Most people have never been involved in a personal injury lawsuit. As a result, accident victims and their families often ask how long the process will take. Most want to resolve their case and get their life back on track as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, there isn’t always a reliable answer to this question. The length of time it takes to resolve your case varies depending on the severity of your injuries, the money at stake, and the quality and reputation of your legal team. Every case is different, but there are several important milestones common to most. Here’s what you need to know.
Understanding the elements of an average personal injury case may help you better appreciate what to expect. We’ve broken down a few common stages of the personal injury process, the average time it takes, and the conditions that play into it’s how long each step will take:
As soon as you or your family is able, you’ll meet with a lawyer. The lawyer will walk you through the legal process. An experienced personal injury lawyer may be able to help you get a better idea of the timeline in front of you, after learning more about your injuries, your likely treatment plan, and the nature of the evidence suggesting that the negligence of another is involved.
Once it is determined that a claim is in your best interests, your lawyer will begin investigating the incident in-depth. In appropriate cases, the lawyer will obtain and review government documents (such as police reports), employment histories, witness accounts, and video footage of the scene. Additionally, your lawyer will likely consult specialists to support your claim, such as accident reconstruction experts and medical professionals.
If you and your attorney decide to move forward with the case, the lawyer files a personal injury complaint in the proper court. The party at fault for the accident will typically be served with the complaint within 30-60 days of a lawsuit’s filing, and that party’s written response is due within 30-45 days thereafter. In most cases, filing a lawsuit and obtaining the defendant’s appearance in court takes about three months after the initial client meeting.
Before a case gets to trial, the parties must participate in a mediation, also called “alternative dispute resolution.” Mediation is a private process meant to resolve the case voluntarily without further litigation. It usually involves your lawyer, the at-fault party’s lawyer, and a neutral third party. The mediation process—which usually only lasts one or two days—typically occurs between 9 and 18 months after your accident. Whether to accept any settlement offer made during the mediation or proceed to trial is entirely up to you.
While most cases settle out of court, some go to trial. The goal of the court is to begin trial in most cases within 24 months of their filing. The trial itself will usually last between a few days and a few weeks.
Other considerations can play into how long a personal injury case will take to conclude. For example, the length of time it takes before you’ve reached “maximum medical improvement” will significantly affect how long your case will take. Likewise, if you do end up going to trial, it may be delayed past your scheduled date because of calendar conflicts with the judge, a change of venue, or an emergency with a witness.
If you’ve suffered a personal injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, consider contacting the skilled personal injury attorneys at Danko Meredith. We’ve been named one of the Best Law Firms in America by US News & World Report, and our award-winning lawyers are consistently listed among California’s elite. We care about you and will stand by your side throughout the entirety of the legal process. For a free consultation, call us at (650) 453-3600 or complete our contact form today.