One of the first questions someone asks when hiring a personal injury lawyer is “how long is my case going to take?” Unfortunately, we don’t have a cut and dry answer for you. There are so many factors that go into a personal injury case that the case can take anywhere from just a few months to a few years.
While we can’t guarantee it will be a short process, the personal injury lawyers at our firm work hard to ensure that you know what is going on in your case—hopefully making the process a little smoother. We call this the “Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers Experience.”
But if you’re looking for a more general overview rather than specific answers, take a look at the steps that every personal injury claim must go through before being resolved.
Discovery Period: Extent of the Injury
In every personal injury case, the first steps involve assessing your injuries and health. The insurance company will collect and review all of your medical records and bills. They need to assess what caused the injuries, look at pre-existing conditions, and determine if any lasting injuries stemmed from the incident. Pre-existing conditions don’t negate your personal injury claim, but they may complicate things a bit.
It’s important to consult with your personal injury lawyer to make sure you’re put in front of the best doctors during this assessment period. A medical oversight can hurt your health and your pocket. You may be asked to be assessed by multiple doctors to ensure that nothing is missed.
In addition to your medical records, insurance companies will take a look at the accident reports and your insurance policy. You may be asked to produce documents or authorize others to release them for you.
During the legal process, you will be asked questions about your accident while a court reporter types out everything that is said. This is called a deposition. The questions will have to do with your health, and work were like before the accident occurred.
Your personal injury attorney will help you prepare for the deposition. He or she will also be with you to “defend” your deposition. If any of the questions are irrelevant or harassing, your attorney will object to them.
It is possible that a lawyer will need to file several pre-trial motions to narrow down any potential issues. Basically these motions will determine what physical evidence or testimonies can or cannot be used. If a witness isn’t competent enough to testify, they may have to be excluded as a witness at trial. During these pre-trail motions, the case may be dismissed altogether.
Mediation and Settlement
In personal injury cases especially, settlement conferences; mediation, or arbitration are typically required before bringing the case to trial. In mediation, a mediator will help guide the parties toward a settlement agreement. Arbitration is slightly different. An arbitrator acts more like a judge when listening to the evidence and deciding upon issues about the case.
The ultimate goal of settlement conferences are to reach settlements that parties can agree upon without bringing the case to trial. There are pros and cons to settling outside of trial. One of the biggest pros is that, after settling, the case is over and done with. Another pro is that, in settlement, you know what you’re getting. There’s no risk taking if a jury decides on a disappointing result.
While many personal injury lawyers try to settle quickly, you will have better bargaining power if you don’t rush it. Deciding whether to settle or go to trial is a big decision. Our experienced personal injury attorneys can help you understand the “what-ifs” of both, but ultimately it is your decision; our lawyers are never afraid to go to trial.
If your case doesn’t settle, a jury will decide what your injury case is worth. This can be a long process. Even scheduling it to the court’s docket can take several months. The trial itself, however may take only a few days to a few weeks. Then you have potential for further appeals or motions.
It is possible that parties settle during or even after a trial in order to stop an appeal.
Your best bet is to contact a personal injury attorney who has experience in representing people who have been in similar situations. Your lawyer can give you a rough estimate of how long cases like yours generally take. They may give you a list of some potential problems that may arise, and just some tips on the legal process.