How Long Does a Personal Injury Case Take?
“The wheels of justice grind slowly at times.”
It is an often-used quote at law schools throughout the United States, as well as inside law firms that handle a wide variety of cases. The fact remains that the United States legal system can grind to a halt, especially when it comes to personal injury cases.
At Morgan & Morgan, our clients want fast results, and so does our team of experienced personal injury attorneys. One of the first questions asked by clients is “How long does a personal injury case take.” The answer depends on many factors that include where we litigate your personal injury case.
Yes, the state where your personal injury case litigates plays a huge role in determining the answer to the question, “How long does a personal injury case take” For example, getting to the trial phase of a personal injury case typically takes less time in rural Florida than it takes in a large city such as Miami and Jacksonville.
The short answer to the question, “How long does a personal injury case take” is anywhere between a few months and two years. Sometimes, a client’s financial situation dictates how long a personal injury case takes. Clients that require immediate financial relief are more likely to cut a deal before the end of litigation.
If you suffered a personal injury caused by an accident or an act of negligence, schedule a free case evaluation with one of our highly-rated lawyers. After conducting a thorough review of your case, we can then estimate how long your personal injury cases should take to reach a conclusion.
What Is the Personal Injury Claim Process?
Part of knowing the answer to the question, “How long does a personal injury case take” is to understand the process for litigating personal injury cases. Keep in mind that a majority of personal injury cases reach a settlement long before the start of a trial. If it is in your best financial interest to negotiate a favorable settlement, the team of personal injury attorneys at Morgan & Morgan can help you receive just compensation without you having to spend time in a courtroom.
Receive Medical Treatment
The first step in the personal injury claim process involves getting medical attention for your injuries. Paying for medical expenses takes up most of the compensation awarded in personal injury cases. You need to obtain medical records such as the results of diagnostic tests to receive just compensation for your personal injury case.
Meet with a Lawyer
A personal injury attorney reviews the medical evidence that you have gathered to determine the monetary value of your claim. The initial consultation is also the time for a lawyer to analyze the evidence that is associated with your personal injury case. For example, if you suffered injuries because of a car accident, an attorney reads the police report to determine which party was at fault for causing the accident. Working with a skilled litigator helps you get the compensation you deserve.
Try to Negotiate a Settlement
Your lawyer acts as the intermediary between you and your insurance company. Insurance companies employ a team of attorneys that have considerable experience whittling down insurance payments to the victims of personal injury accidents. Your lawyer also can try to negotiate a favorable settlement that pays for your medical bills, as well as the wages lost because you were unable to work.
File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If your case goes to litigation, your attorney files a personal injury lawsuit with the appropriate civil court. Although every state implements different pretrial procedures, you can expect your case to reach the trial phase between one and two years after you file a personal injury lawsuit. Another reason to hire a personal injury lawyer is to ensure you file your civil lawsuit before the expiration of the statute of limitations.
The discovery phase of a trial gives each party the opportunity to investigate what the other party has in terms of evidence and legal arguments. Each lawyer sends a list of questions (interrogatories) to the other party. While waiting for the answers to the interrogatories, both attorneys take depositions from the witnesses of the personal injury incident. The discovery phase of a trial can take as long as six months to conclude.
If negotiations between the two parties involved in a personal injury case break down, the judge overseeing the case might ask both parties to attend a mediation session. A neutral, third-party mediator steps in to help resolve the case. Mediation is a non-binding process, which means neither party has to accept the terms presented by the neutral, third-party mediator.
If mediation does help both parties reach a resolution, then your personal injury case gets scheduled for trial. A personal injury trial can last a day, a week, or even a month. However, a civil trial is one of, if not the shortest phase that answers the question, ‘How long does a personal injury case take.” The key is to get the trial started on the day it is scheduled. Many personal injury cases result in a delayed start because of a judge’s schedule and/or the volume of cases on the court docket.
Why Is My Personal Injury Case Taking a Long Time?
Until now, we have described the factors that determine the duration of a personal injury case. The personal injury attorneys at Morgan & Morgan want you to know about three additional factors that can play a role in increasing the amount of time it takes to resolve your personal injury case.
Legal Issues with Your Case
The value of a personal injury claim depends on two primary factors: liability and damages. If we find liability difficult to prove, then neither the insurance adjuster and/or a defendant facing negligent charges will make a reasonable settlement offer. Our job is to collect and organize enough persuasive evidence to make proving liability a slam dunk legal argument.
We might also encounter a legal issue with damages. For example, one or more physicians treating your injuries might hesitate to link your injuries with an act of negligence. Your insurance company will not settle your claim if one or more doctors believe that you contributed to the accident in some manner.
Another possible reason for a delayed trial decision or insurance settlement is the case involves substantial monetary damages. Insurance companies make money by not paying out full compensation for personal injury cases. The defendant in your personal injury lawsuit might not have the financial means to pay out a large sum of money for just compensation. Your attorney tries to work with the other party to agree on paying out a large sum of money in damages.
You Have Not Achieved Maximum Medical Improvement
If you are still receiving medical treatment for your injuries, then you have not achieved maximum medical improvement (MMI). You do not want to reach a settlement before you have accounted for every medical bill. However, your physician submits a document to your insurance company, as well as the civil court clerk, that describes your prognosis for making a full recovery. Within the prognosis, your doctor estimates how much more money it should take to treat and rehabilitate your injuries.
What Does Settling for Short Money Mean?
What happens if your attorney says your case is worth more if you wait for the right settlement, but you need the money now to pay for mounting medical bills and to make up for lost wages? The answer is to accept what is referred to as a short settlement.
At Morgan & Morgan, we encourage our clients to find ways to bridge the gap between financial obligations and the outcome of a personal injury case. However, some of our clients need their money yesterday, which in that case, we work with them to negotiate a short settlement. Although the rules for accepting a short settlement are not set in stone, an offer from an insurance adjuster might be 50 percent below what you would receive if your case made its way onto a civil court docket. Another reason to accept a short settlement is to avoid a prolonged period of litigation.
How Do You Choose the Right Personal Injury Attorney?
Knowing how to choose the right personal injury attorney involves asking the right questions.
- How long have you practiced personal injury law?
- How long have you litigated this type of personal injury case?
- What is your record litigating personal injury cases?
- Do you mostly represent plaintiffs or defendants?
- Have you negotiated with my insurance company for other clients?
What Is Your Fee Structure?
Since personal injury cases involve the potential awarding of monetary damages, you want to hire an attorney who operates on a contingency fee basis. This means your lawyer takes a percentage of your insurance claim and/or civil lawsuit judgment. Working with a personal injury lawyer who charges by the hour can rack up legal bills that exceed $10,000.
How Long Does It Take for You to Respond to Clients?
Responsiveness is one of the most important traits that you want in a personal injury lawyer. Your attorney should return your emails, phone calls, and text messages within a couple of hours at the most. When you work with a large law firm such as Morgan & Morgan, you contact a representative of our firm who answers your questions in real-time.
Does the Attorney Agree With Your Settlement Goal?
Knowing the answer to the question, “How long does a personal injury case take” partly depends on whether your lawyer agrees with your settlement goal. If you decide to go for short money, your lawyer must be on board, or else the process can drag on for months on end. Before you file a civil lawsuit, both you and your legal counsel must agree on the same dollar amount.
Contact Morgan & Morgan Today
The best way to make a personal connection with an attorney is by scheduling a case evaluation. Typically lasting an hour, a case evaluation can help you answer the question, “How long does a personal injury case take.”
Schedule a free case evaluation with one of the state-licensed personal injury lawyers at Morgan & Morgan.