The timeline of a personal injury claim can vary significantly from several weeks to several months or years in complex cases. When injuries occur, the nature of the accident and the severity of injuries play a major role in the timeline of a claim and how the claim is resolved. Personal injury claims begin on the date the injury occurs and continue until the case is resolved through a personal injury lawsuit in court or a personal injury settlement between parties.
Personal injury cases involve all types of accidents including car crashes, slip and falls, defective products, medical errors, workplace mishaps, and wrongful death claims. In most cases, an injury victim can recover economic damages for medical expenses, lost wages and lost earning capacity, and rehabilitation and therapy costs. In some cases where the negligence of another person causes the injuries, the victim can recover non-economic damages for pain and suffering. The court examines both physical pain and emotional distress based on the nature of the accident and what the injury victim has to endure because of another person’s negligent actions.
Filing the Claim
When filing a personal injury claim, the outcome of the case depends on proof of injuries with evidence to support the claim. Whether the case goes to court or reaches a settlement, well-documented evidence is required including:
- Medical records showing visits, exams, and treatments by licensed physicians
- Medical diagnosis and prognosis of patient injuries
- Prescription medications issued for patient injuries and pain
- Proof of disabilities (temporary/permanent) or life-threatening conditions
- Testimony and opinions from medical experts
- Testimony from friends and family members
Once a personal injury claim is filed, the case goes through several stages. The timeline for each stage can vary significantly based on injury facts and specific circumstances.
During the discovery phase, each party investigates the other side’s legal claims and defenses. Each side sends interrogatories (questions) and document requests to the other. Depositions are taken from the plaintiff and defendant, as well as other relevant parties. Depending on the complexity of the case, the discovery phase may last six months to a year.
Mediation and Negotiation
Near the end of the discovery phase, personal injury lawyers for the plaintiff and the defendant will begin discussions about a settlement. In many cases, personal injury cases are settled out of court before a lawsuit is even filed. In some cases, the settlement process is conducted by a neutral third-party mediator, while other settlements are resolved between the plaintiff’s and defendant’s lawyers. The timeline for mediation and negotiation usually lasts between one and six months.
If a personal injury case proceeds to trial, the timeline for resolution can be much longer. Trial dates often get delayed or pushed back due to the judge’s schedule or some type of problem with the case. Some states schedule court trials for only half a day to allow judges and lawyers to get other things done in the afternoon. Cases that only involve a judge usually close faster than cases with court juries. Court trials may last from 2-3 months up to 1-2 years, depending on the court’s agenda and case circumstances.