Personal injury claims can range from minor to very complex. The amount of time it takes to settle a personal injury claim depends on many factors, including: the extent of your injuries; how long medical treatment is expected to last; choosing a lawyer; investigation of claims and medical records; negotiating with other attorneys; filing a lawsuit; discovery process; negotiation and mediation; and finally a trial (if necessary). Every case is different and it’s difficult to predict how long it will take to settle the case to go to court. But, it’s important to be aware of the process so that you can understand what is happening and why it is taking so long.
It’s important that before you do anything else, you seek out medical treatment for your injuries. You want to make sure that you get treatment so that you can get better. Also, it is important that you obtain medical treatment to prove that there was an injury and that it is documented by a medical professional. Sometimes, people who don’t have medical insurance decide to tough-it-out and wait to see how bad they are hurt before seeing a doctor. That is a mistake that can cause further medical and legal problems later on. The longer it takes for you to heal and for your doctor(s) to figure out how long your healing will last, the more time your injury claim will last.
Choosing a Lawyer
When you have been hurt in an accident it’s important to find a lawyer who specializes in personal injury. It is also important to find a personal injury lawyer in your area. Finding excellent lawyers in Los Angeles, CA for example can seem like a tough battle as there are so many. It is important to look through the reviews of each lawyer you are considering to see what others had to say. A good resource is Yelp!
If you are involved in a specific type of injury, such as an auto accident, you want to make sure the lawyer you choose is a skilled auto accident liability lawyer. You want to make sure that you hire a lawyer with experience, one who knows how insurance companies operate. You also want a lawyer who has trial and negotiation experience, an in-depth understanding of not only medical diagnoses and processes related to personal injuries but also a solid background in tort and negligence law. You can find all this through looking at their Yelp Page, Website, and also asking questions when you call.
Claims and Medical Records Investigation
Your lawyer will need to know as many details as possible about the accident, if there were any witnesses, your background, your medical history, how you were injured and how it has affected you, and the medical treatment you received after the accident. The lawyer will then contact your doctors, and anyone else who can provide information related to your injuries. Doing all of that takes time because if you had injuries that require frequent doctors’ visits your lawyer needs to get updates on your condition. It also takes a while to investigate the accident and obtain witness testimony.
Demand and Negotiation
When lawyers believe that a case can be settled they will create a demand letter and send it to the other attorney(s) or insurance company(s) involved. The demand letter is sent with the demand packet of pertinent items such as: police reports; photographs; accident scene information; witness statements; medical documents; loss of earnings; billing items; and all other pertinent items that help to prove the case. The demand letter can state: how the accident happened; why the other party is at fault; their client’s pain and suffering; the amount for which you are willing to settle the case; the settlement demand reference number; and a specific period of time (i.e. 3 weeks) for the adjustor to respond to the specific demand.
An experienced lawyer won’t make a demand letter until his client has reached a point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI describes the point when an injured person has done the vast majority of healing and has little medical improvement remaining. An experienced lawyer waits for MMI so that he/she can better estimate the value of the injuries and resulting claim made in the demand letter. Depending on the depth and degree of injuries sustained, reaching the point of MMI can take many months or years.
Filing of Lawsuit
If an agreement can’t be reached, your lawyer will file a lawsuit which starts the clock moving toward a court date. It can take from 1 to 2 years before your case goes to court, and it depends upon how busy the courts are.
The discovery process is a pre-trial procedure where the lawyers from both sides of a lawsuit gather and investigate the claims of the other. They make requests for admissions depositions, interview witnesses, issue subpoenas, etc. This process can take anywhere from 6 months to a year or more, based on how complex a case is and how busy the court is.
Negotiation and Mediation
After discovery, lawyers can get together to discuss settling the case. If they are unable to agree on a settlement, they can ask for mediation. A mediator is a neutral third party who helps to resolve a dispute between two or more individuals. The mediator only offers professional advice and whose opinion is non-binding.
Going to Trial
When mediation fails, the case will be taken to court where a judge or jury decides, based on the preponderance of evidence, whether the defendant is responsible for the injuries suffered by the plaintiff. A trial can last days or even weeks before a verdict is made.
As you can see, the length of time it takes to receive a settlement check from an accident injury claim depends upon many things. For simple injuries, it may only take weeks or months, but for more serious injuries it often takes years to reach a settlement. For instance, if you are involved in an auto accident, make sure to hire an auto accident lawyer. If you live in a particular state such as California, search out a personal injury lawyer in California. The important thing is that you hire a lawyer who is well-versed in personal injury litigation in your state so that you won’t have to worry about anything except taking care of yourself.