This is one of the most common questions we hear when meeting with potential clients for the first time. The answers will vary, and the answer is always an educated guess. Generally, a personal injury lawsuit has many steps and can take anywhere from more than a year to just a few months. This window of time depends upon the details of the case, but it implies that it is aggressively pursued, there are no delays in filing paperwork, and there are no delays in negotiating or litigating the suit.
The goal is to get a fair and equitable resolution that covers damages regardless of how long it takes. Many believe that the negligent party gains leverage if the case drags on because plaintiffs can become impatient. But, it is rarely a good idea to accept a settlement before going to court or determining the full extent of the injuries as well as the length and cost of the recovery. It is then that the plaintiff and their attorney will know if an offer to settle is fair.
Why so long?
Some cases are complex with severe injuries, but there are many reasons why it can take longer:
- Judges, lawyers and others involved often have busy schedules, so it is hard to find dates that work. It may take months to find an opening to start the trial, and then there may be several sessions before the judge issues a decision.
- Insurance companies are rarely in a rush to settle unless they believe the victim will accept less money to resolve the case quickly.
- Attorneys best serve their client by methodically building a suitable case for court even if the two sides settle before there is a trial or verdict.
- Appeals can add another step if the defendant believes the initial ruling was unacceptable.
Time is not money
While many attorneys bill their clients by the hour, personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee, which is a percentage of the final amount awarded to the victim regardless of how long it takes. If the plaintiff does not get damages, the attorney earns no money. This payment method helps ensure that the lawyer always has the client’s best interests in mind, and they will not unnecessarily drag out the case to earn more money.