There is no certain way of predicting how long it will take for a personal injury case to settle. Some factors determining a case’s length may be out of control, while you can control others.
If you hire a personal injury lawyer, they will manage every aspect of your case—even if it takes multiple years to secure a financial recovery. Otherwise, you may have to invest weeks, months, or years of your life into an insurance claim or lawsuit.
Factors That Determine the Timeframe for a Personal Injury Case
It is difficult to predict the length of a personal injury case because each case is unique. Some of the variables that can affect the timeframe for completing a personal injury case include:
The Complexity of Your Case
Some factors that may complicate a case include:
- Severe injuries, which may require many medical services to diagnose and treat
- Disabling injuries, which may produce damages through the remainder of a plaintiff’s life
- Expensive damages, which may lead defendants to resist paying a fair settlement
- Multiple defendants, as a personal injury lawyer may need to seek compensation from multiple parties and insurance companies (perhaps in multiple different ways)
Law firms are ready to handle complex cases. Often, paralegals and in-house investigators will help a lawyer build a case. A lawyer may also rely on experts to testify, value the client’s damages, and assist in other areas of the case.
The Nature of the Plaintiff’s Damages
A car accident victim with a broken wrist may have fairly straightforward damages. They may need compensation for medical bills, lost income, vehicle repairs, and other damages—and this plaintiff may have a clear-cut case.
On the other hand, consider the case of someone who falls on a construction site suffering several life-threatening injuries. This plaintiff may have lifelong disabilities, debilitating pain, and other complex health problems. In this case, a lawyer will need to account for the lifelong cost of the fall—making it a more complicated case.
Your case may take longer if your lawyer needs to project future medical needs, calculate the permanent loss of your income, or wait to see how your physical and psychological injuries heal (or don’t heal).
Whether Liable Parties Accept Fault for Your Damages
In many cases, there is a dispute about who is at fault for the plaintiff’s damages. For example, the defendant may argue that the plaintiff caused the accident in a truck accident case. At the same time, the plaintiff may claim that the defendant caused the accident.
If parties involved in a lawsuit cannot agree about fault, this can make settlement negotiations difficult. When a liable party accepts fault, it removes one more hurdle between you and your financial recovery.
Whether Liable Parties Negotiate in Good Faith
When both parties to a claim or lawsuit negotiate in good faith, they can eventually reach an agreement.
However, insurance companies and other parties who owe a plaintiff money sometimes:
- Refuse to accept fault for the plaintiff’s damages
- Deny financial responsibility for certain damages
- Claim that the plaintiff caused their own damages
- Undervalue the cost of the plaintiff’s damages
- Offer a lowball settlement
- Refuse to negotiate toward a fair financial recovery
When liable parties refuse to take financial responsibility, they push the plaintiff toward trial. When a case goes to trial, it generally takes longer than cases that settle.
Whether Your Case Goes to Trial
Most personal injury cases settle, which is the quickest way to end an insurance claim or lawsuit. If your attorney advises you to take your case to trial, you should understand that your case will take longer than average.
Trials involve several stages, including:
- Discovery, at which time both sides share certain details of their cases
- Pre-trial negotiations, which a judge may encourage both sides to engage in
- Presentation of evidence
- Presentation and questioning of witnesses
- Closing arguments
- Jury deliberations
- Announcement of a ruling
Trials are subject to various delays, including stays. A judge may grant a stay for several reasons, and these stoppages can delay civil trials.
Whether Your Lawyer Completes the Entire Trial
In a personal injury lawsuit, plaintiffs and defendants can continue negotiating a settlement even once the trial begins. Judges can also grant summary judgments, in which case the judge will decide the outcome of the case after seeing evidence.
If your attorney starts a trial, they may negotiate a fair settlement before the trial ends. This may shorten the time required to complete your personal injury case.
A Lawyer Can Support You During the Wait for a Financial Recovery
If a personal injury lawyer accepts your case, they believe you deserve compensation. Though there are no guarantees of a settlement or judgment, a lawyer will fight tirelessly to deliver the money you deserve.
As your lawyer fights for your financial recovery, you may face several questions, including:
How Do I Withstand Financial Pressure Until I Receive Compensation?
One of the most difficult aspects of personal injury cases is the wait. Victims of motor vehicle accidents, falls, and other harmful events often face medical bills, the loss of their income, and other sources of financial strain.
Personal injury lawyers assist their clients financially by:
- Referring them to possible sources of financial relief
- Covering the entire cost of completing the lawsuit or claim
- Resolving the case as quickly as possible
- Forming their case strategy around their client’s financial needs
Experienced personal injury lawyers encounter many clients who are in dire financial straits. They will have valuable advice about overcoming any financial uncertainty you are experiencing.
How Can I Support My Lawyer’s Fight for Compensation?
Personal injury lawyers handle every detail of their cases, but clients also have a role to play.
Your attorney may advise you to:
- Rest, recover, and follow your doctor’s advice
- Document your physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms
- Document all medical care you receive, providing copies of medical bills and records to your lawyer
- Refrain from making any statements to insurers or others involved in your case
- Prioritize your physical and mental health in everything that you do
Your lawyer should also provide regular case updates. If you hire a capable firm, they will encourage you to call your personal injury attorney anytime you have a question or concern.
Do I Have to Pay My Attorney Upfront?
Financial worries are common among those who hire personal injury attorneys. Your lawyer will protect you from further financial stress rather than adding to your worries.
Most personal injury lawyers protect their clients financially by:
- Requesting no upfront fee: Most law firms use contingency fees, which clients do not pay out of their own pocket. Instead, the law firm receives a fee as a portion of the client’s settlement or judgment. You won’t pay a dime out of your own pocket to hire a personal injury lawyer.
- Tying their attorney’s fee to their performance in the case: Because the law firm’s fee is a percentage of the client’s financial recovery, the lawyer has a significant financial motivation to win your case. The more compensation the firm obtains for you, the more compensation the firm receives. This means that your financial and law firm’s goals are one and the same.
- Covering the entire case cost: Your law firm will pay for all case-related expenses up front, including expert fees.
- Fighting for the maximum amount the client deserves: Your lawyer’s mission is to protect you financially. By obtaining the entire compensation you deserve, your lawyer will protect you from paying out of pocket for economic and non-economic damages.
Personal injury lawyers try to make it easy to hire them, starting by not asking for any upfront fee.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Will Fight for Your Financial Recovery
Many victims of negligence hire a lawyer to lead every step of their case, and that’s precisely what a personal injury attorney does. Common responsibilities of a personal injury lawyer include:
Protecting the Client
Attorneys protect their clients in several ways, including:
- Dealing with insurers, who may attempt to have the plaintiff admit fault for an accident, make statements that negatively affect their claim, or accept a lowball settlement offer
- Advising the client before they make any on-the-record statements to insurers
- Handling as much of case-related communications as possible, which prevents the client from saying or doing anything that might weaken their case
A lawyer’s services can also protect a client from a health perspective. By allowing an attorney and their team to lead your case, you can avoid stress that might otherwise threaten your health.
A lawyer gathers evidence of a defendant’s negligence. The types of evidence a lawyer seeks can vary from case to case.
In a car accident case, a lawyer may obtain video footage of the accident. In a product liability case, the attorney may secure expert testimony that a product did not undergo adequate testing. The more evidence of negligence your lawyer can locate, the stronger your case may be.
An attorney documents their clients’ damages, with common documentation including:
- Medical bills
- X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and other images of injuries
- Proof of lost income
- Expert testimony about a client’s economic or non-economic damages
Documentation is personal to each victim of negligence. Your lawyer will work with you to identify your damages and seek proof.
Calculating Damages and Pursuing a Settlement
Your lawyer will calculate the exact financial cost of your damages. Among other factors, the type and severity of your injuries will largely determine the cost of your damages.
Completing a Trial
Your lawyer will aim to get you fair compensation as quickly as possible, which usually means settling. However, your attorney should take your lawsuit to court if your lawyer and liable parties cannot reach an acceptable settlement agreement.
This is a big-picture overview of a lawyer’s responsibilities. When you hire an attorney, expect them to do anything necessary to secure the compensation you deserve.
What Recoverable Damages Should I Expect from a Personal Injury Case?
Recoverable damages are another case-by-case consideration, as no two accidents or circumstances are exactly alike.
Personal injury lawyers often seek compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Diminished earning capacity
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering
- Mental health treatment
- Property expenses (like disability-related equipment or vehicle repairs)
In cases involving a wrongful death, the lawyer must account for the immense cost of losing a loved one, which often includes:
- Loss of consortium (the non-economic benefits the decedent provides, like companionship)
- Funeral costs
- Lost financial support
- Loss of the decedent’s household services
- Grief counseling costs
- Any other economic or non-economic losses caused by the decedent’s passing
Personal injury lawyers know how to identify and document their clients’ damages compassionately but thoroughly.
How Do I Find the Right Personal Injury Lawyer for Me?
You can ask friends and colleagues, conduct online research, and act on local advertisements to find a personal injury lawyer. Don’t wait to start your search, as your lawyer likely faces a deadline for filing your case.