One of the most common questions I receive from clients is “How long will it take to finish my case?” It’s always hard to answer this question because it simply depends on what you as the client want in your case and the individual circumstances in each case. The least helpful response is that it could take any length of time. Let’s discuss why this is, and hopefully provide a little more understanding on the process for a personal injury case.
Stages of a Personal Injury Claim
Your personal injury case could only take a few months, or it could take years. That is not something we’ll likely know up front. It’s important to know that every case is different, the facts are different, the injuries are different, and this all plays into the length of time of a case. In some situations, a longer wait may offer you the chance of a larger settlement.
A personal injury case evolves in stages. After the accident, the first stage is your recovery period. During this time you are healing, and it’s also an excellent time to contact an attorney to help you through your claim. This time period also allows for the doctor to determine the full extent of your injuries. It is very important during this period that you take the time needed to have your injuries fully evaluated and allow your body to heal.
Once you have medically recovered, your doctor will inform you that your medical condition has stabilized and no further improvement is expected. It’s usually necessary to wait until you are at this point before settling so that you and your lawyer will understand the extent of your injuries, or long-term problems you could experience. Once you have reached this point your injuries and medical needs are known, allowing for negotiations to proceed. If the insurance company offers you a settlement that is agreeable to you and you accept, no lawsuit will be needed. If a settlement amount is not reached to adequately compensate you, then your case may proceed to litigation and continue the length of time of your case. Litigation can be a very lengthy process.
Speed of a Case
You may feel like your case is moving slowly, especially given that a car accident can turn your life upside down and make everything from work to home-life more difficult. However, there are some factors that may arise in a case that cause it to move slowly:
- there are legal or factual problems with your case,
- the case involves a lot of money (making the insurance companies delay offering the adequate amount), or
- you have not reached a point of stabilization of your injuries.
Knowing that these may be some of the reasons the case has slowed will of course not make you feel any better, but it simply can just take a significant amount of time to resolve a legal matter.
However, patience could be your best friend. You will have better bargaining power if you choose not to rush into a settlement, particularly before consulting with an attorney. But ultimately it is up to you. You may need money for medical bills more quickly, which may cost you from receiving a larger settlement amount, but could be more helpful to you at that time. These are things you should discuss with an experienced attorney who can help you assess which outcome it best for you.