How long your personal injury lawsuit takes can depend on how severely you were injured, whether the other party is willing to settle, and the nature of your case. Debates over how much compensation you can receive and who owes you damages can also affect the process.
The timeline can range widely. A personal injury lawyer can provide a personalized assessment.
Factors That Affect the Length of Personal Injury Lawsuits
Many variables inform the timeline of a lawsuit, but the most common are:
- Case type
- Liable parties
- Liability disputes
- State deadlines
- Going to court
Yet perhaps the most important factor is you. Many personal injury victims want simple answers about, for instance, how long a rear-end collision case will take and what damages are recoverable. However, that depends on how the accident directly affected you. Your injuries, your personal losses, and your state of mind after that collision can differ from any other person’s experience.
That is the benefit of a personal injury case—rather than forcing victims into boxes, lawsuits are customized. The length of a case is based on each individual’s situation.
Case Type Can Change How Long a Personal Injury Case Takes
Personal injury law encompasses many types of accidents, from colliding with an Uber to losing a loved one in a truck crash. Some attorneys handle cases in one subcategory, such as roadway accidents or medical malpractice. The type of accident you suffered can dictate how long your case takes to settle or receive a verdict.
Even those subcategories can have a great deal of variation. For instance, a low-speed fender-bender is sometimes more straightforward than a multi-car collision case. At the same time, we cannot always assume all fender-benders are straightforward cases.
Consequently, the type of personal injury you suffered could affect the timeline of your case due to:
- The amount of investigation needed
- The evidence required to demonstrate negligence
- How complicated the scenario was
- The severity of the accident and injuries
- Any confusion in determining what happened
- Location of the accident
- All parties involved in the accident
An attorney might approach a car accident case by considering everyone’s speed, the traffic and road conditions, vehicle types, the victims’ medical history and injury severity, police reports, traffic camera footage, and witness testimony. These are just some of the unique factors that can affect the process of pursuing a lawsuit and, as a result, affect the time it takes.
Drunk Driving and Hit and Run Accidents Can Take Longer
Some accident cases take longer because the negligent party wasn’t found, such as in drunk driving car accidents and hit-and-run accidents. If the driver who hit you isn’t identified or located, you may need to wait until they are to file a lawsuit against them. If you’ve been the victim of a hit and run accident and need legal assistance, it’s important to hire a hit and run accident attorney to help you pursue compensation and navigate the legal process.
That doesn’t mean your case can’t progress. An attorney can investigate your accident, potentially finding additional liable parties to hold responsible for their contribution to your injuries. Your lawyer can also work with the police to investigate and keep you updated, so don’t hesitate to get legal counsel following this type of accident.
How Damages Can Affect a Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline
What you pursue in compensation can also influence how long a personal injury lawsuit takes.
You could recover:
- Medical expenses already owed
- Future medical bills and losses
- Income lost during your recovery
- Projected future lost income
- Pain and suffering damages
- Wrongful death compensation
Liable parties may do everything in their power to avoid or reduce their obligation to you. One tactic is to buy time in the hope you will cave to a smaller settlement just to close the case.
Conversely, some insurance companies attempt to settle quickly before you fully comprehend what you lost. Again, this is done in the hope you settle for less. In this case, you and your legal team may wait until you reach your maximum medical improvement when you know what you have lost and likely will lose in the future.
In other words, your lawyer can work to ensure insurance companies and other liable parties don’t try to settle too fast or delay your payout.
Some Liable Parties Question Injuries
Unfortunately, some parties drag out lawsuits by downplaying the seriousness of your injuries.
Some injuries prone to questioning are:
- Soft tissue injuries
- Chronic pain
- Mental health problems
For example, whiplash often doesn’t appear on diagnostic imaging like MRIs or X-rays. Symptoms can also take days to appear. If you waited to seek help until you felt pain and then the injury didn’t show up in an X-ray, an insurance company might claim you aren’t that hurt. Yet many whiplash victims still experience pain a year later—this is a significant injury.
To combat injury disputes and keep a case moving, a personal injury attorney can gather other evidence to prove issues like pain, stress, or anxiety. Testimony from doctors and therapists can attest to your physical or mental condition, while prescriptions, therapy notes, and chiropractic appointments can indicate you are undergoing treatment.
Pain and Suffering Damages Can Cause Disputes
Like chronic pain and mental health issues, damages for the personal and emotional toll of an accident are sometimes the target of pressure from liable parties. Likewise, insurance companies and attorneys can slow down a case by fighting to lower this form of compensation.
Evidence used to back up this area of your personal injury lawsuit includes:
- Additional expert testimony demonstrating the struggles, anxiety, and anguish caused by your injuries
- Statements from friends, family, and employers about the change in your quality of life
- Inability to engage in hobbies and activities that you once enjoyed
- Medical evidence, including your long-term prognosis and how that will affect your daily life
- Employment evidence that shows you have suffered a change to your ability to earn
Ultimately, your attorney is by your side throughout negotiations, making follow-up calls and emails, putting pressure on the other parties, and advocating for fair compensation in a timely manner.
Liability Issues Can Lengthen a Personal Injury Case
If you’ve ever been blindsided by a traffic accident, you know that constructing the event afterward can feel like putting together a puzzle when the pieces are scattered in several places. Sometimes, even knowing where to start is a challenge, let alone building a case for court.
How long it takes to pursue a personal injury lawsuit can therefore depend on how long it takes to piece together the cause. If there are disagreements over who to hold liable, a case can take more time to negotiate.
Liability disputes often send lawsuits to trial, including disagreements over:
- Who is responsible for your injuries
- Whether someone else shares liability
- What other causes contributed to your injuries
- How much each party contributed
For example, if you were in an accident involving a commercial truck, the trucking company may take responsibility for their driver’s actions. In the same accident, if your airbag didn’t deploy, you could hold the manufacturer responsible for some of your injuries.
Either of those details could prompt a disagreement from another party. The airbag manufacturer may try to push more blame on the trucking company. Alternatively, the trucking company may argue that you contributed to the crash.
Your personal injury lawyer can investigate to provide clarity through evidence, as well as argue for assigning appropriate liability among the parties involved in your accident.
When Suing More Than One Party
Our scenario involving the truck and the seatbelt manufacturer could mean more than one personal injury lawsuit—one against the trucking company and one against the seatbelt manufacturer. Each case could take a different amount of time.
When suing more than one party, each lawsuit is treated independently of the other, and the timeline can therefore differ.
Deadlines to Consider in Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
Perhaps one of the biggest factors in the timeline of a personal injury lawsuit is the statute of limitations. These vary by state, though typically you have anywhere from six months to three or four years to file a lawsuit. For instance, according to Georgia law, you generally have two years to file for personal injury.
The type of personal injury can also change the deadline. Product liability and medical malpractice often have separate deadlines from other forms of personal injury. Similarly, the statute of limitations for suing a government entity like a city or state is sometimes shorter.
While the many factors in personal injury lawsuits can mean unique deadlines for each case, knowing your state’s statute of limitations can give you an idea of how long cases take in your area. You and your legal team can go over the deadline in your case.
Acting Quickly Can Benefit Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
You may now think you have years before you need to start on your case. However, you may think you can’t file until then. Instead, think of the statute of limitations as a deadline for one specific step in your case: filing the official lawsuit paperwork.
Until then, you can still take action to pursue compensation. In fact, most attorneys encourage it. You could receive damages and conclude your case before it even turns into a personal injury lawsuit. You don’t need to wait to get help until you are deep in a dispute with the other party.
Settling versus Court and How It Affects the Length of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
It’s possible your personal injury lawsuit will never reach the lawsuit stage. It’s also possible you will file a lawsuit and then settle before reaching court.
Injury cases usually involve negotiation—a series of back-and-forth discussions between injured parties and liable parties in the hope of resolving a case before taking it to court. Most people want to avoid a trial, as it takes all the negotiating power out of their hands.
The length of the negotiation process will depend on how willing everyone is to find a solution out of court. You may need to file a lawsuit and then proceed to trial if you feel you are unable to receive appropriate compensation through a settlement.
How Long Does It Take to Settle a Case?
You can use the time before the statute of limitations to attempt to settle your case. Sometimes taking the step of filing a lawsuit is enough to grab the attention of the other party and motivate them to agree to your terms. The lawsuit process also provides several opportunities to settle before you set foot in a courtroom.
How Long Does It Take If Your Case Goes to Court?
Once you file a lawsuit, you may have already spent years on your case. Then, at the trial stage, how long a personal injury lawsuit takes depends on the facts of the accident.
Your attorney needs time to:
- Compile evidence supporting your pursuit of damages
- Go through the discovery phase to review the other side’s case
- Conduct depositions of witnesses and experts
- Brainstorm a strategy for representing you in court
- Continue negotiating in the hope of settling
Then, you wait for a court date for the trial. The length of the trial itself will depend on the amount of evidence and the complexity of the case.
You Can Learn About a Personal Injury Lawsuit’s Timeline From an Attorney
If you suffered an injury in an accident, you can talk to a personal injury lawyer to learn about your options for pursuing compensation.
Most personal injury attorneys in Atlanta offer free consultations where you can interview them to determine if they’re right for your case.
Since the length of your case depends on what happened to you, make sure you find a good personal injury law firm in Atlanta that provides personalized attention.