If you plan to file a personal injury lawsuit in California, you are likely wondering how long it will take to settle. The personal injury litigation process can be complex and, depending on the facts of your case, it could take between a few months to one or two years to secure the compensation you need to recover. While you may want to settle your case quickly, it is very important to ensure you receive a sufficient settlement for your injuries and losses.
Waiting for Maximum Medical Improvement
After an injury, the very first step you should take is to receive medical treatment. At your appointment, you will receive a clearer picture of your injuries and receive valuable medical records you can use as evidence in your case. You should contact your personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after you receive medical attention.
Your attorney will likely want to wait until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) before filing your claim. This stage could take a few days, weeks, or several months. If you file before reaching MMI, you may not have a clear picture of your medical needs and the amount of compensation you will require to pay for your future treatment. If you have severe injuries, it will take longer for you to reach MMI.
Investigation and Negotiations
Before filing your lawsuit in civil court, your attorney will need to investigate your case. He or she will gather relevant evidence, speak to witnesses, and discuss your case with you. After the investigation stage is complete, your lawyer may send an initial complaint letter to the at-fault party outlining your injuries and intent to file a claim.
The at-fault party may agree to settlement negotiations. If you are able to reach an agreement, your case will conclude at this stage. If the at-fault party refuses to negotiate, you fail to reach a settlement, or your attorney does not believe it is in your best interest, your lawyer will file your lawsuit.
Filing and Discovery
After your lawyer files the lawsuit, it could take one to two years for your case to reach trial. This is often due to the discovery process, which can last several months to one year. During discovery, each party will exchange legal claims and evidence to understand each other’s arguments. The attorneys may also conduct depositions, or recorded testimonies, for you, the at-fault party, and relevant witnesses. The more complex your case is, the longer discovery will take.
Mediation and Trial
Before you attend trial, you can choose to enter another round of negotiations with the at-fault party in an attempt to reach a settlement. You could also attend a mediation session, which is an alternative conflict resolution process with a third-party mediator. If these discussions are successful, your case will settle at this stage.
If mediation is unsuccessful or does not take place, your case will proceed to trial. The court will examine the facts of the case, decide whether you deserve compensation, and determine the award amount. The trial can last a single day, a week, or longer, depending on the complexity of your case.
Throughout the personal injury litigation process, it is very important to have an attorney who can represent your best interests and guide you through each stage of your case. Contact a California personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident to discuss your legal options.