A common question you might have when seeking compensation for your injuries through a personal injury claim is how long you will be required to wait until receiving compensation. The simple answer is that the legal system takes time and the length of time cases take from start to finish depends on the facts and circumstances of each individual case.
In a personal injury case in Maryland, typically, the first step is to wait for the injured party to reach maximum medical improvement. This is defined as "[t]he point at which an injured person's condition stabilizes, and no further recovery or improvement is expected, even with additional medical intervention." Black's Law Dictionary 1068 (9th ed. 2009). One of the reasons that compensation is not discussed right after the injuring incident is because it can be difficult to measure the extent of an injury right after an accident has occurred. Waiting until the plaintiff has fully recovered, or recovered as much as is possible, from his or her injuries allows for a more accurate measure of damages.
Once a plaintiff is fully recovered, the next phase of the process that the case enters into is often negotiations. This is where your attorney and the insurance company for the at-fault party will attempt to reach a settlement agreement. The first step of the negotiation phase is typically for the plaintiff to send a demand letter to the defendant. A demand letter is a letter in “which one party explains its legal position in a dispute and requests that the recipient take some action (such as paying money owed), or else risk being sued.” Black's Law Dictionary 495 (9th Ed. 2009). Depending on how the defendant responds, the case may settle at this point or move forward.
In Maryland, if the parties are unable to come to an amicable agreement then the next step is for the plaintiff to file a lawsuit in the proper court. However, often, the court systems in most states are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cases being filed and because of limited resources are unable to efficiently move cases through the system. It is for this reason that it is not uncommon for a case to take years to go to trial.
Because of this trial backlog, there is a public policy in favor of settlement. In fact, settlement is incredibly common. About 95% of cases filed settle prior to going to trial.
What does this mean for you?
This means that it is more likely than not that your case will settle prior to reaching trial. There are several advantages to having an out of court settlement in Maryland. First, you are in control of the process. You don't have to rely on a jury's findings or what evidence is admissible in court or any of the other unpredictable things that can happen at trial. Second, you are not waiting years to finally have your day in court and are able to move on with your life sooner than if you had waited to try your case in front of a judge or jury. Settlement means that you won't have to deal with appeals after a jury verdict. Appeals will take additional time to wind through the court system and further delay your recovery.
Thus, there is no definite time frame for a case to reach completion.
Our goal at Gilman & Bedigian is to help our clients recover for their injuries and move on with their lives. We handle cases at all stages of the claims process from initial settlement negotiations with the insurance company all the way through trial. In fact, we won't hesitate to take your case to trial if we believe that is the best course of action. We strive to make our clients whole again and that means fighting for your rights at every stage of the long and complicated legal process. Please contact us today to discuss your case or any questions you may have about the claims process.