How Long Does It Take to Settle a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
There is no exact timeframe for a personal injury lawsuit. The length of time it takes to reach a successful settlement will depend on the factors of the individual case, as well as the competence of the attorney. There are, however, common steps and processes involved in every PI claim in California. It may be possible to estimate how long your particular case will take to settle based on the standard elements involved. Talk to an attorney for a more exact estimate of how long it may take to settle your claim.
Months One to Three
In the first months after your accident, your focus should be on getting medical treatment for your injuries. You will see a healthcare provider, receive a diagnosis, and start your treatment programs. During this time, you will likely receive phone calls from insurance claims adjusters. These parties may encourage you to accept a quick settlement – often for much less than you could receive through a personal injury claim. Do not give a recorded statement or say yes to an insurance settlement without first speaking to a lawyer.
Once you’re on the mend from injuries, call an attorney. It’s never too soon to get a professional legal opinion about the merit of your case. The initial consultation and filing procedures can occur as quickly as you make the phone call. In California, you have two years from the date of a personal injury to file your claim. After this deadline passes, the courts will most likely refuse to hear your case. The defendant will typically have 30 days from the time of the initial filing to respond with either a denial or a settlement offer.
Months Three to Six
The first six months of your PI lawsuit will consist of filing the initial claim against the defendant (the alleged at-fault party), waiting to receive a response, and engaging in the settlement process. If you choose to accept the initial settlement offer, your claim could end within the first three months of filing. Accepting your first offer, however, will generally result in a smaller compensation amount. Most attorneys will not recommend an immediate settlement.
If you reject the first offer, you will enter pretrial processes such as the discovery phase, where each party gathers evidence from the other. During these stages, you have the opportunity to accept other settlement offers and end your case there. If no settlement occurs, the case will go to trial. Trials take much longer than settlements, but they can result in maximum compensation. Your attorney will give you advice concerning which route is best in your case.
Months Six and Beyond
Personal injury trials can take months or years to complete. The timeline will depend on the complexity of the claim, the parties involved, the legal processes necessary, the court’s decision, and many other factors. The length of time your personal injury lawsuit takes to come to fruition may also depend on your goals – if a lower settlement is okay with you, your case will take less time. If you want maximum compensation regardless of how long it takes, you could be looking at a year or longer. Don’t wait to talk to an attorney. The sooner you pick up the phone, the faster you can get started on your claim.