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How Long Does an Average Personal Injury Lawsuit Take to Get a Settlement?



When it comes to an accident claim, the question on everyone's mind is “How long is my personal injury settlement going to take?

Ask any personal injury attorney and they will most likely answer “Well, that depends on many factors.”

While this is certainly true, the average length of time it takes to settle your case comes down to a one question.

Will you accept a quick offer or do you want to contest every dollar?

In this article, we will shed light on all the nuances of settling a personal injury lawsuit so you'll know what to expect. Specifically we'll cover….

The Quick Personal Injury Settlement
The Long Personal Injury Settlement
Timeline of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Let's get started….

The Quick Personal Injury Settlement

Insurance companies are notorious for trying to rush people into settling their claims quickly. They do this because it almost always plays in their favor.

  • Sometimes the full extent of injuries do not materialize for months and if the claim is already settled the insurance company is off the hook.

  • Sometimes people simply don't want to be bothered with a long process or the hassle of the lawsuit. This tends to financially benefit insurers.

  • Sometimes multiple policies exist to cover your injuries and taking a quick settlement offer allows you to only claim against one of them. This is an obvious bonus for the insurance company.

If you settle quickly you can expect the process to last anywhere from a few weeks to months. But in doing so there is a strong chance you leave a good deal of money on the table.

The Long Personal Injury Settlement

Hiring an attorney and drilling down on the details does not expedite your claim, unfortunately. In fact, this might have the opposite effect.

A good lawyer is going to carefully go through the facts of your claim and file a lawsuit on your behalf. Once the insurance company is notified that you are represented by an attorney their behavior is likely to change as well. Instead of pushing for the quick settlement they might start trying to slow or delay the process.

The insurance company wants you to become impatient because they know the motivation for you to hire a lawyer is to get more money. The more impatient you become the higher the chances you'll settle for less.

When it comes to the actual dynamics of the lawsuit, some key time factors are:

  • How long it takes you to finish medical treatment or a doctor notes you've reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).

  • The length of time it takes a paralegal to collect a full set of your chart notes and other medical records.

  • The length of time it takes to compile a demand letter (can be very long for complicated cases) and how long it takes an insurance company to respond.

If your (civil) lawsuit does go to trial it will take on average 3-10 days. Sounds great right? Well, the trial itself might be short but getting there will likely take at least 6 months to a year. Perhaps much longer.

There are numerous issues that can delay an already painstaking and bureaucratic process. If your claim involves a lot of money you can expect the timeframe to be even longer.

Timeline of a Personal Injury Settlement

Estimating the length of time it takes to reach a settlement for your personal injury lawsuit may be difficult. But having a basic timeline is helpful. Here are a few of the steps involved:

  • Medical treatment is sought - Step one is always get seen by a doctor, without this initial visit an insurance company or jury won't believe that you are injured.

  • An attorney is hired - Determining if you need a lawyer can be a tough call, but if your claim is large or you're unsure it's usually a safe bet. If you don't know where to find one you can use our free settlement estimate.

  • Attorney obtains medical records and investigates - The first step your attorney will take is to gather as much information as possible and to review all the relevant facts & medical records. This can take months.

  • Attorney considers negotiating position - An attorney may simply send a demand letter to the insurance company if they think settlement is the best option. Or they may file a lawsuit and go through the whole process. This should only be done once you've reached MMI.

  • The lawsuit is filed - Once a lawsuit is officially filed its a waiting game for the trial to occur. Each state has a different process and set of regulations for this, but expect it to take at least 6 months to one year.

  • The discovery process begins - This is a pretrial procedure where each side gains access to the other side's legal arguments and defenses. Sometimes this includes a deposition.

  • Mediation or negotiation occurs - Once discovery if finished attorneys will often discuss settlement. Sometimes a settlement can be easily hashed out directly but often they will go in front of a mediator in an effort to reach an agreement and avoid a trial.

  • The trial takes place - Very few civil personal injury claims end up in a trial. If yours does a date will be set (probably rescheduled a few times), and a trial will proceed.

  • Receive your settlement - If all goes well you will receive your settlement check shorty after the trial concluded.

Summary

As you can see, it's hard to pin down the average length of time it takes a personal injury lawsuit to get settled. Just remember to keep a few basics in mind.

  • The process can go fast if you take a quick settlement and don't hire an attorney, but this has considerable risks associated with it.

  • If you do pursue a full settlement with the help of an attorney be prepared to wait for medical treatment to resolve, all records to be collected, and for a slow administrative process to play out.

  • The timeline of a lawsuit follows a predictable pattern injury > medical treatment > attorney is hired > attorney gathers information > attorney negotiates > lawsuit is filed > discovery happens > mediation takes place > trial ensues > settlement check

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