One of the biggest questions you may have as you decide whether it’s worthwhile to pursue a personal injury claim is simply: how long will it take?
This question also comes up when it seems like everything is moving at a snail’s pace and the bills keep coming in for medical expenses, etc.
There are many factors that can come into play depending on the specific facts and nuances of your case. We’ve done our best to distill everything down into this chart that lets you see at a glance all the factors that might affect how long your case could take.
In case you have trouble viewing the image, here’s the gist:
There is no typical personal injury case. Every fact pattern, issue, party, and injury differs, even if slightly. It will be impossible to predict how long your case might take until you receive a settlement or award of damages.
That said, most accident and injury claims seem to be settled within one to two years. Here’s a look at the major steps and generalizations on timing. As always, talk to an attorney for insights on your own case. Many personal injury law firms offer brief, free consultations.
Step 1: Engage an attorney
When: Right away
If you are out of work for more than a couple of days, if you break a bone, or if your medical bills total more than a couple of thousand dollars, you might want to hire a lawyer.
Step 2: Starting the case
Step 3: Discovery process
How long: 6 months – 1 year. Maybe longer.
Step 4: Court motions
Step 5: Attempt settlement
Step 6: Go to trial
Step 7: Verdict
How long: 1-2 years from filing suit
Step 8: Appeal
Step 9: Collection
Complexity of case
Simple: Slip & fall
Complex: Medical malpractice
Amount of damages
Severity of injuries
Waiting for Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) or firm prognosis
Mild: Sprained ankle
Severe: brain damage or death
Case load in your jurisdiction
Once you file a lawsuit, you are at the mercy of the courts regarding court dates, which may also change right up to the last moment.
Your willingness to wait for a greater result
Settle quickly = less money
Patience = more money
Defendant’s willingness to settle
How willing the other party is to settle quickly? (How much do they want to avoid a lawsuit?)
*Information has been greatly simplified and timing is approximate. For example, holding out for a trial does not guarantee a larger award. Timing and process for your case will depend on your case details and the parties and court involved. Please talk to your attorney for options in your specific situation.
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