From medical bills piling up to the anxiety that comes with not being sure if you’ll be justly compensated, anyone who’s filed a personal injury lawsuit knows how rigorous the process is. Fortunately, a personal injury lawyer can take you through it and ensure you get justice. Whether you have a personal injury or know someone with it, questions lingering in your mind might include: Why do some personal injury lawsuits take longer than others?, Is hiring a personal injury attorney a guarantee that your lawsuit will be short?, Is waiting for the case to be finalized or agreeing to an out-of-court settlement a good idea?, What damages can a personal injury lawsuit cover? and how do personal injury lawsuits work? The process. Keep it here.
So, how long do personal injury lawsuits take?
A personal injury case can take anywhere from a few months to five years, depending on the following factors:
How badly you were injured
Did you sustain a moderate whiplash or an injury that left you disabled or in chronic pain? Claims involving less-serious injuries between one and two years. But a lawsuit involving severe injury can take more than that. Personal injuries that leave you disabled or compromise your neurological or psychiatric functions need time to be assessed to get well compensated. According to MacGillivray, recovery time for minor and severe injuries cannot be similar. In some cases, a person involved in a nearly-fatal accident might not notice they have a chronic injury immediately. Reports of people going blind or developing fractures after months continuously erupt, justifying why their cases take years before their finalized. The lawyer must prove to the court that the victim’s injury has compromised their quality of life. Such a person might not be physically and mentally fit to fulfill everyday obligations, including going to work.
The complexity of your case
Personal injuries vary depending on the severity and circumstances behind them. For example, a person involved in a rear-end collision after a car accident might not suffer the same impact as another one knocked down by a car. In rear-end collision accidents, investigators often access crucial details like the victim and at-fault’s state of mind during the ordeal. Some cases might take longer, mainly when professionals like doctors and engineers are involved. These professionals investigate and present reports to the court for just deliberations.
For example, if you accidentally slip and fall inside Target’s store, the most practical thing is to sue the company for personal injury. Depending on how badly you’re injured, it’s easy for your lawyer and accident reconstruction specialist to assess the condition that caused your fall. The company might approach you for a settlement when such a case gets reported. It’s tempting to agree to the offer because you want to return to your life as quickly as possible. These companies use this approach to protect their reputation, so it’s easy for victims to fall for this.
If you’re willing to be patient for the best outcome
Agreeing to settlements can be tempting when you’re unable to work due to a personal injury. Most likely, you’ve spent a lot of money on medical bills and sustaining your life being unemployed. However, insurers are out to make money, so they might not offer a reasonable amount like you rightfully deserve. While you cannot take back the hands of time to avoid the accident, the damage has already been done. You worry that your case might take years, and you might be unable to sustain your lifestyle until then. The worst part is you don’t have money to hire a good lawyer, leave alone retain one.
The case involves “big money”
Severe personal injuries attract significant settlements because of the high medical bills and other factors preventing victims from sustaining their quality of life. A person who loses their limbs and will be wheelchaired for the rest of their lives will likely demand higher settlement.
Such a case is likely to take more than two years as it involves specialists who have to investigate every aspect to prove:
- That your injury is severe, as the medical reports indicate
- That the at-fault party cannot rubbish your credibility
- That their defense is weak hence cannot falsify your claim
How much you’ve spent pursuing your case and covering medical bills
Now that you’ve sustained personal injuries, you likely went to the hospital to fight for your physical health. According to Roberts Jones Law, personal injury damages are categorized into two:
General damages like chronic pain, emotional distress, mental and physical impairment, and disfigurement. In such a case, you must prove that the accident caused personal injury, not pre-existing conditions.
Special damages- Your personal injury could have resulted in monetary losses. Perhaps you’ve lost your job and earnings due to your injury and need compensation. In such a case, you must prove that your injury due to a wrongful event affected your monetary capability.
How reasonable the insurance company is willing to be
Insurance companies can be reluctant to pay more significant damages until the court, and trial date looms. If your trial date is near, you will have more leverage in winning the compensation. Before then, they will try reaching out to you for a much lower settlement to avoid charges involving the law process. Unless your injury is minor, don’t fall for their antics. Instead, look for a lawyer specializing in personal injury lawsuits and hope you’ll get the highest amount in settlement.
How personal injury lawsuits work- The process
Personal injury claims vary depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding each incident. Nevertheless, all claims must follow a seven-step procedure as outlined below.
Step 1: Seek medical treatment
Whether you were involved in a fatal accident or sustained minor injuries, seeking medical treatment isn’t optional. You want the jury and at-fault party’s insurer to realize the seriousness of your injuries. If they don’t receive medical reports of your injuries, they might falsely assume you are out to fleece them dry. When receiving treatment, keep a journal of the doctors seen and how much you’ve spent paying for your medical bills. The date and procedure of treatments should be in writing. Doing so ensures your lawyer is abreast with the possible damages you may be entitled to and include them in your claim.
Step 2: Hiring and retaining a personal injury lawyer
According to Dolman Law Group, hiring and retaining a personal injury lawyer is crucial to ensure you’re well compensated. While it isn’t a must, you stand to gain a lot from doing so. A personal injury lawyer will need crucial details, including:
- How the misfortune happened
- Who was at fault?
- How badly you were injured due to the incident
- Who else was involved in the incident?
They also handle the paperwork on your behalf and assess your injury claims. That includes signing a form authorizing them to release your medical records. Depending on your specific needs, you will also be advised on how best to proceed with the claim. Another task your lawyer will perform is to verify if the at-fault party is insured or has sufficient assets to cover settlement or judgment.
Should the investigation and consultation yield a viable case, a fee agreement will be signed, making your attorney-client relationship official. Start by looking for a personal injury lawyer near you. A quick Google search will direct you to one. However, don’t forget that not all attorneys are willing to go to court and handle a trial; hence may consider out-of-court settlements. The good news is most personal injury attorneys often offer free initial consultations to evaluate your case or answer any questions you may have. That’s another way of verifying their competence.
Step 3: Screening process and reviews of medical records
Here, your lawyer investigates the veracity of your ordeal to gather the facts and circumstances of your injury claim. They most likely:
- Go to the scene of the accident to take photos
- Investigating all possible parties at fault and informing their insurers about the said claim
- Receiving paperwork related to the accident or incident to form a strong base for your claim
- Receiving and retaining medical bills and records related to the treatment for personal injury sustained in the accident
This step is also called the demand package. Your lawyer reviews the demand with the client to ensure all facts align with personal injury claims. They will send the demand package to the at-fault party insurer to confirm the demand and conduct an evaluation of your claim’s worth.
Step 4: Making demands and negotiating settlements
After reviewing your injury claims, your attorney will juggle settling the case or making demands to the defendant’s lawyer or insurer. Remember, a reputable lawyer won’t make a demand before you reach a point of maximum medical improvement (MMI). In short, your lawyer cannot judge the case’s worth unless you reach MMI. That gives the jury an easy time valuing the case to its full potential. The case may transition to litigation if the settlement results in differing sides.
Step 5: Filing the personal injury lawsuit
Remember, litigation procedures vary by state, but on average, they take one to two years to get to trial. Remember, the state you’re currently occupying has a law called the statute of limitations, so your attorney should brief you about them.
Step 6: The Discovery phase of the personal injury claim
During this phase, the plaintiff and defendant investigate each other’s legal claims by sending interrogatories. Each party takes depositions of every involved in the accident or incident. The court’s deadline and weight of the case determine how long the case will take.
Step 7: Trial
Before a personal injury case goes to trial, lawyers will try negotiating between themselves. In other cases, their clients might need a neutral third-party mediator to settle the case. But if both parties don’t agree, the case will go to trial, which might take days, weeks, or more. It would help if you remembered that trials might not occur on the said date, depending on the judge’s schedule. So, if the judge reschedules your trial, don’t assume the judge considers your case insignificant. Instead, leave everything to your attorney to handle.
Is hiring a personal injury lawyer necessary?
Hiring a personal injury lawyer isn’t a must, but you might need one for the following reasons:
They are competent in negotiations
While representing yourself is an option, you lack professional negotiation skills. Insurance companies might not cooperate in ensuring you get the best bargain to cater to your injury claims. Luckily a personal injury lawyer can file a lawsuit, ensuring the offending party’s insurance representative justifiably compensates the damages.
They can help you seek medical attention
Having a personal injury lawyer on speed dial is an effective treatment method. These professionals will receive your call early enough to inform you about medical malpractice and personal injury. They will also ensure you get proper medical care while pursuing your claims against whoever subjected your bodily harm.
They are your go-to person for professional advice
If you choose to represent yourself, the case might take years due to the complicated legal process. A personal injury lawyer is well-versed in analyzing your unique case and telling you about the options available.
They can hasten your compensation
Whether your injury is minor or severe, you will need time to recover before pursuing your claim. It’s advisable to hire a personal injury lawyer immediately after you’re involved in an accident, so you have enough time to recuperate. The professionals have vast experience in cases like yours and the legal processes involved. That way, they can side-step all stepbacks, speeding up your compensation.
Personal injury claims can affect your mental wellbeing, compromising objectiveness. Lawyers have the knowledge, skills, and experience to negotiate your claim, ensuring you get the settlement you deserve.