How Long Will My Personal Injury Case Take? Our Personal Injury Lawyers Explain the Many Factors.
How long a personal injury case takes from the time of the accident until the time of the settlement or verdict depends on many factors including:
- The type of case
- The injuries and extent of treatment
- The type of insurance coverage
- The number of defendants
- Whether a pre-suit settlement can be reached
- Whether a case proceeds to trial
- Whether the case is a wrongful death or involves an injury to a minor
Type of Case
Some cases take longer than others to bring to a conclusion. For instance, cases against a doctor or a hospital require early review from experts which can slow the process at the very start. Cases that have complex questions as to how the accident occurred, multiple witnesses or parties with different points of view about who is at fault can also impact the progress and length of a case. On the other hand, more straight forward cases such as a rear-end automobile accident case, or cases where fault or negligence is clear generally move forward more quickly.
Injuries and Treatment
Many injuries require ongoing treatment, whether it’s physical therapy, pain injections, multiple surgeries or lengthy rehabilitation or recovery. In fact, often the long-term impacts of your injury are not clear right after your injury. Quick resolutions to these types of cases is ill-advised. Until you know the full extent of your injuries, and a lawyer can fully value the nature of your injuries, it’s better to move slowly.
In some cases there is limited insurance coverage and/or the defendant has limited assets. What that means is the maximum amount of money you can expect to receive is largely known and final. In those cases if the injuries are worth far more than can ever be recovered, an early settlement can and should be achieved.
For example, if you are involved in an automobile accident and suffer a fracture that requires surgery, and the defendant only has limited insurance coverage, the lawyer should work hard to try and achieve a settlement for the full value of the defendant’s insurance policy as quickly as possible. Again, this example presumes that the person who caused the accident does not have personal assets to obtain beyond the available insurance coverage.
Number of Defendants
If there are multiple defendants involved in a case, such as an automobile crash with multiple cars, or multiple contractors in an unsafe worksite injury case, each of the defendants will often blame each other and try and limit their own personal responsibility. In these types of cases, often multiple lawyers are involved in defending these cases and the process takes much longer.
In some instances cases can be settled with the insurance company directly before a formal lawsuit is filed. Often an early settlement can be reached if the injuries are clear, the client has recovered from the injuries, the lost earnings can be calculated, and it’s not anticipated that any future damages will occur. While this is likely the fastest type of case to end, it may still have many issues that need worked out before final settlement.
Time it Takes to Get to Trial
If a case proceeds to trial, it’s not unusual for even the most straight forward cases to take at least 2 years to get to the jury. The reasons for delay include the pretrial work that needs to be done, the exchange of discovery, depositions and expert disclosure. Often it takes many months for a court to schedule the trial because of court backlog. Notably, prior to a jury trial a case can still be settled at any time up to the jury rendering a verdict. In many cases, prior to taking a case to trial a mediation or arbitration will take place.
Wrongful Death and Injuries to Minors
In wrongful death cases before the action can proceed, a representative first needs to be appointed to represent the estate, and upon settlement of the case, a court must approve the settlement. Where injuries to a minor occurs, before the case can be settled, a court must approve the settlement. These additional court proceedings add additional time before your case will end.
As a general guide, you should expect your civil case to take a minimum of 6 months to 2 years to resolve. Talk to a lawyer to determine what factors could impact the resolution of your personal injury case. It’s important to that your lawyer listens to your needs and treats your unique situation with care and concern. Every case is different and has many factors that contribute to the length a case takes. If you have concerns about how long your case is taking you should reach out to your lawyer and request a status update. Your lawyer should be updating you and providing status updates throughout the case.