An accident can result in severe injuries that can alter your life forever. After you suffer an injury, you have the right to file a personal injury claim against the negligent party and obtain compensation. Most cases will settle before reaching a trial, but knowing the personal injury timeline is essential since you cannot predict the outcome. Read on below to learn more from our experience personal injury lawyers.
[lwptoc title="Personal Injury Timeline Guide"]
What is personal injury?
Any accident that was another person’s fault that resulted in injury is a personal injury case.
Some examples of personal injury cases are:
There are many more accidents and injuries that fall under the personal injury umbrella, and you must discuss your options with a nearby personal injury lawyer.
Before you take any legal steps, you will need to get medical treatment directly from the site or by making an appointment with your primary doctor within a few days. Medical treatment allows you to get the help you need but also shows a link between the injury and the incident.
You may experience minor discomfort and ignore it until it becomes unbearable. That is a huge mistake because if you wait too long for care, your condition gets worse, and your legal case gets weaker. Insurance adjusters and juries see a delay in treatment as the person not suffering significant injuries. Get medical treatment for your health and for your claim.
Contact a local personal injury lawyer
No matter how minor your injury and incident are, the least you can do is contact with a local personal injury lawyer. You lose nothing by getting a legal opinion on the case. During an initial consultation, a lawyer can inform you of your options and determine if it is worth your time. Most personal injury lawyers will not take on a case that is too small or will not have a favorable outcome.
You can handle mirror accidents independently if you are comfortable with the process and paperwork that comes with it. However, since most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation, it’s always better to be sure. Serious accidents always require personal injury lawyers because the opposing side is unwilling to budge. A severe injury includes being out of work for more than a few days, medical bills over a couple of thousand dollars, and broken bones.
Filing a personal injury claim
Filing a claim will look differently depending on the accident you suffer. Suppose it is a car accident; you must file a claim with the insurance company, which will assign an adjuster to your claim. The store will have liability insurance to cover these cases for a slip and fall. Medical malpractice claims depend on where they occurred, but it can be the doctor’s insurance or the hospital’s.
Investigation and medical records for your claim
Once you retain a lawyer for your personal injury case, they will begin conducting an investigation. The first step will be an interview about the accident. Your consultation is essential to your injury claim because your lawyer will get to know everything about the incident and your viewpoint of what happened. You must be honest, so your lawyer can prepare and not face any surprises down the line.
The next part of the process is obtaining medical records from the accident and previous incidents. Getting these records will take time.
We will speak to witnesses and collect police reports, videos, photos, and other pertinent information for your claim. Once they have enough evidence, they will move on to the next step.
Demand package and negotiations
Compiling all of your medical records, receipts, and more to place in your demand package. Your lawyer will send the demand package to the insurance adjuster or the opposing lawyer. Once your personal injury lawyer has sufficient evidence, they will begin calculating your case’s worth and future prognosis.
Within the demand letter, your lawyer will outline the theory of liability, the injuries per your medical records, and the amount you are demanding. You can only send a demand package when you reach maximum medical improvement, which means you do not have any more medical treatment.
In more severe cases, your lawyer can file a demand package to move the case, but waiting to reach MMI is always best. Most personal injury claims settle before you need to file a lawsuit and settle with a demand package.
Once the opposing party receives the demand, they will review the terms and issue a response. They will either accept the offer or come back with a new offer, and there will be some back and forth. You will move into litigation if negotiations stall or the two parties are too far apart.
filing a personal injury lawsuit
The litigation process begins when your attorney files a personal injury lawsuit with the local courts. Up to this point, all legal actions were pre-litigation, but once settlement negotiations stall, you will go into the litigation phases. There are many actions to take during this phase, and while preparing for trial, it is not to say that trial is necessary.
The pretrial process will vary slightly depending on where you reside, but the steps are about the same. A trial will be one to two years after you file a lawsuit barring exceptional circumstances. There are stringent deadlines to file a lawsuit, so while you need to reach MMI, you also need to be aware of the statute of limitations for your lawsuit.
After filing a lawsuit, the discovery process will begin. This is one of the most extended phases because both sides will ask for evidence. Depending on what is in your lawsuit, the opposing party will investigate your claims. They will also begin to build a defense that disproves your claims.
The insurance company’s lawyer will send you interrogatories, take depositions and request various documents. In comparison, your lawyer will do the same but will look for things that help your claim.
Request for production
One of the requests opposing counsel will make are interrogatories that ask for basic information like employment history, names, and date of birth. It will also require you to answer questions regarding the incident and your injuries. You will need to provide information about all medical providers you have seen in the past ten years; your lawyer can help you fill these interrogatories out.
There is also a request for admission where one party will ask the other to admit to the date of the accident and other facts of the incident. They will also need to confirm ownership of the vehicle or premises, depending on where the accident occurred. All parties will have 30 days to respond to any requests.
Another element is taking depositions, an interview that goes over your interrogatories and clarifies any issues. While the parties in the lawsuit will undergo depositions, so will other witnesses. The deposition will take time to schedule because the opposing party must request and review pertinent documents to prepare.
There will be your attorney and the defense attorney, and a stenographer. For the most part, the questions will be similar to your interrogatories and confirm what you already reported. The defense lawyer will ask all the questions, and your lawyer will object to anything you should not answer.
While you will visit your doctors, the defense might try to send you to a Compulsory Medical Exam (CME) or an (IME) to confirm or deny your prognosis.
If you must attend one of these appointments, do not trust the doctor because they work for the opposing party and not for you. They do not provide medical care and will look for ways to provide a favorable opinion to the defense lawyer.
The more witnesses and injury victims, the longer the process can take. However, when there is a permanent injury, your discovery will surpass a year.
Mediation and negotiation
Once discovery is complete, the attorneys will reconvene to negotiate again. They will first try to negotiate among themselves, and if they are still too far apart, they will schedule mediation. During mediation, both lawyers, the plaintiffs, and a third party will meet to reach a resolution.
The beginning of mediation is when all parties are in the same room. Each attorney will present their case and opening statements describing the accident, injuries, and damages. It is confidential, so you cannot speak to anyone else about what happens during mediation. The discussions cannot come up at trial, and it allows both parties to go back and review their cases.
Next, the parties will break into separate rooms, and the mediator will go back and forth to settle. The mediator does not decide the case’s outcome; they only help both parties reach a middle ground. They will point out the strengths and weaknesses of each side and even give you an idea of how the trial can go depending on the current arguments. If your case goes into litigation, it will likely resolve during mediation, and if it does not, then a trial is the next and final step.
If the issue did not resolve in mediation, all parties must agree to a trial date, depending on the judge and attorney’s availability. The trial length will vary, but they will schedule a trial for longer than you need.
Scheduling a date for trial does not mean it will happen because you can resolve the lawsuit before trial. You can have a trial day on the schedule, which the court will push a few times. Do not think that a trial date push is a bad thing; it can be due to the judge’s schedule or another irrelevant reason.
Before trial, the attorneys will continue to negotiate and reach a resolution. No one wants to go to trial because it is costly and time-consuming. Severe accidents or those with contentious negligence issues will likely go to trial, but there is no surefire sign that your claim will go this far.
Personal Injury Claim Results
A trial verdict is not always the end, the other party can agree to the terms, and your legal troubles are over. If they disagree, they can appeal the verdict through the appellate process. Sometimes they agree with parts of the decision and want to appeal to other parts. When the opposing party files an appeal, it can take another year before you get a resolution.
At the end of the process of the appeal, the jury verdict is final or reversed. You may need to try the case again if a court reverses it. The personal injury timeline is extensive, and depending on your injuries and liability, the claim can resolve at different points.
Upon settling, no matter during which phase of the timeline it occurs, you will have a disbursement of funds. The award disbursement will happen within 30 days, but that does not mean you will get the money the right way. Before you receive any funds, your lawyer and medical providers will receive payment. That can prolong the process of receiving funds.
Factors that might prolong your claim
Injuries that resolve in a few months will have a shorter timeline than those involving catastrophic injuries. However, other factors can prolong your claim. While you want to settle soon, you should not settle too soon.
Some factors that will prolong your timelines are:
Permanent impairment or disability
The length of the investigation
How willing is the insurance company to settle
Always stay patient and communicate with your lawyer.
Don’t wait to consult a personal injury lawyer
After an accident, you will want to resolve your case as quickly as possible, but it may not be that simple. Any respectable lawyer will not rush the process and will instead take the time to review all aspects and reach a resolution that works for your circumstances.
David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.