Our personal injury clients often ask this question. And it’s not an easy one to answer. Whether the case goes to trial or both parties agree on a settlement before then, settling a case can take time. Cases that involve negligence, a car accident, slip and fall, or other matter can be complex. Ongoing medical treatment, establishing fault, insurance companies, and defendant appeals are just a few things that can affect the personal injury settlement timeline.
Why Do People Settle?
A settlement can occur well before a case goes to trial. Or it can come in the middle of a trial before a jury decides on a verdict. Each individual case differs based on many variables.
In most personal injury cases, there’s a risk the plaintiff will end up without any compensation. A lot is on the line for defendants and their insurance companies as well. By agreeing to settle, neither party is going to get exactly what they want. But they will get something, whether guaranteed damages awarded to the injured plaintiff or less of a financial burden or penalty on the at-fault party.
Proving liability is also a factor. This can be challenging in personal injury cases, especially those involving product liability. A manufacturer, shipping company, retailer, or other party may be found negligent; sometimes arguments can spread the blame across multiple entities. As is often the case here, each party will try to pin that blame on the other. This process can drag on for a long time and become very expensive.
How Long After an Accident Can You Sue for Personal Injury?
In California, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is two years. The clock starts ticking on the date of your accident. However, if you believe a state, county, or city agency is at-fault, you have just six-months. If you’re seeking compensation for property damage, such as vehicle repairs/replacement, you have up to three years to sue.
Settling vs. Trial
All personal injury cases follow a similar process. Once you file a lawsuit, there is a discovery stage in which both sides take time to gather facts about the case. Your personal injury lawyer will gather all relevant information, including witness statements, medical records, and your account of the accident. While the discovery process has no set timetable, it generally takes from six months to a year.
Both parties may choose negotiation, mediation, or arbitration to try to settle the case during discovery. If one or neither party agrees to a settlement, going to trial may be the next step.
A trial can easily add another year to your case. There is a great deal of preparation and scheduling time in court is often a challenge. Even once you receive a verdict from a jury, the defendant can appeal the decision. A successful appeal can extend proceedings for a substantial amount of time, although the parties can agree to settle at any point during the appeals process. But even then, insurance companies are reluctant to provide a maximum payout.
The process and variables are indeed complicated; cases that are drawn out for years are not unheard of.
Accepting a Settlement
On the simplest level, you can accept the first settlement offer from an insurance company. This is most likely to be a lowball offer. You, therefore, need a personal injury attorney to represent your rights and pressure the insurance company to pay the full amount of what your claim is worth.
But many factors can delay your opportunity to accept a settlement. These include when multiple parties may be at-fault or accused of wrongdoing, injuries are severe, or if expert testimony is needed. If you are still recovering and haven’t reached maximum medical improvement, the true cost of medical expenses due to an accident may not be known. By accepting a settlement beforehand, you could receive less than what covers the medical costs.
Contact The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani
If you believe you have a personal injury case, a slip and fall, premises liability, defective product, medical malpractice, or car accident lawyer can help get the compensation you deserve. We’re experienced working with all types of businesses, including insurance companies. Whether you are willing to accept a settlement or go to trial, our attorneys will provide high-quality guidance and representation. Call us at 888-952-2952 for a free consultation.