to turn down a significant settlement offer only to end up losing the case at trial. It is important to communicate with your lawyer throughout the process to understand the benefits of settling the case, saving yourself time and money, and avoiding the stress of an unpredictable trial.
Before a case goes to trial, the judge may recommend or require the parties to go through settlement hearings or mediation. These are alternative dispute resolutions that may help bring the parties to a middle ground, to avoid the time and expense of going to trial. The judge acting to negotiate can help nudge the parties to a settlement. If a settlement is still not reached, the case will go to trial.
Before the trial begins, the parties may file motions with the judge, usually regarding evidence or expert witness testimony. The defendant may want to introduce evidence of other injuries or irrelevant information that could put the plaintiff in a bad light. Your lawyer will generally challenge these motions, to keep irrelevant evidence and prejudicial statements out of court. If you have questions about pretrial motions, talk to your personal injury attorney.
Plaintiffs generally prefer a jury trial instead of a bench trial. A jury trial presents the case to people from the community. The lawyers and judge go through the pool of jurors to select the group that will hear the case. Each side presents their case to the jury and each side has a chance to respond. The trial may introduce evidence, witness testimony, and expert testimony. After each side presents their closing statements, the jury deliberates to decide whether the defendants are liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. The jury may also determine how much fault each party has and the amount of damages that should be awarded. A jury trial in a personal injury claim may take anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks.
Judgment and Payment
After the jury makes a determination, the judge will enter a judgment in a money amount for the defendants. Your personal injury lawyer may have to enforce the judgment to collect payment. After collecting the payment, your lawyer can finally distribute the award and your personal injury claim will finally be over.
Even after a trial is over, the parties could file an appeal. An appeal is more often filed by the party that loses the case but even the party that won the case could file an appeal if they thought there was a problem with the amount of the award. Appeals can generally only be filed for limited reasons. Talk to your lawyer about the appeals process and whether an appeal may be the right course of action in your case.
Factors that Impact the Length of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Certain types of legal claims may be more complex and extend the personal injury process. Generally, the more serious the injury, more injury victims, and more parties involved will make a case take longer. When there are multiple defendants, each defendant is generally represented by a different lawyer. Each defendant will generally file their own answer to the initial complaint and may include counter-claims, cross-claims, or introduce new parties.
When scheduling a court hearing or deposition, the judge will have to find a time that works for everyone, including aligning with the court’s schedule. Even after scheduling a hearing, one of the parties may have a conflict and have to reschedule the case. Rescheduling is very common in the civil court system and it can be frustrating for injury victims who want their case to come to a conclusion.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help?
At Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, we are a personal injury law firm with experience handling complex accident claims. A free consultation with our experienced personal injury lawyers can help you understand your rights and what steps you can take to recover damages to help your family through this difficult time. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.