How long will it take your personal injury case to go to court or settle? While every case is different, here’s a general timeline of what you can expect.
How Long Medical Treatment Lasts
One of the main factors is how long it takes you to recover and how long your medical treatment lasts. If you recover quickly, your case will usually resolve quickly. If your injuries require lengthy treatment, your case will usually take longer.
It’s usually not in your best interests to take your case to court until we know that you’ve recovered from your injuries or your doctor has told us your long-term prognosis. The main reason for that is because you only have one bite at the apple: when your case goes to court or settles, it’s officially over. If your injuries then get worse and require additional treatment, we would not be able to obtain any more compensation for you.
Requesting Medical Records
Once you’ve finished treating, the next step is requesting your medical records and bills from your doctors, hospitals and physical therapists. This usually takes 30-45 days but can often take longer as some facilities are very slow to provide medical records and bills.
Sending A Settlement Demand
Once we have all of your medical records and bills we will send a settlement demand to the defendant. The law gives the defendant and the insurance company 30 days from the date they receive the demand to respond. If the insurance company does not accept the demand and you decide to negotiate with them, negotiations can take several weeks or months.
Filing A Lawsuit
If the defendant and insurance company are not willing to make a fair settlement offer, the next step is filing a lawsuit. It usually takes the sheriff a week to two weeks to get the defendant served with the lawsuit. Once the defendant has been served with the lawsuit, they have 30 days to file their answer to the lawsuit.
Discovery & Evidence-Gathering
After the defendant files their answer to the lawsuit, the discovery and evidence-gathering phase of the lawsuit begins. The law sets the discovery period at six months and the judge usually extends it longer. The discovery period is where both sides request information and evidence from each other through written questions called interrogatories and written requests to produce documents and evidence. Both sides take depositions, which are statements under oath, from the other party and witnesses. Each side can also use subpoenas to request evidence from other people, companies and government agencies like the police.
After the discovery period, the defense may file a motion for summary judgment asking the judge to rule in their favor and dismiss the case. We have 30 days to respond to the motion and then the judge will schedule a hearing, which can be in a couple of weeks or several months. Some judges rule very quickly on motions while others do not. I have had judges rule on motions in less than a week and others take many months to do so and it is depends on the judge the case is assigned to.
If the defense does not file a motion for summary judgment or the judge denies the motion, the case will be scheduled for trial. The case goes on a list of cases called a trial calendar and judges have trial weeks every month or every couple of months. The case usually starts at the bottom of the list and it may take several trial calendars before it’s time for your case to go to trial. How quickly your case goes to trial can also depend on the judge hearing your case: some judges move their cases very quickly while others do not.
How Much Insurance Does The Defendant Have
One additional factor that can determine how long it will take your case to go to court or settle is how serious your injuries are and how much insurance the defendant has.
If you have serious injuries and your case is worth more than the insurance the defendant has, your case should resolve quickly because the insurance company usually will not want to fight the case.
However, if the defendant has a lot of insurance and you have very serious injuries, the insurance company will probably fight your case longer and harder. Defendants and insurance companies do this because they want to delay paying you as long as possible and they want to try to wear you down and try to get you to take a settlement that is less than fair.