5 Reasons Why Personal Injury Lawsuits Take Time
Every personal injury attorney hears it and every client asks it: “How long will my case take?” At the risk of sounding like, well, a lawyer, there is no set amount of time nor is there a magic formula to determine how long each personal injury case will take.
The short answer is that every individual personal injury case will take as long as needed to obtain justice and fair compensation for the client. But why do most cases take time? Here are the 5 most common reasons:
1. Your Injuries
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, the extent of your injuries may not be apparent right away. It can take weeks and even months for you to heal completely or in the case of major injuries, stabilize to the point where significant changes are unlikely. This is known as MMI or Maximum Medical Improvement.
A good personal injury attorney will not negotiate a settlement for a client that has not reached Maximum Medical Improvement in order to settle the case quickly. That’s because doing so could end up costing the client dearly. Once settled, the other driver is no longer responsible for the worsening of any injuries. If there are medical complications, there’s no going back and asking for more money.
2. The Legal Process Itself
From a legal standpoint, there are several steps to every personal injury case. Not every step may happen. For example, your case may not go to trial. But some of the other steps can be lengthy.
Hopefully, the first step is the accident victim hiring an attorney and not representing themselves. Then:
- Complaint filed – The victim’s (plaintiff’s) attorney files a complaint against the defendant. It can take a month or longer to even find the defendant and serve them with the complaint.
- Discovery phase – Both parties present their version of events. Witness and expert lists are provided and documents related to the accident are requested. Examples of these include police reports, insurance policies and medical records.
Depositions are a part of the discovery phase. All parties involved are asked questions under oath with a court reporter present. There is usually no judge, but attorneys are and can intervene on behalf of their clients.
- Pre-trial motions – If all of the evidence has been gathered and statements obtained, there is still the matter of setting a court date. Many courts handle criminal and civil cases. Because criminal cases take priority, civil cases such as a personal injury claim take longer to make it onto the docket. A witness who is ill or can’t be located will also delay a case. The case cannot proceed until they are able to appear.
- Settlement – A settlement is not a verdict, which can only be given by a jury at the end of a trial. A settlement can occur at any point in the lawsuit. The good news is most cases settle. In cases where liability (fault) is clear, they tend to settle quickly. Cases where liability and the evidence are in question can take much longer to settle.
As the trial court date draws closer, both sides will work hard to try and settle before that date arrives. This is done to avoid the expense and length of time involved with going to trial.
At this point, there may be a mediation. Generally, a mediation involves one impartial mediator and the two parties involved in the case. The mediator is not a judge and can’t impose a resolution. Instead, they are there to bring both sides together in a more informal atmosphere in an attempt to arrive at a resolution.
Arbitration is often confused with mediation, but they are different. With arbitration, the arbitrator(s) can and do decide a case. A written arbitration award is issued, and the case is considered settled.
- Trial – Most personal injury claims do not go to trial. However, if both sides cannot agree, this may be the only viable option to make sure a client receives the fair and just compensation they deserve. A good personal injury attorney will consult with their client(s) and explain why it is to the client’s benefit to go to trial at this point.
- Trial Verdict and Judgment – If a case has gone to trial, there should be a verdict at its conclusion. A verdict is the decision issued by the jury. In a personal injury case, which is a civil matter that would be a “liable” or “not liable” decision.
A judgment differs from a verdict. It is the final order of the court. It will give a declaration of monies owed and rights and responsibilities among other matters. It also ends the lawsuit.
3. Defense Counsel and/or the Insurance Company are Not Cooperating
If the potential settlement amount is large, both defense counsel and the insurance company will do everything they can to delay paying. Insurance companies, in particular, will put up several roadblocks in the hope the plaintiff will get tired of waiting and accept a lower settlement.
Defense counsel will use similar tactics. Their main job is to have their client avoid paying anything, or as little as possible. For example, the defense may be slow to produce requested documents or evidence. Of course, an experienced plaintiff personal injury attorney is wise to these tricks and knows how to combat them.
4. The Case is Complex
If there are multiple liable parties or expert witnesses involved, this will probably draw your case out simply because of the number of different people involved. All of these people translate into more paperwork and the logistics of trying to schedule them all within a reasonable amount of time, which can be difficult to achieve.
5. Client Cooperation
Sometimes, clients themselves inadvertently slow the legal process down. Something as mundane as a new phone number or a change of address can cause delays if the client doesn’t relay their new contact information to their attorney in a timely manner. Not being able to reach a client can mean missed appointments and/or important information regarding their case.
At Wilshire Law Firm we understand that the personal injury claims process can be confusing. Our experienced, award-winning attorneys will be with you every step of the way and make sure you receive the compensation you are rightfully entitled to.
Call us at 1-800-522-7274 for a FREE consultation today. We’re available 24/7, 365 days a year. Hablamos español.