Timeline of a Personal Injury Case

April 25, 2024 | David Abels
Timeline of a Personal Injury Case
Waukegan personal injury lawyer

It is not possible to estimate the timeline of a personal injury case. Each case is unique, and many factors can shorten or lengthen the timeline for your case. If you want a precise timeline (or even an educated guess), consider speaking with a Waukegan personal injury lawyer.

Once you hire a lawyer, they will gather relevant information and evaluate the strength of your case. This will allow them to form a strategy, negotiate a settlement, and determine whether liable parties will compensate you fairly. Once your lawyer has the necessary information, they may provide a reasonable timeline for resolving your case.

The Timeline of Each Personal Injury Case Varies Based On…

Life is full of variables, and personal injury cases are no different. These variables often make it difficult to give straight answers or provide firm deadlines, and variables that affect the timeline of a personal injury case include:

The Complexity of the Event That Prompted the Personal Injury Case

Investigations are an essential, unavoidable part of personal injury cases. The complexity of the event that has prompted your personal injury case (whether it is an auto accident, surgical error, slip and fall, or something else) may affect your case timeline.

Some investigation-related considerations include:

  • The complexity of the subject matter (medical malpractice cases are often very technical, for instance)
  • The number of witnesses your lawyer needs to interview
  • The clarity of fault for the harmful event (some cases are clear-cut, while others are not)
  • The number of experts your lawyer needs to hire during the investigation
  • Whether liable parties have evidence your lawyer needs and whether those parties resist providing the evidence (this is often an issue in truck accident cases)

You may work to avoid unnecessary delays by hiring a lawyer experienced in your specific case type. For example, a lawyer with decades of experience handling commercial vehicle accident cases may be best suited to lead an efficient, technical investigation of a semi-truck accident.

The Type and Number of Liable Parties

Determining liability is necessary before a lawyer can resolve a personal injury case. Considerations during this process include:

  • Whether insurance companies are financially liable for the client’s damages
  • Whether at-fault parties have or lacked insurance
  • How many parties contributed to the client’s damages

Attorneys know that negligence is the common standard for liability in personal injury cases. They know how to recognize negligence, determine the share of fault for harmful events, and seek compensation from liable parties.

The Severity of the Plaintiff’s Injuries and Mental Health Struggles

Plaintiffs hire personal injury lawyers when:

  • They suffer injuries because of someone’s negligence
  • They become sick because of someone’s negligence
  • They lose a loved one because of someone’s negligence

Each case is unique, and some victims’ injuries, symptoms, and damages are particularly complicated. An attorney may need more time than usual to understand complex medical conditions, document damages, and project future damages in complicated cases.

The Financial Value of the Case

The more compensation a plaintiff is entitled to, the longer their case may take. This is true because:

  • It can take longer to document the types of damages that lead to large financial recoveries
  • Liable parties are often resistant to paying large sums, which can make settlement negotiations far more difficult
  • Securing a large financial recovery may require the plaintiff (and their lawyer) to go to trial, which extends the timeline for the case

Statistics indicate that the more severe a plaintiff’s injuries are, the more compensation they are usually entitled to. Therefore, if you have a serious injury or illness or you have lost a loved one, you should prepare for the possibility of a tough financial fight.

Liable Parties’ Willingness to Pay

In every personal injury case, it is the responsibility of the liable parties to settle fairly. A lawyer will work to convince those liable parties to offer a fair settlement, but a lawyer can’t force them to do so.

Therefore, a case timeline may lengthen if liable parties:

  • Accuse the defendant of causing (or contributing to) their injury or illness
  • Dispute the amount of compensation the plaintiff is seeking compensation for
  • Extend one or more lowball settlement offers
  • Delay the claims or legal process as a pressure tactic (perhaps hoping the plaintiff will cave to a lowball offer)
  • Force an attorney to resort to a lawsuit (and potentially a trial)

When liable parties accept responsibility and agree to pay claimants and plaintiffs fairly, it often reduces the timeline for personal injury cases.

Whether the Case Goes to Trial

personal injury claim

Most civil cases end with a settlement, but this is only possible when liable parties extend a reasonable offer. When those parties negotiate in bad faith or simply never offer an acceptable offer, personal injury lawyers and their clients often move forth to trial.

Your attorney will lead every step of a trial (if your case reaches this point), including:

  • Leading the discovery process (which may include depositions and other requirements)
  • Preparing, presenting, and questioning witnesses
  • Arranging expert testimony
  • Presenting evidence
  • Critiquing every aspect of the defense’s case
  • Requesting that the jury award you the compensation you deserve

While a trial can extend the timeline of a personal injury case by months or longer, it can be a worthwhile investment.

Your Attorney Will Build a Strong Case Before Negotiations Begin

Settlement negotiations are high stakes, and a lawyer must be as prepared as possible before engaging in financial talks. Your lawyer will take several steps in advance of settlement negotiations, which will likely include:

  • Proving fault for your injury, illness, or a loved one’s passing: Your lawyer will obtain evidence proving who caused the event(s) resulting in your injury, illness, or wrongful death. Witness accounts, videos, photographs, and law enforcement reports are among the types of evidence they may secure.
  • Establishing who is financially responsible for your losses: Those who cause injuries and other harmful outcomes are often financially liable. However, insurance companies, employers, and other parties may also have financial liability for the negligent party’s harmful behavior. 
  • Documenting the full extent of your damages: Your personal injury attorney will use property-related invoices, medical bills, injury diagnoses, mental health diagnoses, and other documentation to prove your damages. Many sources may help illustrate the full extent of your damages, and your lawyer will take advantage of all useful documentation.
  • Determining the precise cost of current and future damages: In a critically important step, your personal injury attorney will determine exactly how much compensation you deserve. A lawyer’s ability to calculate both non-economic damages (like pain and suffering) and future damages may be particularly helpful. These damages do not always have an obvious or easy-to-calculate cost, but lawyers can evaluate them accurately.
  • Retaining experts to strengthen your case: Law firms don’t hesitate to hire experts who can strengthen their personal injury cases. This may include medical professionals, mental health providers, economists, and other experts whose insight benefits your case. 

Once they have taken these steps and formulated a negotiation strategy, your lawyer may issue a demand letter to insurers or other liable parties. The insurance company may issue an offer first.

If the insurer does not honor your lawyer’s financial demands or offer a fair settlement, back-and-forth negotiations may ensue.

Negotiations Can Begin Once All Parties Know the Facts

Once your lawyer has built their case and liable parties are ready to talk, the next steps in your case will unfold. All parties may be ready to work towards a financial agreement, and the next steps can include:

Settlement Negotiations

It is in the interest of all parties (in most cases) to resolve a personal injury claim through a lawsuit. Your lawyer will confidently negotiate on your behalf, knowing that evidence and documentation are on their side.

Settlement negotiations often involve:

  • Both sides exchanging relevant evidence
  • Your attorney presenting documentation of your covered losses
  • Your attorney explaining how they arrived at their settlement demands
  • Parties extending offers and counteroffers until they reach an acceptable agreement

Lawyers have different philosophies and approaches to negotiating settlements. However, every attorney should not compromise when it comes to securing fair compensation for their clients.

A Discussion About a Lawsuit

Your attorney will update you regularly during settlement negotiations. They may specifically alert you to the following:

  • Settlement offers 
  • Whether settlement offers are fair or not
  • Their plan to make a counteroffer
  • Whether settlement negotiations are nearing a conclusion

If your lawyer determines that liable parties will not offer a fair settlement through negotiations, they may present the option of filing a lawsuit. If you agree this is the right course of action, your lawyer can take the following steps.


Discovery is one of the steps that occur before a civil case goes to trial. After your lawyer files a lawsuit, the discovery process may include:

The discovery process can turn up facts, expose flaws in the defense’s case, and serve other purposes. Your lawyer will take full advantage of this stage if your case reaches discovery.


Settlement negotiations can continue even once your personal injury lawyer files a lawsuit. Your attorney may continue to negotiate directly with liable parties. They may also bring in a neutral third party to assist in the negotiation process, which is called mediation.


If your lawyer completes discovery and negotiations (possibly including mediation) without receiving a fair settlement offer, your case may go to trial. Your lawyer will:

  • Prepare a detailed trial strategy
  • Prepare you for any aspects of trial you must know about
  • Present witnesses and cross-examine defense witnesses
  • Present evidence
  • File motions, make objections, and lead every other aspect of your trial

Your lawyer will prepare as thoroughly as possible for trial. However, trials tend to be unpredictable, and a lawyer’s experience will be helpful as they make your case in court.

Damages Your Personal Injury Lawyer Can Seek Compensation For

Personal Injury Claims

Each plaintiff in a personal injury case has a unique damage profile. No two injuries are exactly alike, and no two plaintiffs have the exact same reaction to trauma, so every case requires a personalized evaluation.

A lawyer will evaluate your unique damages, which may include:

Medical Expenses

Because most personal injury cases involve some type of injury or illness, medical bills are a common type of damage. The cost of your medical care may depend on:

  • The specific details of your injuries
  • The severity of your injuries (including if they are disabling)
  • The specific types of care you require
  • Whether you require rehabilitation

Your attorney will keep a running record of your medical needs, from emergency services to rehabilitation.

Professional Damages

Injured and sick parties are often unable to work, which can cause them to lose:

  • Income
  • Earning power
  • Bonuses
  • Overtime opportunities
  • Promotion opportunities

Your lawyer may work with an economist to determine the long-term cost of your professional damages.

Pain and Suffering

Incidents like car accidents, negligent medical care, and falls often have a high non-economic cost. Pain and suffering can refer to mental, emotional, and physical difficulties that don’t have an obvious financial cost. These damages are recoverable in personal injury cases.

Plaintiffs in personal injury cases often have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Your attorney may consult mental health experts to evaluate, document, and value such damages.

Personal injury attorneys also represent those who lose loved ones because of negligence. These wrongful death cases are high stakes, as are many other cases that personal injury lawyers handle.

When Should I Hire a Personal Injury Attorney?

You should hire a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Your legal team will need to collect all useful evidence (some may not be available much longer) and file your case before any statute of limitations expires. Further, the sooner you have legal representation, the sooner you know what to expect, which can alleviate concerns and stress about the future.

Your consultation is free, so don’t wait to speak with personal injury lawyers serving your area. They are ready to support you.

David Abels Author Image

David Abels


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.

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