Stephen Hasner | Personal Injury | September 28, 2020
Personal injury lawsuits take time to resolve. There are many different reasons for this. Injuries take time to heal. The process of seeking compensation, itself, is complex and time-consuming. In order to better understand how long it might take to reach a settlement, it helps to know a little bit about this process.
Personal injury lawsuits can be divided into the claims period and the litigation period. Some personal injury cases settle during the claims period and some go into litigation. When a claim goes into litigation, it may settle during litigation or it may go all the way to trial. A trial on a personal injury case can take place years after the accident that gave rise to a person’s injuries.
The Claims Period
The initial claims period extends from the date of the accident until the claim is either settled, a lawsuit is filed, or the claim is dropped by the injured party. When a claim is relatively straightforward, it can often be settled within a few months. More complicated cases take longer.
You always want to make sure that you submit everything that a claims adjuster will need to settle the claim. That means all necessary documentation to substantiate every aspect of your claim must be gathered and submitted to the adjuster.
After an accident, it’s critical to conduct an investigation to gather evidence so that liability can be established.
Sometimes, liability is clear and the culpable party’s insurance company is willing to concede liability. For instance, in some car accident cases such as a simple rear end collision, one party is clearly at fault. In that case, the issues to be resolved revolve primarily around damages.
But often, liability is murky. For example, in car crash cases involving multiple vehicles, liability takes a fair amount of time to sort out. In that case, your personal injury attorney must interview witnesses, gather police reports, obtain photographs of the scene and conditions at the scene at the time of the accident. Your attorney may need to consult with an expert in the field of accident reconstruction. This all takes some time, often weeks to months, depending on the circumstances.
And, sometimes it just takes time for physical injuries to heal. Medical injuries and resulting bills are a large component of damage claims in personal injury cases. Depending on the severity of the injuries suffered, it could take months to fully heal.
And while it is possible to resolve a personal injury claim before being fully healed, it is not always advisable to do so. If you do settle before being fully healed, you run the risk of incurring further medical bills that may or may not be included in any estimation of further treatment.
The rule of thumb is that complex cases take longer to resolve. When liability or damages are complicated, cases often go into litigation. And while a personal injury claim may seem straightforward to you, it is highly recommended to have an experienced attorney handle your claim. It increases your settlement amount and saves you the time and difficulty in negotiating a settlement with a recalcitrant insurance adjuster.
A lawsuit on a claim can be filed any time before the statute of limitations runs on the accident. Georgia allows a two-year limitations period from the date of the accident. This means that if a claim is unable to settle, a lawsuit must be filed by that date to preserve an injured party’s ability to pursue a claim against the culpable party.
Filing a lawsuit in Georgia triggers a court’s procedural timetable for resolution. Courts keep a tight hold of their calendars and they move cases to resolution quickly. In Georgia, all discovery must take place within 6 months of the filing of an answer to a complaint. A case is scheduled for trial as soon as it is ready giving due consideration to the nature and complexity of the issues involved. Often a court calendaring clerk must wait until a courtroom is available.
All of this means that your case may not get to trial until it has been in litigation for a year or more, depending on the circumstances. Patience and continued work toward resolution are key to getting a personal injury claim resolved. A good attorney can help you navigate the legal terrain toward the resolution of your case.