Understandably, if you were injured in an accident that was no fault of your own, you’ll want your personal injury case to resolve as soon as possible so you can get the compensation you need. But how quickly can you expect your matter to be settled? The answer to that question isn’t straightforward. Not every case is the same, which means no set timeline exists. Several factors will affect the length of your case, such as whether it can be settled through negotiations or must be litigated, how severe your injuries are, and how long it takes to gather and analyze the evidence.
The Paths to Resolving a Personal Injury Case
A personal injury case can be resolved in one of two ways: through negotiation or litigation. Both can be lengthy, but the latter can significantly increase the time it takes to settle your matter.
What Is Negotiation?
Negotiation is where you and your attorney seek compensation through talks with the other party’s insurance company.
The discussions should begin after you have received medical care and your lawyer has had a chance to calculate other damages, including:
- Lost past and future wages,
- Property damage,
- Pain/suffering, and
- Mental anguish.
This way, you know how much your case is worth and what you’re willing to accept as a settlement.
Your attorney will begin negotiations by sending a demand letter to the insurance company. The document contains your arguments for why you deserve compensation, why the insured is at fault, and how much the company should pay you. The insurance carrier will likely have an idea of what it’s willing to payout for your claim and may respond to your demand letter with a low counteroffer.
Negotiations can involve a lot of back and forth, as each side works to get as close as possible to their goal numbers. At some point, you may decide that the insurance company’s offer is fair and accept it. Or you might realize that you aren’t going to get what you want through negotiations, so it’s time to take your case to trial.
What Is Litigation?
Litigation is where you present your case in court. You initiate the process by filing an action in civil court and notifying the other party that you are suing them. You must start your lawsuit within the statute of limitations – the deadline for pursuing legal action against someone. For most personal injury cases, you have 2 years to file the case. With medical malpractice matters, you have 1 or 4 years, depending on the facts.
When you take your case to trial, you and the other party’s insurance company can present your arguments before a judge or jury. Each side can offer evidence and call upon witnesses and experts to support their claims. They can also challenge the material submitted by the opposing party.
After both sides have given their arguments, a judge or jury will decide whether you should be awarded compensation and the amount.
The Factors Affecting the Length of a Personal Injury Case
Several variables may affect how long it takes to resolve your case. These factors may be considered in both negotiations and litigation or unique to one.
Examples of the variables include:
- Waiting for maximum medical improvement: This is when you have reached a point of recovery where additional medical treatment will not improve your injury. MMI depends on the severity of your injury. For example, it may be a shorter period for a broken bone than for a severe head injury.
- Gathering evidence: During the discovery process, your attorney will collect documents, witness statements, and other material relevant to your case. After this, they must analyze the evidence to build your legal strategy.
- Having a complex case: Some personal injury matters can be more complicated than others. For example, a medical malpractice case might take longer to resolve than a slip and fall.
- Willingness to settle: The negotiation process can be lengthy if the insurance company is not open to paying out just compensation for damages.
- Setting a court date: If your case must go to trial, when it will be heard depends on the court’s caseload.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney for Help with Your Case
Personal injury cases can take a while to resolve, whether they must be negotiated or litigated. Our Columbus lawyers can help at every stage of the process and keep you informed of the progress of your case throughout.