How Long Will my Injury Claim Take?

Visual guide to the stages of a personal injury lawsuit

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.

How long does a personal injury claim take? Personal Injury Basics - Timing

How long will my injury claim take? A visual guide to the stages of a personal injury lawsuit & timing  Tweet this

In case you have trouble viewing the image, here’s the gist:

Reaching an injury settlement can take weeks or years.

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

  • Beginning the initial paperwork and process with your lawyer.
  • Letting the other party know you intend to file a claim.
  • The statute of limitations determines how long you have to file a claim. This time limit varies by state.

Step 3: Discovery process

How long: 6 months – 1 year. Maybe longer.

  • Digging up facts, gathering and producing documents (police reports, medical records, etc.), taking depositions and witness statements.
  • Investigating any disputes about the event.
  • May include accident reconstruction or other research.
  • Waiting for Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) or a firm prognosis from a medical expert.
  • Exchanging documents: submitting a demand letter after sufficient information has been gathered. The insurance carrier or other party will respond. And so on.

Step 4: Court motions

  • The case may be dismissed or have a judgment entered due to factors such as jurisdiction, venue, improper process, default, etc.
  • This can happen even before the discovery process.

Step 5: Attempt settlement

  • Settlement by negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. Most cases will be settled.
  • If settlement is not reached, a lawsuit may be filed.
  • Depending on where your case stands in the statute of limitations, the lawsuit may be filed sooner.

Step 6: Go to trial

  • Settlement might also occur during the trial process.
  • Motions and other arguments will occur, separately from the jury hearing the case.

Step 7: Verdict

How long: 1-2 years from filing suit

  • If the plaintiff wins, the defendant owes him or her the amount determined by the jury.
  • The defense may appeal, which could force settlement for a lower dollar amount than the jury set.

Step 8: Appeal

  • If the appeal is successful, there may be a new trial or a settlement.

Step 9: Collection

  • If the plaintiff is successful, collection of the judgment begins (or efforts to collect).
  • The judgment may be a lump sum or it may be broken up into payments.

Timing depends on several factors

Complexity of case

Simple: Slip & fall

Complex: Medical malpractice

Amount of damages

Quicker: $1,000

Slower: $1,000,000

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 patience

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.



See more details on:

The injury claims process in Texas

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