The purpose of a personal injury case is to compensate the injured party (plaintiff) for the damages they have endured due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of another party. Personal injury attorneys in the state of the incident typically handle personal injury cases. While the injured party may wish to get settlement monies as soon as possible, it is in their interest to work with a lawyer who won’t rush the personal injury case timeline.
How Long Do Personal Injury Cases Take to Resolve?
Negotiating a settlement can take as little as six months, but complex cases and unwilling parties can stretch it to several years. A case that moves to trial may take two to three years to reach a conclusion.
Personal Injury Case Timeline
The process of a personal injury claim typically involves several stages, starting with the initial consultation and potentially concluding with a settlement or trial. Here are the common stages:
- Free consultation
The process often begins with a free consultation between the injured party (plaintiff) and a personal injury attorney. During this meeting, the attorney assesses the details of the case, including the circumstances of the injury, potential liability, and the damages suffered.
- Retaining an attorney
If both parties agree to move forward, the injured party may decide to retain the services of the personal injury attorney. At this point, the attorney formally becomes the legal representative for the plaintiff.
The attorney conducts a thorough investigation into the incident, which could take a few months. This may involve gathering evidence, obtaining medical records, interviewing witnesses, and assessing the extent of damages.
- Demand Letter
Once the attorney has a clear understanding of the case, they may send a demand letter to the at-fault party or their insurance company. The demand letter outlines the legal basis for the claim, the extent of the injuries, and a request for compensation.
The parties engage in negotiations to reach a fair settlement. This can involve back-and-forth communication between attorneys, insurance adjusters, and possibly mediation sessions. This can take several months or even years. The goal is to resolve the claim without the need for a trial.
- Filing a lawsuit
If negotiations are unsuccessful or if the statute of limitations is approaching, the attorney may file a lawsuit on behalf of the injured party. This initiates the formal legal process.
Both parties engage in the discovery process, which typically lasts six to 12 months, during which they exchange information and evidence related to the case. This may include interrogatories, document requests, and depositions.
- Pre-trial motions
Attorneys may file motions to address legal issues or seek the dismissal of certain claims. These motions are usually resolved before the case goes to trial.
- Settlement discussions (continued)
Throughout the pre-trial process, settlement discussions may continue. The majority of personal injury cases are resolved through settlements before reaching trial.
If a settlement cannot be reached, the case goes to trial. Both parties present their evidence, witnesses, and legal arguments. A judge or jury determines the outcome, including the amount of compensation awarded if the plaintiff prevails. A typical personal injury trial can take anywhere from two or three days to a week or more.
- Appeals (if necessary)
Either party may have the right to appeal the trial court’s decision if they believe there were legal errors. The appellate process involves reviewing the trial court’s proceedings for any mistakes in the application of the law.
- Enforcement of judgment/settlement
If the plaintiff is awarded compensation, the final step involves enforcing the judgment or settlement to ensure the responsible party fulfills their financial obligations. It can take a few months after the end of your trial to receive payment.
All personal injury claims go through every stage listed above. A large number of cases reach resolution through settlement, bypassing the trial stage. The specific timeline and details can vary based on the complexity of the case and the willingness of the parties to reach an agreement.
Why Does It Take So Long to Resolve a Personal Injury Case?
There are several factors that can prolong a personal injury case. A thorough initial investigation inherently requires time. Other factors include an extended negotiation phase and a legal system’s backlog and court scheduling issues.
Complex cases may involve multiple parties, experts, or legal complexities, adding further layers to the process. Cases that cannot be resolved through negotiation must go to trial and this adds significant time, as court dockets often have extensive waiting periods. Appeals, if pursued, can also extend the resolution timeline.
Contact a personal injury lawyer today!
An accident lawyer can help you recover a full and fair settlement for the injuries you sustained in an accident caused by the negligence of another with no up-front costs to you. We know the sneaky strategies used by insurance companies to get injured people to agree to settlements far below what they are worth. Moreover, our clients typically end up with a settlement or jury award that is five to ten times larger than they could have negotiated on their own. We have been representing injured people injured in Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. Contact the experienced and hard-working personal injury lawyers at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Mount Vernon, WA today for a FREE consultation!