Before resolving, most personal injury lawsuits last up to one year from the original filing date. However, several factors influence the overall length of a lawsuit, including the type of personal injury case, the court where the lawsuit is pending, the damages at issue in the case, whether the case settles, and how anxious the insurance company is to settle. For more information, reach out to a personal injury lawyer.
Even after a personal injury lawyer files a lawsuit, the case can still settle at any time. In fact, most personal injury cases do resolve at some point before trial—and sometimes even weeks or months before the trial date. Only a few personal injury claims reach their resolution in the courtroom.
One of the critical ways to expedite personal injury litigation is to have an experienced lawyer by your side throughout the process. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer in your area will have the necessary skills to efficiently negotiate with the at-fault person’s insurance company. If the insurance company refuses to cooperate, your lawyer can file a timely lawsuit in the court system and work to get the case moving in litigation.
Finally, if the case must go to a jury trial or alternative dispute resolution proceeding, your lawyer will do everything possible to expedite your case and resolve it as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Accidents that Lead to Personal Injury Litigation
A personal injury claim arises when an individual behaves negligently. Negligence means acting unreasonably under the circumstances in existence at a particular time. For instance, a motor vehicle driver who violates a traffic law and causes an accident engages in negligence. Car accidents are just one occurrence that can lead to personal injuries and damages.
Other accidents that may result in serious injuries—and prompt an individual to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit—include:
- Boating accidents
- Slip and falls
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Incidents of Medical negligence or malpractice
- Motorcycle crashes
- Premises incidents, including those that involve negligent security on the premises
- Amusement park accidents
If you have suffered injuries in one of these occurrences that resulted from another individual or entity’s negligence, you might recover monetary compensation. The lawyer handling your case can first meet with you to discuss the circumstances and exactly what occurred in your accident. Your lawyer can then advise if you are eligible to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit. If so, your lawyer can begin the claims-filing process as soon as you complete your accident-related medical treatment.
Typical Injuries that Accident Victims Suffer
Victims of serious accidents often suffer injuries that prompt them to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit for damages. The type of injuries that an accident victim will suffer depend upon the type of accident that occurred, the degree of force involved, and how the accident happened. Common injuries resulting from serious accidents include broken bones, soft tissue injuries, scrapes, cuts, abrasions, bruises, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord damage.
As soon as you suffer one of these injuries in an accident, you should seek proper medical treatment as quickly as possible. The doctor or nurse on duty at a hospital emergency room can assess your medical condition and schedule the necessary tests. They can also make recommendations for follow-up treatment you may need to receive, such as surgery or ongoing physical therapy.
You must follow through with this treatment and continue treating your injuries until the medical provider formally discharges you. Otherwise, the insurance company handling your claim might become skeptical of your injuries and wonder if your injuries are all that serious.
Even while you treat your injuries, your lawyer can be an invaluable help. First of all, your lawyer can gather up your lost wage documents, medical records, police reports, property damage photographs, and photographs of your injuries. Your lawyer can then begin to assemble these documents into a settlement demand package to present to the insurance company.
Your lawyer can accomplish all of this while you focus on recovering from your accident-related injuries.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim With the Insurance Company
After you complete your medical treatment, the insurance company will review the demand package, and the handling adjuster might make you an offer to settle your case.
Most of the time, initial settlement offers from the insurance company are extremely low and do not adequately compensate accident victims for the pain, suffering, and inconvenience they experienced from their injuries. Consequently, your lawyer will probably need to negotiate with the insurance company several times before the adjuster increases their settlement offer to an acceptable level.
Even after numerous settlement negotiations, that increase may not happen, in which case, your lawyer will need to file a lawsuit in the court system on your behalf. After your lawyer files suit, a settlement can still occur, and you can settle your case up until the time of your jury trial.
Your lawyer can help you file your personal injury claim, negotiate a favorable settlement offer with the insurance company, and, if necessary, file a lawsuit and litigate your case to a conclusion. Your lawyer can also help you decide whether you should accept a pending settlement offer in your case or litigate it in court.
After Filing a Lawsuit in Court
Filing a lawsuit simply begins the litigation process and involves the court. It also re-starts the clock on your case, so to speak, and puts you on the court’s schedule. Once your lawyer serves the defendant with a copy of the lawsuit—and a defense lawyer enters an appearance in the case—the court will issue a scheduling order.
The scheduling order establishes deadlines by which the parties must complete various milestones in their case, such as discovery and attending a pre-trial or settlement conference. The court might also go ahead and schedule a jury trial in your case.
The first deadline that the court will establish in its scheduling order is the discovery deadline. Litigation discovery includes both a written and an oral component. The discovery process can take anywhere from two months to six months, depending upon the type of case and the court where the case is pending.
During written discovery, the parties will exchange documents—including copies of lost wage statements, medical records, victim impact statements, police reports, photographs of property damage, and photographs of injuries. This is much the same as the information the parties exchanged before litigation.
In addition, during the discovery phase, the defense lawyer may wish to take the accident victim’s deposition. During a deposition, the defense lawyer will usually ask questions about how the incident occurred, the injuries and medical treatment that the accident victim experienced, missed work time, and the impact that the accident and injuries had on the victim’s life.
The personal injury lawyer handling your case will make sure that you are well prepared for your deposition to put your best foot forward when the time comes.
Once the parties conclude discovery depositions, they will usually attend a pre-trial or settlement conference. This conference can take place anywhere from 6 to 8 months after the personal injury lawyer filed the case in court. At this conference, the judge or settlement officer handling the hearing will facilitate settlement discussions between the parties. They may meet with the parties individually and have a give-and-take until the parties reach a settlement—or an impasse.
If the case does not settle at the pre-trial, the parties can then take their case to a jury trial. At a jury trial, the jury members will decide the outcome of all remaining disputed issues. A jury trial can take place anywhere from 8 to 12 months or more after the accident victim’s lawyer files the initial complaint in court. Most often, the primary disputed issue at trial is damages.
When damages are at issue, it is usually because the insurance company refuses to pay total and fair compensation to the accident victim.
Instead of a jury trial, the parties might consider alternative dispute resolution proceedings, like mediation or binding arbitration. These hearings can usually take place long before a jury trial. The parties can engage a mediator or arbitrator within a few months rather than waiting a year or more for the case to go to trial. At mediation, a neutral mediator meets with the parties collectively and individually to help them facilitate meaningful settlement discussions. If the case reaches its resolution at mediation, it is over and will not need to go to trial.
At a binding arbitration hearing, a neutral arbitrator will listen to the evidence and consider the accident victim’s medical records, lost wage statements, and photographs to decide the issue of damages in the case.
A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer near you can help you decide whether you should accept a pending settlement offer after your lawyer files a lawsuit. Your lawyer can also help you determine whether you should take your case to a jury trial—or before a neutral mediator or arbitrator—to increase your chances of obtaining the best possible monetary result. Finally, your lawyer can represent you at all court hearings and zealously advocate on your behalf.
Recoverable Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The ultimate goal in filing a personal injury lawsuit is to obtain the highest amount of damages possible. Sometimes, just by filing a lawsuit, the insurance company will increase its most recent offer to resolve the case. At other times, the parties will need to take the case to trial or alternative dispute resolution before the accident victim plaintiff can recover maximum damages.
When it comes to maximizing damages, it’s sometimes better for an accident victim to wait it out—so to speak. Insurance companies tend to take advantage of accident victims who appear overly anxious to settle their claim or lawsuit, and the adjuster might try to settle the case on the cheap. However, if the accident victim waits until the settlement conference, they might get a better deal to resolve their case.
The damages that an accident victim can recover will depend upon the accident that happened, the extent of their injuries, whether they missed time from work, and whether they suffered a permanent impairment.
Common damages that accident victims can recover in a personal injury lawsuit will include compensation for their lost wages if they miss work time to attend medical appointments. If the accident victim had to switch jobs or careers due to their injuries—and did so at a lower pay rate—they can recover compensation for loss of earning capacity.
In addition, accident victims can pursue money damages for their mental distress, emotional anguish, inconvenience, pain, and suffering. If they suffered a permanent injury in their accident, they can claim a loss of use, such as if they cannot use a specific body part after their accident due to full or partial paralysis.
In addition, if their quality of life changes as a result of their injuries, they can recover compensation for loss of life enjoyment. Finally, they can pursue damages for loss of spousal companionship and consortium related to their injuries. A knowledgeable personal injury lawyer near you will do everything possible to help you maximize the damages you recover in your lawsuit.
Talk with a Personal Injury Lawyer in Your Area
Insurance companies do not make things easy for accident victims. Obtaining favorable settlement compensation is often an uphill battle. However, having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side increases your chances of obtaining a favorable result—either through settlement, jury verdict, or binding arbitration award.
Your lawyer will first try to settle your case without a lawsuit. However, if that is impossible, your lawyer can file suit for you, litigate your case, and bring it to a prompt and efficient conclusion in court. Contact a lawyer today to receive your consultation.