How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?
Each car accident injury claim is unique, and the length of time a personal injury lawsuit may take depends on several factors. For example, the time required for settlement negotiations or preparing for trial will differ for each case. In most cases, injured parties will first attempt to reach a fair settlement with the responsible party’s insurance company outside of court.
A settlement is usually the quickest way for injured parties to receive the compensation they deserve. However, insurance companies often attempt to outright deny claims for damages. In the alternative, they may refuse to offer an amount that is sufficient to cover an injured party’s medical expenses. When settlement negotiations are unsuccessful, injured parties may choose to file a lawsuit. If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact an experience Texas personal injury lawyer for legal advice on your personal injury lawsuit.
Working With Insurance Companies
To begin the claims process, injured victims must contact the defendant’s insurance company to file a claim. When speaking with the responsible party’s insurance provider, it is crucial that injured victims only provide the necessary information. Victims should give the representative their name, contact information, date and time of the accident, location of the accident, and their attorney’s contact information.
Any additional information may be used in an attempt to discredit the extent of injury or to support a denial of the claim. Should a representative try to pressure an injured party into providing additional information, they may instruct them to contact their attorney. Should you choose to obtain representation, the insurance company’s attorney will contact your attorney or vice versa.
The length of time to settle a case depends on how soon the insurance company responds, and whether they offer a fair amount. Settlement negotiations may entail a substantial amount of back-and-forth communication. After several adjustments, it may be clear that the insurance company will never offer an adequate settlement. When negotiations prove to be unsuccessful, an experienced attorney may suggest proceeding to trial.
The Basics of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
To begin a personal injury lawsuit, injured parties should work with an attorney to create and file a formal complaint in the civil court. After filing a complaint, parties must request that the clerk of the court issue a summons to notify the defendant. A process server serves the defendant and his or her insurance provider with a copy of the complaint, so they are informed of the allegations against them.
Because a defendant must be personally served, completing service of the complaint may take several days or even weeks. While serving insurance companies is relatively easy, individual defendants may intentionally avoid being served with a complaint.
Upon being served, a defendant must file a response, usually an answer or a counterclaim “before 10:00 a.m. on the Monday after the expiration of 20 days after the date of service.” If a defendant fails to file a responsive pleading within the prescribed time limit, a plaintiff may file a motion for default judgment. However, defendants rarely fail to respond to personal injury complaints, especially when insurance companies are involved.
Once the defendant files a response, the case will either proceed to the discovery phase or hearings may be set to address ancillary motions filed by either party. If the defendant’s response raises a counterclaim, both parties will begin collection documents, evidence, and information for discovery.
If the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, the court may choose to hear arguments from either side. After, the court will decide to either grant the motion, dismissing the case, or deny the motion, and the case will proceed. If the motion is denied, the case proceeds to the discovery phase. If the court decides to dismiss the lawsuit, you will have a chance to amend your claim and refile it.
The Discovery Phase
During the discovery phase, the parties may file requests for admissions, interrogatories, and requests for production. Either party—plaintiff or defendant—may also ask the opposing side to complete a deposition. In some cases, an attorney may suggest expert witness testimony to support a claim. Accident reconstruction expert testimony may demonstrate accident causes or medical experts may testify about long-term illnesses.
The discovery phase is typically the most time-consuming phase of the litigation process. Although each party has a specific amount of time to respond to discovery requests, there are often delays and requests for extensions.
In other cases, the parties may respond promptly, but fail to provide adequate information, which triggers an additional round of discovery. Under the best circumstances, discovery could take 40 to 60 days, depending on the type of discovery requested and the individual’s availability to complete a deposition. After collecting and receiving all available evidence, an attorney can begin to build strategies for trial.
Before the trial, the parties attend a pre-trial hearing where the court issues timelines for trading certain types of discovery. Each side may be required to provide the other with witness lists or specific records. Generally, the pre-trial proceedings occur about a week or so before the trial date.
Once the trial starts, the length of time it takes depends on the circumstances of each specific case. A trial for someone who has fully physically recovered from an accident may only last a few days. On the other hand, trials involving victims seeking to recover compensation for long-term injuries, permanent disabilities, or punitive damages can last much longer. The length of the trial may also depend on the number of defendants involved in the case.
Cases with complaints that request exemplary damages must proceed as a bifurcated trial—in other words, a two-part trial. In the first part of the trial, the court determines if the defendant has liability for exemplary damages. In the second part, which only occurs if the court finds liability, the trier determines the amount of exemplary damages the defendant should pay.
After the Trial
After the court determines the amount of economic, non-economic, and exemplary damages the defendant should pay, it signs and enters an order. In most cases, the order states the outcome of the trial, the amount of recovery, and how long the defendant has to pay. Unless otherwise arranged, the defendant writes a check to the plaintiff’s attorney, who then deposits it in his or her escrow account. The attorney keeps their fees and costs and pays the remaining amount to the plaintiff as their judgment.
If you suffer from injuries from an accident, contact a personal injury lawyer to schedule a free consultation.