One of the most common questions about personal injury and accident cases is how long it takes to settle. All claims are unique, so different factors may apply. Accordingly, the timeline to settle your case will depend on the specific facts and circumstances.
It helps to understand the steps involved and the impact those steps have on the timeline. Below, we discuss the timeline of a personal injury case and what you can expect when you file a claim.
What Factors Can Impact the Timeline To Settle a Personal Injury Case?
Many factors can lengthen the timeline of a personal injury case. Unfortunately, the factors are often out of the control of the lawyer and client. However, experienced Tampa personal injury attorneys understand how to minimize the impact of some factors to move the case toward settlement or trial as quickly as possible.
Factors that could cause your personal injury case to take longer to resolve include, but are not limited to:
- The other party refuses to accept liability for causing your injuries
- The complexity of your case and the type of case involved
- Disputes regarding your damages and their value
- The type and severity of your injuries
- The parties involved in your case
- Whether you sustained disabilities or permanent impairments
- The willingness of the insurance company and other parties to settle for a fair amount
Other factors could impact your case. A question to ask a personal injury lawyer during a free consultation is whether they see any potential problems in your case. Knowing about potential issues can help you understand the process better.
What Steps Are Involved in a Personal Injury Case?
The steps below are common in most personal injury cases. However, your case could skip steps or have additional steps.
You Are Injured
The first thing that happens is you sustain an injury in an accident or other incident. Personal injuries arise from many types of situations, including but not limited to the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Defective products
- Medical malpractice
- Dog bites
- Boating accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Premises liability claims
- Wrongful death
- Construction accidents
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents
- Cruise ship and amusement park accidents
- Sexual assault and intentional torts
It is crucial to begin protecting your legal rights immediately after your injury. First, report the accident or injury and seek prompt medical treatment. Then, if possible, gather evidence at the accident scene by taking photographs, making a video, and noting the names of eyewitnesses.
Seek Prompt Medical Treatment for Injuries
If you are involved in a car accident, you have 14 days to receive medical care, or you cannot receive no-fault insurance benefits under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy. Furthermore, delays in medical care after an injury could give the other party reason to raise various defenses, including failure to mitigate damages.
You must have medical records proving that you were injured to sue the other party for damages. Without strong medical proof, you might have difficulty proving that the other party is liable for your injuries and damages.
Gather Evidence for Your Personal Injury Case
When you hire a personal injury lawyer, they will initiate an independent investigation into how your accident occurred.
Florida personal injury laws require you to prove the elements of negligence to establish liability for damages:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
If you cannot prove that the other party caused your injuries, you cannot hold them financially responsible for your losses and damages.
Evidence that can be used to prove fault and liability in a personal injury case includes:
- Copies of medical records and medical bills
- Videos of the accident or injury occurring
- Photographs of the accident scene
- Physical evidence from the accident scene
- Statements made by the parties involved in the incident and eyewitnesses
- Opinions, reports, and testimony from expert witnesses
The evidence used to prove negligence depends on the specific issues and circumstances involved in the case. Therefore, your legal team might take additional steps to gather evidence, as necessary and required, to build a strong case.
File Insurance Claims, Prepare Settlement Demand Letters, and Negotiate Settlement Agreements
Typically, attorneys file insurance claims as soon as they identify the at-fault parties. However, they don’t settle the claims until you complete medical treatment and they have all the evidence necessary to prove your case. At that point, they’ll prepare a settlement demand letter to send to the insurance providers.
The settlement demand letter explains why you are entitled to a specific settlement amount in your personal injury case. The demand letter includes sections such as:
- Identification of all parties involved in the case
- A summary of the facts of the case, including how the accident or personal injury occurred
- A legal analysis of the statutes and case laws creating liability
- A list of the economic damages you sustained because of the injury, including your medical bills and loss of income
- An explanation of the severity of your injuries, including an explanation of future damages you will incur because of permanent disabilities and impairments
- A discussion of the non-economic damages you are entitled to receive for your pain and suffering
- Whether the facts of your case justify punitive damages, should you file a personal injury lawsuit
- An amount you agree to accept to settle the claim
The insurance company could accept the settlement offer and pay the requested amount. However, in many cases, the insurance provider rejects the offer and makes a lower counteroffer for settlement. The counteroffer begins settlement negotiations.
Settlement negotiations could go on for several weeks or months, depending on the case. However, if you cannot agree on a settlement amount, the next step is filing a lawsuit.
File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Unfortunately, filing a lawsuit lengthens the timeline of a personal injury case. A case could take a year or more to proceed through the courts to a trial.
Steps in a personal injury lawsuit include:
- The injured party files a complaint and serves it on the other parties
- The defendants have a specific number of days to file an answer or response to the complaint
- The parties conduct discovery to gather additional evidence
- The parties discuss settlement and could enter mediation or arbitration
- Filing and hearing pre-trial motions
- Selecting a jury and conducting a trial
- Receiving a verdict
Your Tampa personal injury lawyer will discuss the pros and cons of filing a lawsuit. Going to trial does not guarantee a positive outcome, even if you believe you have sufficient evidence to prove your case. Because our lawyers are skilled trial lawyers, they can give you an honest assessment of whether you should proceed to court or settle your claim.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Tampa Personal Injury Lawyers To Discuss the Timeline of Your Case
Our team of skilled personal injury attorneys will work diligently to get you the money you deserve as quickly as possible. However, we never rush to settle a personal injury claim at the expense of our clients. Contact or call our law office at (813) 223-6200 to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Tampa personal injury lawyers from Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers to learn more about how we can help you with your case.