Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline

      “How long is this going to take,” is inevitably one of the first questions an injured person will ask an attorney who takes the case.  The amount of time a case will take to resolve-either in settlement discussions or at the courthouse-depends on many factors. 

      Here are a few of the biggest factors that affect the time it takes to bring a personal injury case to resolution. 

Determining Responsibility

      The first step in getting a case resolved is to get the opposing party to accept all or a portion of its responsibility for the injuries suffered by the other party.  Sometimes, insurance companies agree that their insured is responsible for the harm.  This greatly decreases the need for litigation and allows the case to move toward an assessment of damages. 

      However, if liability is disputed, a case may be significantly slowed by necessary written discovery, deposition testimony, and motions for the court to rule on before any settlement discussions take place. 

Compensation for Injury

      In any situation where a person suffers an injury, it is important to know the full extent of a person’s injuries, the need for treatment, and the timeline for recovery.  These things can differ greatly depending upon the circumstances of harm and the severity of the injury. 

      Until the full extent of medical care in the future can be determined in addition to a loss of wages, loss of an ability to work, and even a full body impairment rating can be established, it is unwise to settle with a responsible party. 

      Generally, the longer the necessary treatment and the longer the recovery, the longer the lawsuit.  In cases where little or no insurance money is there to compensate the person, however, the opposing party may offer its policy limits quickly. 

Trial Setting

      Generally, courts will set a case for trial 10-12 months into the future.  Normally, a first trial setting will be pushed back a few months due to discovery issues, scheduling conflicts, or other cases in front of it on the court’s docket. 

      A trial setting will usually be reached within 18 months of filing of the suit.  In busier venues or in venues with limited resources, this time frame may be longer. 

Discovery Period

      In cases involving a simple accident between two people discovery will generally run smoothly and efficiently.  However, many issues can arise that will need the court’s intervention to resolve in complex cases involving:

  • Many parties
  • Complicated claims
  • Large corporate entities

      Because of this, the court will enter orders concerning certain aspects of the discovery process and may need to revisit its rulings as discovery unfolds.  This can delay trial in a case for many months, even years. 

Summary

      In summary, there are many factors that will determine how long it takes in order for a case to be resolved.  As a party to the suit, being responsive to attorney calls, requests, and appointments will give a client the best chance to resolve a matter as quickly as possible.