Personal injury cases are some of the more common types of lawsuits filed nationwide today. However, many plaintiffs are going through the legal process of filing a personal injury lawsuit for the very first time. It is common to wonder what to expect, how the case itself will proceed and how long it will take.
This post will provide a closer look at the personal injury lawsuit process, including possible timelines.
The Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Filing a personal injury lawsuit begins when the plaintiff retains an attorney and ends with the collection of any settlement. In some cases, the lawsuit may be settled out of court, which can speed the process up.
Bearing this in mind, these are the typical steps of a personal injury lawsuit:
– Selection of a personal injury attorney.
– File the required court documents.
– Discovery to obtain facts from both sides.
– Pre-trial meetings and motions.
– Settling out of court or proceeding to trial.
– A verdict is delivered and the case is concluded.
A Word About the Statute of Limitations
Every state has the right to set its own statute of limitations for different types of cases. These limitations typically range from 12 months to 6 years or more.
In the case of personal injury, the statute will tell plaintiffs the period of time they have to file a lawsuit, after which it will no longer be legally possible to press charges. Obviously, the sooner the lawsuit is filed, the sooner the process can begin.
How to Speed Up the Case
For personal injury victims in particular, there has been an injury to their physical person and sometimes to their mental and emotional health as well. So time is of the essence in working to conclude the litigation and (hopefully) collect the settlement award to help with the financial stress and strain of being injured.
However, some personal injury cases are less complicated than others, which can make it difficult to predict how long any particular lawsuit may take to conclude. The less complicated the case is and the more willing both parties are to work together towards a fair settlement, the less time it will typically take to move through all the steps and conclude the case.
As well, some steps can be faster than others, depending on how much control the plaintiff has over them (for example, selecting a personal injury attorney might be achieved relatively quickly, since this is the plaintiff’s sole decision).
Most importantly, if there is an option to settle without going to trial, this is the easiest way to speed up the steps to get to the verdict and the settlement award.
A Typical Timeline for a Personal Injury Case
Factoring in elements that relate to case complexity and settling versus going to trial, here is one possible timeline to use as a guide in any personal injury case.
– Defendant is notified (served). Delivering the lawsuit papers may take up to 30 days, although often it takes much less time.
– Defendant retains an attorney. The defendant has until the first court date to hire an attorney, which is typically at least 30 days.
– Discovery and fact checking. This phase often lasts months and will occasionally last years, especially if tests are needed or witnesses are difficult to track down.
– Trial. The trial itself typically lasts no more than a week unless it is quite complex. At the end of the trial the judge and/or jury will deliver the verdict and notice of any settlement awarded.
– Appeals. At this point, either party can file appeals, which can take months or years to resolve.
– Settlement awarded. After any appeals have been handled, the settlement may still require more action to collect.
As this timeline shows, the simplest personal injury lawsuits may conclude in weeks or months, while more complex cases can drag on for years. Estimating a timeline should be discussed up front with the selected Los Angeles personal injury attorney so all parties can best prepare for the process.