There are a number of variables that affect how long personal injury cases take to resolve. The vast majority of personal injury lawsuits never go to trial. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, 96% of personal injury claims are settled outside of court. Most people choose to settle a personal injury lawsuit outside of court because it allows for a faster, more controlled resolution than the much slower timeline of the court system. A settlement also keeps the potentially-sensitive details of personal injury claims private.
If both parties involved can agree to terms, a settlement eliminates the need to file a personal injury lawsuit and wait for a trial date to open up on the court docket. If a personal injury settlement agreement can be reached, your personal injury claim will be resolved much more quickly.
What Is the Typical Timeframe for a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Personal injury cases are highly variable in both scope and detail. The time frame depends on many factors that affect the complexity of the case. Broadly speaking, a simple personal injury case can be resolved in several months, while a more complicated personal injury case can take several years, particularly if it goes to trial rather than reaching a settlement.
Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
The sooner you find your attorney and schedule an initial consultation to get the process started, the more quickly things can progress. It’s much easier to collect information and establish details when less time has passed since the accident happened.
If you engage an attorney immediately, they can start working on building your case, even and especially if you need to spend time in the hospital or recovering at home. Personal injury cases are often an extended process, so the sooner you can get things started, the more quickly it can get resolved.
Injuries in the Workplace
Workplace injuries don’t require liability to be established and can often be settled through Worker’s Compensation. Those settlement negotiations can frequently be resolved more quickly, but are limited in what they will cover.
However, if you can demonstrate that your employer’s negligence caused your injury at work, you may be able to file a more expansive personal injury claim that will allow you to be compensated for losses beyond what is allowed under Workers’ Compensation.
Maximum Medical Improvement
After a workplace injury, a settlement is often delayed until you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), particularly if you suffered serious injuries that might leave you disabled. Because settlements are meant to close the claim, they will want to ensure that your losses are fully established before calculating compensation.
Maximum medical improvement is a calculation commonly used in Worker’s Compensation Insurance to define the point at which an injured person is unlikely to make any further improvements in their recovery. Once you reach MMI, they can assign a status of partial impairment, disabled, recovered, or they may assign restrictions based on how severely the injury is likely to affect you on an ongoing basis. After your status is defined, they can calculate what compensation is fair.
Even if your workplace injury was not caused by negligence, you may want to hire a Worker’s Compensation attorney to make sure that you are fairly compensated for the losses you incurred by being unable to work while you recovered, including lost wages and medical expenses.
Assigning a Monetary Value to Your Losses
After your accident, you’ll need to document how the injury has affected you in the aftermath. That includes gathering medical records, recording lost wages, time spent in the hospital and rehabilitation, counseling and mental distress, financial problems related to increased expenses combined with the loss of income, costs related to litigation, and more.
A good personal injury attorney should have a strong understanding of both personal injury law and the constraints and motivations on the other side of the case, especially if you are dealing with insurance companies.
An experienced personal injury attorney will have the experience necessary to calculate what is fair financial compensation for what you have lost as a result of your injury. Those calculations can help you decide what is a reasonable amount for your attorney to take to the responsible party’s legal counsel to begin settlement negotiations.
Sending a Demand Letter
Once you have an amount you feel is fair compensation for your losses, your personal injury lawyer will write a letter telling the other party involved in the claim how much compensation is needed to make restitution to you as the injured party. The letter will detail the injuries and losses sustained and demand compensation for your losses.
The attorneys for the other party will usually respond to your demand letter with a settlement offer. If you’re dealing with an insurance company, it may take some time for an insurance adjuster to make their calculations to determine what they believe your losses are worth. If you and your personal injury attorney feel it is a reasonable settlement offer, you can sign the settlement agreement and accept the resolution of the claim.
If the settlement offer is disappointing, then your attorney can open negotiations and work to come to an acceptable compromise. If no compromise can be found, the next step is to file a personal injury lawsuit and take the defendant to court in a civil trial.
Filing a Lawsuit
If negotiations get stalled or are clearly not going to come to an acceptable resolution, the next step is filing (or threatening to file) a lawsuit. A court case will dramatically extend the time it takes to resolve a personal injury claim. The legal system takes significant time to navigate, and trial dates may be unavailable for weeks or months after a civil lawsuit is filed.
Of the approximately 4% of cases that go to court, the odds of success are approximately 50/50. Neither the plaintiffs nor the defendants consistently win personal injury trials, but settlements awarded in a trial tend to be higher than negotiated settlements. The uncertainty for both sides along with the added expenses associated with a trial are strong incentives for both sides to find a compromise and settle outside of court.
A settlement can be reached at any point in the process prior to a trial judgment, even during the personal injury trial. Attorneys may use the threat of court to push for more favorable negotiation, and if the trial seems to be leaning one way or another, it might change how acceptable a settlement seems to either party.
Settlements vs Civil Trials
Court cases tend to be very expensive, especially for an insurance company with a full legal team. Good personal injury lawyers know this and will often use that leverage to weigh how much can be considered reasonable compensation in their negotiations and press for a quicker settlement.
In addition to attorney costs, a lawsuit is not good for a business’s reputation. That puts extra pressure on a business owner to find a quick resolution that will keep the details of a liability complaint private.
Most personal injury lawsuits tried before a jury take around 23 months to resolve, while a bench trial before a judge takes around 18 months. Assembling a jury and the process of deliberations makes a jury trial a much more time-consuming process.
How Can I Reduce the Timeframe of My Personal Injury Case?
In Missouri, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is five years after the accident occurred. If you are considering filing a personal injury claim, it’s important not to wait to speak to an attorney.
There are a number of factors that can increase how long personal injury claims take to resolve, but you can help make the process move more smoothly.
Get Medical Treatment Immediately
If there is anything that doesn’t feel right, even a little, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible, particularly after a car accident. Often, injuries from a collision are masked by the shock and stress of the situation and get worse over time. Seeking treatment for them immediately can help lessen the long-term effects.
Additionally, It is much more difficult for a defendant’s lawyer to claim that your injuries were not that serious or that you were injured sometime after the incident if you sought medical treatment immediately after the accident happened. The sooner you receive medical attention, the more clearly those injuries can be associated with the accident.
help reduce Research Time on Your Personal Injury Claim
Keeping detailed records of everything that happened leading up to and after the accident can help make it easier to establish the facts. Good records can shave significant time off the research time and give researchers a framework from which they can build a stronger personal injury case.
It’s helpful if photos are taken, police reports are collected, physical evidence is documented, and witnesses are found that can corroborate your account of what happened.
The more evidence you have, the easier it will be for your legal team to establish who the at-fault party is in the injury claim. If liability is clearly established, it is more likely that your case can move fairly quickly into negotiations and discussion of what compensation is fair for the losses you’ve suffered.
Let Your Attorney Help You
Your attorney can help you negotiate medical bills that might start to pile up if you struggle to pay them. They can also compile the relevant medical records and address any inconsistencies immediately.
A good personal injury lawyer can prevent many things from happening in the first place that could complicate your case. For example, an insurance company or hospital may give you the run around when you ask for records or clarification on billing but are much more likely to give your attorney the information without hassle.
Ultimately, the time a personal injury case takes to reach a resolution is dependent on how complicated the situation is and how well the personal injury attorneys are able to establish liability and put together a coherent explanation of both the cause and effect of an accident.
If you’ve been injured, our team of experienced and dedicated personal injury attorneys can help you get the process moving and reach a resolution as quickly as possible. If you’re in the Kansas City, MO area, call Holman Schiavone Law, LLC today at 816-320-6108 to schedule a free case evaluation.