How Long Does A Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?

If you have been injured and are contemplating or are currently involved in a personal injury case, you most likely have asked yourself the following questions:

  • How long does a personal injury lawsuit take?
  • How long does a personal injury case take to settle?
  • How long do personal injury trials last?

The short answer is, it depends. Personal injury cases can last anywhere from a few months to a few years. There is no easy answer to the length of the case, and each case is unique in scope, details, injury, and involved parties. However, there are factors that influence both the length and time of the litigation process.

Factors that Influence How Long a Personal Injury Lawsuit Takes

The factors that most influence how long a case will take include:

  • How severe your injuries are and how long it takes you to recover
  • The complexity of the case
  • The amount of damages being sought
  • Whether the case can resolve before or after a lawsuit being filed
  • The caseload in your jurisdiction
  • Your patience
  • The defendant’s insurance company’s willingness to settle

Changing any of these factors will generally affect the length of the case. The less complex the case — involving a minimal amount of damages and injury severity, a light caseload in the courts, and a high willingness to settle on both sides — will result in the quickest outcome. The longest cases tend to be the opposite. The most complex cases — involving a large amount of damages, severe injuries, and a defendant unwilling to settle — can last years. 

Most accident and personal injury claims seem to be settled within one to two years.

The Length of Personal Injury Settlement Depends on Complexity

Below is a list of personal injury cases in order of complexity, generally from less complex to more complex. Remember, however, that each case is unique. How long it takes to settle an accident lawsuit also depends on the amount of damages being claimed and the severity of injuries. 

How Long Does a Car Accident Lawsuit Take?

Car accident lawsuits take time. If it is a relatively straightforward case with minor injuries, settlement could occur within a matter of weeks or months. If injuries and damages are more extensive, as is often the case in motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and commercial trucking accidents, the settlement process may take a couple of years.

How Long Does a Work Injury Lawsuit Take?

A minority of workplace accidents are often settled relatively quickly, within a few months. However, on average, work injury settlements take about one to two years. Workplace accidents generally are handled in the worker’s compensation arena.  However, if a worker is injured due to the negligence of a third party who is not employed by the worker’s employer, the worker may have an independent personal injury claim in addition to a worker’s compensation claim.

How Long Will a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Take to Settle?

Wrongful death lawsuits that are straightforward can be settled in a few months. Other wrongful death lawsuits average a couple of years or more to resolve. Part of the reason for this time is that wrongful death claims require the court appointment of a “Personal Representative” to take action on behalf of the deceased person and his or her family.  Adding a lawsuit beyond that can lengthen the timeline, as well.

How Long Do Settlements Take for Brain Injury Lawsuits?

Lawsuits involving brain injuries take longer than average to conclude because traumatic brain injuries may take time to develop and heal. The majority of brain injury cases take anywhere from 18 months to three years, and include injuries such as:

  • Concussions
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Fractures
  • Hemorrhage
  • Hematoma

Finally, as discussed below, cases may settle at different times during the legal process. The earlier you settle, the less time your case will take. Your lawyer will advise you on whether it is a fair settlement or if you should continue on to the trial. How long to settle a car accident lawsuit, for example, depends on how badly you were injured, who was involved, the events surrounding the accident, and the other party’s willingness to settle.

When to Settle an Injury Lawsuit? An Overview of the Legal Process

The following are the basic stages of a personal injury lawsuit, from first contact to final steps. Your legal team can reach a settlement at any time, from when you hire a lawyer up until a verdict is reached.

First Things First, Seek Medical Treatment

The first thing you should do after receiving a personal injury is to seek medical treatment. It is the best thing to do long-term for your health. If you choose not to see a doctor after your accident or injury, or if you wait for some time before going, the insurance adjuster and/or jury may assume your injuries were not severe or unrelated to your accident. 

Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer

Next, discuss your situation with a personal injury lawyer. While some claims may be settled by yourself, many lawyers offer a free consultation and the help of a lawyer can be invaluable. Having a lawyer you can trust will give you peace of mind and a greater opportunity to focus on your health and healing. 

For these and many other reasons, it is critical that you seek out and retain an experienced personal injury lawyer to assist you. Insurance companies prey on injured parties that don’t know their rights or understand the process. A well-qualified personal injury lawyer will take on all communication with the insurance companies to make sure your injuries are well documented and that important facts are relayed to increase the value of your claim. This ultimately results in better and fairer compensation.  

Generally, if you require more than one or two doctors visits, you always are better off seeking out an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you.

Your Lawyer Begins Investigating

After you have hired your lawyer, he or she will begin putting your case together. This includes:

  • Interviewing you about the accident and any pertinent or relevant information
  • Obtaining any police reports or other similar evidence
  • Contacting witnesses and gathering statements
  • Conducting any on-site investigation and collecting photographs or video footage
  • Reviewing all medical records and bills relating to the accident

This step can take months. Generally, your lawyer will wait to move forward at this point until you have reached maximum medical improvement or MMI. MMI means you have finished all medical treatment and have recovered as much as possible. Achieving MMI also gives you a clearer picture of how much it cost to recover.  This is an important step.  While some injured parties can grow impatient, rushing the resolution of the claim often results in a lower compensation amount and may leave you with bills to repay that normally would be paid by someone else, i.e. auto or health insurance.

Your Lawyer Makes Demands and Negotiations

After you have reached MMI and your lawyer has made a thorough investigation, your lawyer will make a demand to the other attorney or insurance company of the negligent party to settle. The vast majority of personal injury claims are settled before a lawsuit is ever filed, and your case will be finished much faster if you can settle outside of court.  

This process is a very thorough one. The attorney and his or her staff use all of the evidentiary information collected including, but not limited to, police reports, photos, witness statements, medical and billing records, social media or criminal history information about the at-fault party, etc, and puts together an extensive letter that sets forth the claim to the insurance company. You will be part of the process to finalize that submission before it goes off to the insurer. At this important stage, the attorney will be able to give you a very clear estimate of your case’s value.

Your Lawyer Files a Lawsuit

If necessary and negotiations or settlement fail, your lawyer will file a lawsuit, which starts the clock ticking for when the case will go to trial. Sometimes lawsuits are filed because the statute of limitations is expiring and the client is not yet medically stationary. The lawsuit preserves the client’s claim.  How long does a lawsuit take? Every state’s procedures are different, but it generally takes one to two years for a personal injury case to settle or go to trial after a lawsuit is filed.

Your Personal Injury Case Enters the Discovery Phase

This can last six months to a year and requires each party investigates what the other side’s legal claims and defenses are. Questions, document requests, and depositions are all gathered during this stage.

You Discuss Mediation and Negotiation

Towards the end of the discovery stage, lawyers will often discuss settlement. If they cannot settle by discussing themselves, your case will go to mediation.  That process involves which both clients and lawyers, together with a professional, neutral third-party mediator to try and resolve the case.

You Go to Trial

Mediation nearly always resolves a case,  but if it does not, you go to trial. A trial can last anywhere from a day to a few weeks. Often, trial dates are moved through no fault of your own.

A Verdict is Reached

If the plaintiff wins, the defendant owes him or her the amount of money awarded by the jury. The defense may appeal, which could force a lower settlement or a new trial and settlement.  The appellate process, while very important to the legal system, can take years and years to complete.  For that reason, most trial lawyers do all they can to avoid an appeal.

Collection is Made

If the plaintiff is successful, collection or efforts to collect the judgment begins. Typically, the at-fault party’s insurance company will pay the judgment within 60 days of the verdict unless an appeal is filed.

How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?

The quickest and surest way to settle a personal injury lawsuit to your benefit is by hiring a law firm that is focused on and experienced in representing injury cases. You can find that in Swanson Lathen Prestwich, PC., experienced and well-respected lawyers who are ready to listen to you and are available to answer your questions. 

Call now to start your settlement or submit your claim information today!