Every year, across the nation, plaintiffs file hundreds of thousands of personal injury cases.
Not every personal injury case goes to trial. Roughly five percent do. But even settling out of court can take months, and sometimes a year or more to happen. Let’s examine why.
Your injuries following the accident
The largest factor in almost every personal injury accident case is the extent and severity of injuries. If your injuries are minor, settlement in your case should come quickly. But if you suffered major injuries that are disabling and/or require extensive treatment, your case could take much longer to settle.
Motor vehicle accidents make up more than 50 percent of personal injury cases. If a car accident injured you, emergency personnel at the scene may have seen you.
If your injuries were severe, an ambulance may have taken you to the closest emergency trauma department. For more mild injuries, you may have gone to your physician following the accident. Get medical attention swiftly.
You should then seek the advice of a qualified local automobile accident lawyer.
Hiring your personal injury accident lawyer
No matter the extent of your injuries, once you are stable, you need to secure your chosen lawyer’s services. That could mean your personal injury accident attorney will need to meet with you at the hospital or in your home if you can't travel to their office, which should be no problem.
Some of the things you will need to provide to your lawyer include:
- The date, time, and location of your accident
- Contact information for your insurance company
- Depending upon the accident, the name and contact information of the other party involved or the owner or manager of a business when applicable
- Your recollection of the incident
- Contact information for any witnesses of the incident
- Photographs and/or videos of the accident or immediately following it
- A police report if applicable
- The medical records of your injuries and the medical care you received along with a prognosis and projected future medical care and treatment
- Any bills you have incurred from the accident
Your attorney and legal team can then start their own investigation into the accident. Good personal injury lawyers will research every angle of your case, and that alone can take time. The team will obtain reports, interview witnesses, and discuss with experts in any field needed to strengthen your case.
Is there a time limit to file a legal case?
Part of the urgency stems from the time you have to file your legal case. Each state has a statute of limitations for filing a civil personal injury case. In Virginia, for example, you have two years following the date of the accident to file your case.
How complex could your case be?
Every personal injury accident case is different. They can range from a fender-bender or minor slip and fall to a fatal accident. A case where neither side disputes fault and the victim received minimal injuries, such as a broken arm, could settle quickly.
However, with disputed facts and complex injuries that require ongoing care, a settlement can take much longer.
Make ongoing medical treatment your top priority
After being seen by a physician and receiving your initial diagnosis, you must continue to follow your doctor’s advice, including testing for further diagnosis and treatment. If you experience any changes in your condition, you should notify your doctor immediately.
Not only is this incredibly important for your health, how you handle your medical treatment can also affect your legal case. The defendant’s lawyer will be looking to poke holes in your case.
Did the accident cause your injuries?
The legitimacy of your injuries could come into question. Furthermore, a delay in diagnosis or treatment, and the defendant’s attorney may try to claim the accident didn't cause your injuries.
Secondly, if it appears you are not trying in earnest to get better, their attorney could claim failure to mitigate. In a trial, if the judge agrees, this could significantly affect the damages you receive.
Early negotiations between the accident parties
Before your attorney files a lawsuit, they will work on negotiations with the defendant’s lawyer and their insurance company. It is in the best interest for both sides to settle, and most personal injury accident cases do settle. Why?
For you, a settlement will bring closure much faster, and you will receive your compensation quickly. For both parties, any legal fees could be far less than an ongoing process.
Settling may take months too. Each time the defense makes an offer, your attorney will come back to you to discuss that offer and come up with a counteroffer. This can occur a multitude of times.
The option of a court case
If the defendant’s team can't come up with an offer you are comfortable with, your lawyer may file a lawsuit and you can go to court. How soon you may get into the courtroom will depend, in part, on the jurisdiction’s court calendar.
Keep in mind that even though you file a lawsuit, negotiations can continue up and through a trial.
Choosing your personal injury accident lawyer
How to choose a personal injury accident lawyer that is right for you is not complicated. You need someone with a full legal team, including other lawyers, paralegals, and investigators, to develop your case. You also need someone with years of experience winning big for their clients through careful negotiations or trials.
Look for someone recognized by your state’s legal bar association, who has received accolades from their peers, and has positive reviews and positive testimonials from their clients.