“How long will my personal injury case take?” is one of the most common questions our firm receives from prospective clients. With so much hanging in the balance—such as recovery from serious injuries, mounting medical debt, property damage, lost wages, and more—we can certainly understand why the length of litigation would be of top concern for accident victims.
The truth of the matter is that the length of litigation varies widely from case to case and hinges on a variety of factors, including the circumstances surrounding the injury, the severity of the damages, and the complexity of the case.
Settlement negotiations with an insurance company cannot begin to take place until an injured person has reached maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement (MMI) means that an injured person has gotten completely better (or has gotten as good as they are going to get). As a general rule, it usually takes 6-12 months to get the maximum medical improvement. Once MMI is obtained, a case can settle within 90 days if the insurance makes an offer that is acceptable to the injured person. If an acceptable offer is not made then a lawsuit must be filed. Once a lawsuit is filed, you are generally looking at anywhere from 12 to 24 additional months before the case settles.
While it would be difficult—if not impossible—for a personal injury attorney to accurately predict how long litigation would take without first discussing the specific details of your case, the skilled legal team with the Morris James Personal Injury Group is dedicated to helping you resolve the matter as quickly and fairly as possible.
Factors That Can Affect the Length of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The length of a personal injury lawsuit can range from months to years, depending on a number of factors working in concert, such as:
- Circumstances of the accident. If the circumstances surrounding the accident are unclear and the fault is in dispute, the case may take longer to resolve. However, if the conditions of the accident are well documented and the fault is undisputed, the case may have a faster conclusion.
- Nature and prognosis of the injuries. Very severe injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries and other permanently disabling conditions tend to complicate a case, extending its length. However, when a personal injury case is delayed for medical reasons, it's often to the plaintiff's benefit.
- Involvement of significant damages. In cases where the financial award would be significant, insurers will meticulously investigate every aspect of the personal injury claim before making an offer. This type of investigation may take quite a while—sometimes, this is intentional.
- Involved parties. If you go up against a powerful corporation or insurance company alone, you may find that the company is slow to offer a fair settlement or refuse to offer a settlement at all. Hiring a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney can help level the playing field.
- Case goes to trial. If the case can't be negotiated and settled out of court, it will have to proceed to trial, which can extend the lawsuit considerably. It can take up to six months or longer for the case to get on the court docket and the trial itself can take days, weeks, or months—depending on the complexity of the case.
Accepting a Fast Settlement May Be Detrimental
Corporations and insurance companies know that, in many cases, accident victims desperately need a financial settlement to get their lives back on track. As a result, the company may attempt to wait a victim out before eventually offering a low-ball settlement in the hopes that the victim will accept less than what they deserve. While it can be difficult to wait for the case to be resolved through legal negotiation or a trial, if you can afford to wait, doing so will often be in your best interest for the following reasons:
- Severe injuries. If you were severely injured in the accident, it's best to wait until your injuries have been treated and you've reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI)—meaning that the full extent of your injuries have been determined. If you settle too soon and other accident-related health issues occur later on, you won't be able to seek compensation for them.
- Unfair settlement offers. The financial award offered in short settlements can vary dramatically, but is frequently much less than what would have been obtained at trial. The amount can range from as much as 35 percent of what you would have gotten at trial to as little as five percent. Before accepting a low-ball offer in a short settlement, it's wise to consult a skilled personal injury attorney.
Were You Injured in an Accident?
If you were in an accident and considering legal action to pursue compensation for your injuries, a seasoned and reputable personal injury attorney can help represent you and your interests. Contact the Morris James Personal Injury Group today to schedule a free initial consultation. We're happy to address any questions and concerns you may have. In the meantime, request a free copy of our eBook, Anatomy of a Personal Injury Claim for more information.