How Long Is the Personal Injury Claim Process?

November 30, 2020

When you sustain an injury due to someone else’s negligence, you can experience serious hardship. Mounting medical bills, weeks of lost wages, and other forms of physical, emotional, and financial damage can impact your future — but you can seek compensation for these losses through a personal injury lawsuit.
A personal injury lawsuit is a legal action you file in California civil court where you and your injury attorney will attempt to prove that you deserve financial remedies from the person or entity responsible for your accident. While the legal process varies from case to case, your case may take between one to two years to reach a conclusion.

The Personal Injury Claim Process

While each case is different, most personal injury lawsuits follow the same basic process, beginning with seeking medical attention and contacting a lawyer. After speaking with your attorney, he or she will investigate your claim and launch the following process once you reach maximum medical improvement.

  • Initial demand: If your attorney determines it is appropriate, he or she will send a letter to the defendant outlining your demands. You may enter negotiations at this stage, and your case may reach a settlement before trial.
  • Filing: Your attorney will file your lawsuit in civil court if your case does not settle or if he or she chooses not to make an initial demand.
  • Discovery: During the discovery stage, you and the defendant will exchange evidence and depose relevant parties. This process can take several months to a year to complete.
  • Negotiation and mediation: You may choose to enter pretrial negotiations with the defendant to attempt to reach a settlement before trial. Many cases settle at this stage.
  • Trial: If negotiations do not work in your favor, you will proceed to trial. The court will determine if you deserve a settlement and how much it should be. Most personal injury trials are very short, sometimes taking a day or less.

Factors That Can Lengthen Your Lawsuit’s Timeline

Some personal injury cases settle before an attorney files a lawsuit, while others may need to enter multiple negotiations and trial to reach a favorable outcome. The presence of certain factors can influence how long your lawsuit will take to conclude, including the following.

  • Severe injuries: Your attorney will not want to file your claim until you reach maximum medical improvement, and if you have severe injuries, it may take longer to reach this stage and begin the process.
  • Lack of cooperation: If the defendant or the insurance company responsible for paying for your damages does not cooperate with the investigation or litigation process, your case can take a longer time to reach a conclusion.
  • Complex factors: Multiple defendants, catastrophic injuries, and other factors that make a case more complex can lengthen your timeline. It will take a longer time to investigate and build your claim, and logistical processes like scheduling and paperwork can also lengthen your case’s timeline.
  • A high settlement value: A defendant is usually more willing to settle out of court if you are claiming a lower settlement. If you need thousands or millions of dollars to recover from your injuries, your case will likely take longer to reach a conclusion.

While the personal injury claim process can be lengthy, it is important to follow your attorney’s advice and be patient throughout the litigation. Since accepting an early settlement offer can lead to insufficient compensation for your injuries and additional hardship later on, it is important to take all necessary steps to achieve maximum compensation. To begin your journey toward fair compensation, contact your personal injury attorney immediately after the accident to discuss your legal options.