The amount of time that it takes to fully resolve a personal injury lawsuit will be unique to the dynamics of each case. Some cases are resolved in a few months while others can take much longer. If the case goes to court it might take years to resolve.
There are several stages to personal injury lawsuits that constitute the framework of a timeline. The first stage is the recovery period. This begins at the time that the person is injured and extends until his physician declares that his condition can no longer improve under the care of medical professionals in a medical setting. This point is known as full recovery or maximum medical improvement. When a patient reaches the full recovery point, the health problems that he experiences from then onwards are considered to be permanent in nature.
Documentation and Submission
The second stage is the the submission of information to the injured party’s insurance company. The attorney that he appoints will collect all pertinent medical information, especially billing, and documentation of time missed at work. This data provides evidence of how much money the injury has cost the defendant up until that point in time. The attorney will determine the total value of the claim based on this evidence and submit the information to the insurer. The submission process typically ranges from one to two months in length.
The next part of the timeline is the negotiation period. Once the insurance company receives the package of information detailing the costs associated with the injury, an adjuster is assigned to perform a thorough review. If 30 days have passed since the submission of this information and the adjuster has not reached out to the injured party’s attorney, the attorney will contact the adjuster. Typically, the adjuster makes the first offer to settle the claim in order to avoid going to court. Oftentimes, this initial offer is not substantial enough for acceptance and the injured party’s attorney makes a counter offer. These negotiations can take only a few days or they can last up to a couple months.
If the defendant admits liability, settlement negotiations will occur in a timely manner. However, the average amount of time for these negotiations will differ based on the context of the injury.
If the insurer believes that there is no legal basis for a lawsuit then settlement negotiations might not even be considered. The insurer will wait for a judge to determine if the injured party has the legal footing for a suit.
If the injured party is intent on being fairly compensated for his pain and suffering, negotiations will drag on until one party gives in or until the case goes to court and a verdict is reached. When it is difficult to prove the defendant’s liability, “…the insurer is not likely to make a reasonable settlement offer until the plaintiff’s lawyer has put the case in suit and hired liability experts to show that the defendant was at fault.” In this situation, the insurer might offer a small sum to see if the injured party will bite. The burden of proof is always on the plaintiff. If he can produce a doctor that is willing to state that the defendant’s negligence resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries then legitimate and meaningful negotiations are likely to take place. So if the injured party’s attorney can prove that the defendant is liable for the injury then the case will likely be settled in a timely manner without going to court.
If no agreement can be made, the next stage is litigation. Yet the majority of cases that are scheduled to go to trial never actually make it due to the high costs of litigation. In the worst case scenario, personal injury cases can go to court and drag on for years, though most are settled outside of court. Typically, “big money” cases will take much longer to settle than ones involving lesser sums. The quickest way to end a personal injury case is for the injured party to accept a low ball offer.