Timeline of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Stage One: Before a Lawsuit is Filed “Pre-suit Period”
Approximate Timeframe: 3-6 months. Medical Malpractice is 6-12 months.
What is your attorney doing? During the pre-suit period, a good attorney will initially attempt to resolve the case. But simultaneously to that, your attorney is also gathering evidence and assessing the case based on that evidence. A good attorney understands that it is important not to rush into a lawsuit but at the same time aggressively moves the case forward.
What is required of you? During the pre-suit period it is your responsibility to update your attorney on the status of your injuries and focus on getting well. Attending all medical appointments is very important. Your perfect attendance will pave the way to proving your case.
What you should expect? A settlement is possible before a lawsuit is filed, but do not count on it. Although an initial offer may come from the defendant, it is usually a very low amount compared to what your attorney can get for you later in the case and a good attorney will rarely recommend that you accept the initial offer. But each case is different, and depending on the severity of your injuries and the clarity of fault, a high risk case can usually be resolved with your attorney’s hard work and skill during the pre-suit period.
I like to do everything possible to resolve the case for my clients early. But at some point it is important to take the focus off trying to resolve a case that is clearly not resolving and direct the focus onto winning at trial.
Stage Two: During the Lawsuit “Litigation Period”
Approximate timeframe: 6 months-2 years.
What is your attorney doing? When all required evidence is collected and it becomes clear that the defendant is not willing to settle the case for a reasonable amount, your attorney will file a lawsuit. Your attorney will be filing legal documents with the court, requesting evidence from the other side, compiling and proving evidence she has collected on your behalf, communicating with opposing counsel, attneding court hearings and preparing the case to trial. Much of the work that your attorney will perform on a case will be done without your involvement. And at some point, if the case is taking a while to resolve, you will wonder why the process is taking so long. You must not forget that the wheels of justice move slowly and the judge has many cases in addition to yours. Therefore, a monthly check-in with your attorney about your case will keep you updated and informed.
What is required of you? You must continue to focus on getting better and attending all of your medical appointments. Your attorney may request additional information from you to provide to the other side and you may be required to attend a deposition and a mediation. Your personal injury attorney will guide you through the process and explain exactly how each step of the litigation works.
What you should expect? A settlement of your case is possible and highly likely with a good attorney. Settlements usually occur during mediation and the amount you will be offered by the defendant will depend on the evidence that supports your case and your lawyer’s skill and diligence. If you do not come to an agreement with the defense on the amount of damages due to you for the injuries you have sustained, you and your attorney will start preparing for trial.
I like to move my cases quickly and request a trial date in the early stages of litigation. This way, if it becomes clear that a reasonable settlement is not possible, we are ready to go to trial within a few months of the mediation.
Stage Three: After the Lawsuit Concludes
Approximate timeframe: 1 month- 2 years.
What is your attorney doing? If your case has settled before the trial, your attorney will review important legal documents which you will have to sign. Your settlement funds will not be available to you immediately. It usually takes four weeks to receive payment from the other side. Your attorney will do the required accounting and may settle your medical bills depending on your agreement with your lawyer.
If your case goes to trial and you win at trial, the case is not over. There are many post trial matters that usually come up, including a possible appeal from the other side. The post trial process can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years depending on how you and your attorney decide to proceed.
What is required of you? If the case settles, you will have to sign some documents releasing the defendant from further liability. You will be required to keep the settlement amount confidential and not share the details of the settlement with anyone.
If the case concludes after a trial, you should be patient. Unfortunately, the case is not over just because you won at trial. You should follow the instructions of your attorney, but the most important job you will have to do is wait.
What you should expect? I tell my clients that this is the most important time to be patient. Whether I settled the case or won at trial, there are still many things to do before I can get that check to my clients.
If you have questions about your personal injury case, call us at 1-855-55-GO-LEGAL.