After a car accident, premises liability accident, or other situation that leads to a personal injury lawsuit, it can be challenging for injured victims to keep track of a lawsuit’s progress.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit is a lot of work, so hiring a personal injury lawyer to help you navigate the process is crucial. While you focus on recovering from your injury and re-establishing relationships with your family, your lawyer can handle the lawsuit as efficiently as possible.
Before you step into this process, you may be wondering how long do personal injury lawsuits take:
Everything starts when you decide to take action on getting the compensation you deserve.
Taking the first step and getting in touch with a qualified professional lawyer will put you ahead in the process. A lawyer will be able to discuss the options you have and how you will benefit from taking action.
How Do I Know if I Have a Valid Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Before you begin, you must know when you can file a personal injury lawsuit. Your lawyer must establish four criteria to file a personal injury case successfully.
- Show that the responsible party owed you a duty of care. For example, drivers owe other motorists a duty of care when traveling. Similarly, property owners owe their visitors a duty of care to provide a hazard-free space.
- Show that the other party breached the duty of care. For example, the other person might breach their duty of care by driving drunk or leaving a swimming pool open and unfenced on their property.
- Show that the other person’s breach of duty caused your accident.
- Show that the accident injured you.
If you can show these four things with help from your lawyer, you should be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party to seek compensation.
The Steps to Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
As you might imagine, many steps are involved in pursuing a personal injury lawsuit. Each step takes time, which is why personal injury lawsuits often last for months or even years.
Step 1. Call a Lawyer
First, call a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation. During the consultation, you will find out whether you have a viable case.
Once you decide to move forward with your case, you will spend time talking with your lawyer and learning about your options. At this point, you will share your evidence, give the lawyer a detailed account of the accident and your injuries, and sign a contract to work with them. You will also likely permit them to collect your medical and other records to build your case.
Step 2. Gather Your Evidence
You and your lawyer will work together to gather the necessary evidence for the case.
You will likely need:
- Medical bills and records
- Receipts for repairs or replacements of your vehicle or other damaged property
- A police report
- Witness statements
- A personal journal detailing your experiences
- Testimony from medical experts that explain how your injuries may affect your future
- Photographs or video footage from the accident
Your lawyers may need other evidence, but they will let you know what they need and gather most of the information for you. Keeping records and receipts and writing a journal if you can is helpful.
Step 3. Send a Demand Letter
Once they have the necessary evidence, your lawyer will create a demand letter to send to the at-fault party and their insurance company. This letter will contain a selection of evidence, a detailed description of the accident, and an explanation of your injuries.
Step 4. Receive a Response
The insurance company must respond to the demand letter. They will either reject your claim entirely or make an initial settlement offer that they hope will cover the compensation you seek.
Step 5. Collect Further Evidence
Usually, during negotiations, your lawyers will continue gathering evidence to build a strong claim. They will send interrogatories, which are written questionnaires, to all involved parties. They may also take depositions from involved parties. Depositions are verbal statements taken by lawyers like you might see them question someone in court.
Step 6. Negotiate
As your lawyers gather relevant evidence, they will also work on negotiating a settlement. The insurance company will send offers to your lawyer, who will, in turn, discuss them with you. Your lawyer will advise you of your options and help you decide if the offer is enough. These negotiations will continue until you reach a fair amount.
Step 7. Go to Court
If the insurance company refuses to offer you a fair settlement, your lawyer will file a complaint with the court to try your case before a judge or jury. The judge or jury will listen to arguments from lawyers on both sides and decide the case. In the end, they will hand down a verdict.
Step 8. Receive Your Check
Once the judge or jury decides your case, you may receive a settlement check from the insurer. Your lawyers will receive the check first and pay off outstanding debts. They will then deduct their portion of the earnings and send the remainder of the check to you.
How Long Do I Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
The time you have to file a lawsuit may vary from state to state. In California, you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit with the court.
To avoid missing the deadline, speak to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Negotiations take time—if you wait too long to start, you may not be able to reach a compromise before you have to file a lawsuit.
As soon as you realize that you have been unjustly injured and have to pay for injuries that are not your fault, you should contact a lawyer to start building a case. That way, when it comes time to pursue a lawsuit, you have a buffer and do not have to rush the process.
How to Prepare for a Personal Injury Lawsuit
When you are initially in an accident, you probably will not immediately jump to thinking about how you can get the most out of a personal injury lawsuit. That is okay—that is why you need a lawyer. Your job after an accident is to focus on recovering physically, mentally, and emotionally from your trauma.
Having certain pieces of evidence can make pursuing a claim more efficient.
Here are some things you can do to ensure your lawsuit moves smoothly:
- Seek medical treatment: The first and most important thing you can do is get the medical treatment you need. If your case goes well, you will recover compensation for most of your expenses—but if you do not get the treatment, you need when you need it, you may not recover as well.
- Keep documents. Do not throw anything away. Keep all the bills and receipts from your treatments and for repairs to your car or other damaged property. Keep any documents you receive from insurance companies as well.
- Start a journal. It is difficult for people to understand how severely an injury has hurt you if you do not tell them. Most people do not see the emotional and mental suffering that accompanies physical pain. Keep a journal that explains your experiences.
Once you connect with your lawyer, keep records so your lawyer knows everything that happens to you. Your lawyer should check in regularly to see how you are doing, and you must always be honest so that they understand what you are going through. That way, they can help you fight for the compensation you deserve.
Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You
You may think that hiring a lawyer is just another hassle that will add time and stress to your case. However, lawyers help relieve stress by handling all the legal red tape in negotiating a fair settlement.
There are a lot of steps to a personal injury lawsuit; you can see from the brief overview above that these cases are often more complicated than meets the eye.
If you were in an accident and want to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, contact a lawyer for a free consultation. The sooner you start pursuing compensation, the sooner your lawyer can help you resolve your claim.