When injured in an accident due to the negligence of another individual, you are bound to have many questions. The most frequently asked questions we get from clients involve the timeline for a personal injury lawsuit. Unfortunately, there isn’t a definitive answer to such questions, as the length of time required to settle the case will ultimately depend on the specifics of the case at hand.
However, what we can do is explain the timeline in detail to ensure you understand what to expect at every stage of the process. We’ve broken the process into three phases, and are happy to explain each in more detail during a free personal injury consultation.
Phase 1: The Accident Occurs & Medical Treatment is Sought
Needless to say, for there to be a personal injury lawsuit, there must first be an accident — specifically one which leaves being injured through no fault of your own. Following that accident, you must also seek medical treatment in order to have a legitimate case for a personal injury lawsuit. If you fail to obtain treatment from a medical professional, the insurance adjuster will argue, likely successfully, that the injury was not serious enough to warrant a settlement. Furthermore, it is in the best interest of your health to see a doctor after being in an accident and to do so sooner rather than later. Additionally, be sure to keep thorough records of all appointments, diagnoses, and medical bills. This will make preparing for your legal consultation much easier when the time comes.
Phase 2: Legal Consultation
Once you have initiated the treatment process, your next step will be to seek guidance from a reputable personal injury attorney. During the initial consultation, the lawyer will question you to learn more about the accident, as well as your medical history before and after the incident. The more you tell the attorney, the more informed his or her recommendation regarding next steps will be.
Sometimes, the lawyer may elect not to take your case, as pursuing a lawsuit may not have been deemed to be in your best interest. He or she may also explore alternatives to suing, such as making a demand for a settlement. If that demand is accepted, the process will end here. However, since we are discussing the timeline for a personal injury lawsuit in particular, we’ll dive right into the next phases.
Phase 3.1: File a Lawsuit
Depending on what the type of accident you were involved in and the extent of your injuries, your attorney may not recommend that a lawsuit be filed immediately. In fact, it could take months or even years before a trial begins. For instance, if you have not yet reached the point of maximum medical improvement, pursuing a lawsuit before all treatment has been completed could be detrimental to your case. This is because even if you win, you may not be awarded the full cost of treatment simply due to the fact that the amount is not yet known. That said, if delaying filing is not in your best financial interest, the lawsuit may be filed even before this point.
Phase 3.2: Discovery
Once a lawsuit is filed, the case will proceed to the discovery phase. This process involves both parties investigating the other’s claims. Your attorney will receive a list of questions regarding your side of the story, as well as supply a list of his or her own to the defense. Both lawyers will also interview you, the other party, and any key witnesses. Each side will also supply any requested documents that will be used as evidence in the trial. The intricacy of your case will determine how long this process takes, but often it is anywhere from six months to a year.
Phase 3.3: Trial
Following discovery, some cases may result in a negotiated settlement or may proceed to mediation rather than a formal trial. However, if neither is a viable option, a personal injury trial will commence. The length of the trial will depend on a number of factors, such as the complexity of the case and even the judge’s schedule. During the trial, your attorney will present your case to a jury along with supporting evidence, which may come in the form of documentation or testimony from experts or witnesses. The defense will do the same, ultimately leading to a verdict by the jury determining liability. If the defendant is found to be liable, the jury will also determine the amount of damages you will be awarded. However, be aware that the defendant has the right to appeal the decision, in which case the process may not end here.
Have a case for our attorneys?
Filing a personal injury lawsuit can seem complicated, but with the guidance of a knowledgeable, caring and experienced attorney, navigating it is a breeze. If you have been injured in an accident in which another party was at fault, our Miami personal injury attorneys can help you get the justice you deserve. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our team today to begin the process.