Stephen Hasner | Car Accidents | January 16, 2020
Lawsuits can take months or even years to complete in Georgia. This is one of the reasons that most personal injury cases are settled before the case goes to trial. If you’ve been injured in a car accident in Atlanta and someone else is to blame, you may be wondering when you will receive your compensation so that you can move on with your life.
However, the amount of time it will take to resolve your claim depends on many factors. Here are some things to consider to give you an idea of the process and how long things generally take.
Medical Treatment and Records
Now, first and foremost, if you are injured in an accident, it is critical for you to seek medical attention right away. This is important from both a health perspective and an evidence-gathering standpoint. Having an idea of how much treatment you will need and obtaining a copy of your medical records will give you and your attorney a ballpark range of what amount you may be willing to settle your case for.
Note that you can reach a settlement before you have received all of your medical care. However, it can be disadvantageous for you to rush to accept an offer too quickly. Doing so could result in you potentially missing out on some of the compensation you deserve. For that reason, it is generally best to wait until your condition has somewhat stabilized and you have an indication of what long-term care you will need.
In addition to medical records, part of building a strong personal injury case involves assembling as much evidence that you can to help substantiate your claim. This would include documenting the scene of the accident with photographs, writing down your recollection of the events, and obtaining the contact information for any witnesses.
Initial Consultation with an Attorney
Keep in mind that it is always advisable to reach out to an attorney as soon as reasonably possible after an accident. The lawyer will also need time to fully investigate your claim. This includes reviewing your records, listening to your memory of what happened, and researching the law.
The Demand Letter and Response
Once the initial investigation is complete, your attorney will likely send what is known as a demand letter to the person responsible for your injuries and/or their insurance company. Note this is done before any documents are filed with the court.
The demand letter outlines the law, the facts, and the evidence you have at your disposal. This is all done in an effort to compel a settlement, and the letter would likely include portions of your medical records, witness information, and other documents, such as photographs or police reports.
Now, it may also be that someone has contacted you with a potential settlement amount. If this occurs first, you or your attorney can respond and decide to either accept or decline the offer. You may also choose to counter with a different amount. These negotiations can be complex, so your attorney will help with this process and advise you as to your options.
Filing the Claim and Initiating Your Lawsuit
Bear in mind that not all personal injury lawsuits are resolved through settlement negotiations. In this case, the next step would be to prepare and file the lawsuit. Note that there is a 2-year statute of limitations that applies. This means that you must bring your claim within 2 years of the date of your injury or you are barred from filing.
This is important because sometimes it is necessary to file the lawsuit before settlement talks have proven unsuccessful. That said, once the initial paperwork has been submitted to the court, the defendant has 30 days in which to file a response. Now, filing a lawsuit often shows to the other party that you are serious about your case, and it is not uncommon for settlement talks to resume once a claim has been initiated.
Going to Trial
After a case has been filed, the next step is trial preparation. Keep in mind that the court allows a 6-month “discovery” period. This is an opportunity for each side to request evidence from one another to review and prepare their case. There may be a number of pretrial motions that need to be ruled on as well, which can also take time.
The final step is to go to trial and have a jury decide your case. This may be scheduled months or even years after the accident, depending on how crowded the court docket is. As you might imagine, going to court is a gamble for both sides as you can’t predict how the jury will rule. This can increase the pressure to settle your claim as the court date draws near.
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