Personal Injury -- Plaintiff Law
Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident because of medical malpractice, or some other accident, you may have questions about the timeline of a personal injury lawsuit case. Every personal injury case is different, but this article will walk you through standard steps, from the initial investigation to filing a personal injury lawsuit to settlement negotiations.
Usually, personal injury claims are settled long before they reach the trial stage. An acceptable settlement offer can often be reached before you file a personal injury lawsuit. Because personal injury laws vary by state, it is best to consult a personal injury lawyer in your state to get advice about your specific situation.
Let’s say you were injured in a car accident because the driver was negligent. The first thing you will do is get medical treatment. Medical care could be urgently required, and your medical bills can prove your injury in a personal injury case.
The next step is deciding whether to pursue your personal injury claim with a personal injury attorney. Often, personal injury law firms will offer a free case evaluation. There are certain situations where it is highly recommended that you seek out legal advice from a personal injury legal team, such as:
- If your financial claim is large; or
- If you are negotiating with a sophisticated party, like an insurance company or an experienced defense attorney.
Otherwise, you risk making mistakes that can limit your recovery. Personal injury lawyers have experience with settlement negotiations and insurance adjusters. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee and aim to get the highest settlement offer possible.
Once you hire an attorney, they will conduct an initial investigation into your accident claim, examine medical records, and ask questions about the auto accident. All the information you provide is strictly confidential because of the attorney-client relationship. At this stage in the lawsuit, a good lawyer will know how much your legal claims are worth.
To start settlement negotiations, your attorney will send a demand letter to the party at fault, who will typically respond with a counteroffer. As time moves forward from the accident and toward a trial date, negotiations can pick up quickly. So if a settlement cannot be reached early on, your lawyer will file a personal injury lawsuit on your behalf.
In quick summary, below is a personal injury case checklist of the steps you can expect to go through when you follow a personal injury lawsuit:
- Get medical attention for your injury
- Hire an experienced personal injury attorney for a case review
- Participate in your attorney’s initial investigation of police reports, medical records, and other relevant evidence
- Attempt to reach a fair settlement with the at-fault party
- File a personal injury lawsuit
- Gather evidence and information from the defendant in the discovery phase of the lawsuit
- Attempt to settle again
- Go to court on your personal injury trial date and get a verdict
- Appeal the court verdict, if one party has reason to believe the court got their decision wrong, either on fault or damages
- Receive a final judgment on the damages due for your claim
What does a personal injury lawsuit timeline look like? If the parties don’t settle and insist on a trial date and their right to appeal, it may take years.
The process begins with your injury and medical treatment. It could take a year of appointments with a healthcare provider before you reach what is known as Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). This generally means reaching a point where further treatment can no longer improve your serious injury.
Settlement negotiations can continue before a lawsuit is filed if the statute of limitations has not expired and the claim is still valid. The average time to settle an accident case is under one year if the settlement occurs before a lawsuit is filed. Once a lawsuit is filed, there are more chances for settlement as the discovery process unfolds. A settlement could occur anytime as interrogatories, document requests, and depositions uncover essential new information about the claim.
Getting a trial date could be a one to three-year wait, as the court process is often extremely time-consuming. If you or the other party wishes to appeal, you may need to wait another year or two for the appeals process to finish. Depending on how many steps your personal injury claim goes through, it may take a few months to a few years.
Claims that are worth more money often take longer because the parties tend to have differing views about the exact value of the claim. However, some states put a limit on the value of certain damages. For example, in Texas, non-economic damages for medical malpractice are capped at $250,000 per health care entity, or $500,000 if more than one health care entity has been sued.
The statute of limitations defines how long you have to sue someone for personal injury. The statute of limitations for personal injury varies by state.
For example, in Florida, you must file a claim in Florida court within four years from the date of the accident before. In California, the statute of limitations varies depending on the exact claim. For personal injury generally, the statute of limitations in California is two years. However, the time limit is shortened to only six months if your claim is against a county, city, or state government agency.
If you wait longer than the statute of limitations allows or do not follow procedures correctly, your claim can expire, and you can lose the ability to get compensation.