Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline & Process
Injury Claim Timeline Overview
You were minding your own business when suddenly, the unspeakable happened: You were seriously injured.
In the beginning, your judgment was cloudy and the whole thing appeared to be an accident. Now, however, the dust has cleared and you’re starting to realize that someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing is to blame for your hardship. Or, maybe you’ve known all along.
Either way, the personal injury lawsuit timeline has officially started and it’s time to take action.
If this is your first time filing a lawsuit, you likely have many questions, and you need answers as soon as possible. That’s why we’re here. Today, we’re breaking down one of the most common inquiries we see at our law firm: How long will my personal injury lawsuit take and what are the steps involved?
Read on as we explore the answers to these questions and more.
Why Pursue a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If you’re suffering from a serious injury that you didn’t cause, you shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. Nor should you be forced to contend with the stack of sky-high medical bills on your table that just keeps growing. Someone needs to take responsibility for your plight and begin taking steps to make it right.
A personal injury lawsuit can help you recoup your losses, cover your medical expenses, and get back on your feet. It can also help bring justice to your case and provide appropriate discipline for the at-fault party.
Yet, all of these steps take time to complete. Let’s take a look at the process involved in filing a personal injury lawsuit so you know what to expect.
Step 1: Seek Medical Treatment
First and foremost, you should seek immediate medical treatment following any personal injury.
Go to a hospital as soon as possible, and see a doctor for an official evaluation. As you do so, make sure to keep extensive notes and retain all official documentation. Waiting to perform this step can hurt your case in two ways.
First, delaying treatment can make your injuries worse, or allow them to exacerbate. Second, waiting to be seen can also make it seem to an insurance adjuster or even a trial jury that your injuries weren’t all that serious. Even if you don’t see any noticeable injuries or feel bad, it’s still wise to get checked out.
Step 2: Find Legal Representation
Next, it’s time to team up with an experienced personal injury attorney.
While you can pursue legal action on your own, you’re likely to miss critical steps or evidence that could make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Find a local team as soon as possible after your injury so you can get started right away.
You’ll especially need an attorney by your side if your injuries are significant or serious in nature, or you suffered another form of major loss. Not sure what qualifies as a “serious injury”? If you can answer “yes” to the following statements, a lawyer is imperative:
- Did you miss more than a couple of days of work?
- Did you break a bone?
- Do your medical bills total more than a few thousand dollars?
Take your time and research the best legal team in your area, meeting with them in person if necessary. Once you sign a fee agreement, your lawyer can start working on your case right away.
The Claim Investigation Stage
Even if you think you have a surefire lawsuit on your hands, your lawyer will take the time to review your case, first.
He or she will interview you about your version of the event. You’ll also be asked to share your background as well as your current medical condition and any injury-related treatment you’ve received to date.
At this time, you’ll share all of the documentation you’ve collected surrounding your medical care. From hospital invoices to doctor’s notes, every bit of data is critical and helpful. Understand that if your condition is serious, this process could take months to perform.
Once all of your medical records arrive, your lawyer can discern whether or not you have a legitimate case that warrants a lawsuit.
Negotiating and Making a Demand
Many times, a lawyer can settle your personal injury case outside of court. If yours thinks that this is a viable route to take, he or she can contact the defendant’s attorney or insurance company to make a demand.
On the other hand, there are some injuries, such as those that cause permanent impairment, that necessitate a lawsuit. Most reputable lawyers will file suit as soon as possible in these cases rather than trying to settle first.
One caveat to keep in mind? Even if a lawsuit is the most appropriate course of action, it might not happen right away. In fact, there is one concern that could push it back indefinitely: Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI).
In short, MMI occurs when you’ve reached the end of your medical treatment. In other words, you are as “recovered” as possible and no further doctor’s appointments, surgeries, or therapies will occur in relation to your injury.
Why would your lawyer wait until you’ve reached MMI to file your lawsuit? The simple answer is that it could increase the value of your case. The amount of money you request one month after an incident might be menial compared to what you really need after a six-month stint in rehab.
If you need financial support right away, your lawyer might suggest filing the lawsuit as soon as possible. Otherwise, if you can afford to wait, holding out until you reach MMI could help a jury value your case more accurately.
Step 3: File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Once your attorney files the lawsuit, your case is ready to take to court.
While every state will have its own pretrial procedures, it usually takes between one and two years before your case officially goes to trial. While waiting for MMI is important, remember that it’s imperative to file the lawsuit before your state’s statute of limitations is up.
In California, you have two years from the date of your injury to go to court and file a lawsuit against the parties involved. The only exception? If you didn’t notice the injury right away, the timeline shifts to one year after you discover it.
The Trial Discovery Stage
After you file a lawsuit, your legal team will get to work reviewing the details of the plaintiff’s legal claim and defenses. Likewise, their attornies will investigate your side.
This is known as the discovery stage, and it’s a critical time for everyone involved.
The two sides will send questions to one another, as well as requests for documentation. In addition, they’ll speak to all of the relevant witnesses in the case, taking depositions to help their case. This part of the process can take six months to one year to complete, which helps explain why so much time lapses between the filing of the lawsuit and the official trial.
Attorney Discussions and Mediation
Toward the end of the discovery stage, both attornies will begin settlement discussions.
In some cases, the legal teams can come to an agreement through simple conversation. Other times, they might choose to bring their case in front of a mediator in an attempt to settle the case outside of court.
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Step 4: Go to Trial (If Necessary)
While mediation can be successful, it doesn’t always result in an amicable outcome. When that happens, the court will officially schedule your case for trial.
Depending on the specifics of your case, the trial could be over in one day, or it could stretch out for a few weeks or more. It could even get rescheduled even after a date is set to accommodate the judge’s schedule. If yours is rescheduled or pushed back, it’s likely for a benign reason and there’s no need to worry. Your attorney can explain the new timeline and help set your mind at ease.
Navigating Your Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline
When you’ve been injured, you want answers. You also want justice.
We understand, and we’re here to help.
We’re a team of personal injury lawyers dedicated to serving residents across the state of California. We understand the personal injury lawsuit timeline and are experienced in every aspect of it. We’ll listen to all of the details of your case and help you get every dollar you deserve, whatever it takes.
If you’re ready to get started, contact us today. We’re on your side and we’ll be by it, every step of the way.