It is quite common for people who file personal injury claims to become restless and eager to see their case progress. However what a lot of people do not understand is that it is not as easy as 1-2-3. In fact, there are many steps involved and it can take months before your case actually takes off and many more before anything can be settled. What people tend to be unaware of is the idea of how long it actually takes for insurance companies to make an offer or how long it takes for lawyers to actually gather all the necessary data. The first thing to know is what to expect from not only your lawyer but from the insurance companies, defendant and other third parties that may be involved. The most frequently asked question is how long it takes to get a case to trial. On average it can take anywhere between 1 year to 18 months. So here is a rundown of what a typical litigation process looks like when filing a personal injury claim.
Pre-Litigation stage: (1-6 months)
Screening and Investigatory phase:
First and foremost what your attorney will do upon receiving your case is notify the insurance that the client has legal representation and for all further communication to be between the insurance company and lawyer. Next, your attorney will assist in vehicle repairs and obtain information about the facts conducting a thorough investigation. Depending on the situation it can take anywhere between 1-6 months as lawyers gather physical evidence, interview witnesses, obtain photos and hire experts. Also, all medical records are gathered from the hospital, clinic, physical therapist, chiropractor, surgeons, and orthopedics. After which a lawyer can make a final decision as to whether or not the case is worth pursuing.
Settlement Negotiation phase:
If everything goes accordingly and the case is accepted, the negotiation process begins. This can take anywhere between a week to several months. Most of the time lawyers will engage in settlements between responsible parties, insurance companies and any others that may be involved to determine if a reasonable settlement can be reached. Once all medical records are obtained the insurance adjuster will then review the records and relay an offer suggesting a settlement amount. A demand is sent out explaining the facts of the case, who’s to blame, and why. If an impasse is reached, that is no one was able to come to an agreement, or a settlement is unfair lawyers will suggest filing a lawsuit.
Litigation stage: (1-18 months)
“Litigation” is defined as the process of taking legal action.
If no agreement can be reached then your lawyer will move quickly and aggressively to begin litigation. A complaint is sent out to each defendant in which the plaintiff waits for an answer. An answer is where each defendant served answers back to each allegation contained in the complaint. If served within the state, they are given 20 days to respond, if out of state they are given 60 days to reply. So as you can see, even the first few steps can take longer than expected.
This stage is where parties obtain information, testimony, documents, and other evidence from each other or anyone who may have information on the case, after which depositions are scheduled. Depositions are meetings in which the opposing attorneys begin to ask questions under oath. Mediations are usually held after in an attempt to settle a case before going to trial. If mediation is unsuccessful then the case will go to trial and the outcome will be determined by a jury.
Also keep in mind that the defendant can file for a motion, after the discovery is complete, in an effort to convince the court to dismiss some if not all accusations. Once filed, the opposing party will usually have between 6-14 days to respond. If there are no motions involved and no agreement was made, then your case will move to trial.
Remember that no two cases are the same and that generalizations may create expectation problems. Hopefully with the above-mentioned steps perhaps clients will become more aware of the litigation process and be a bit more understanding towards it. The lawyers here at Herrman and Herrman, P.L.L.C., are with you every step of the way, so even if your case does take over a year you can be confident your attorney will be working diligently to get not only your case taken care of, but yourself as well.