Personal injury cases proceed differently than cases in many other areas of law. The timeline often depends on factors far beyond the legal field.
If you have clients in need of a personal injury attorney, you can help them understand what to expect using the basic guidelines below. A complete case may conclude in well under a year or take several years.
The Pre-Suit Phase – Client Perspective
During the first phase of a personal injury case, the client’s primary responsibility is to focus on healing. They need to seek a thorough evaluation and treatment for their injuries. They also need to follow the doctor’s orders and receive follow-up care. During this period, clients should keep a diary recording how the injuries are affecting their quality of life.
These obligations generally continue until the doctor says the client has reached the maximum level of recovery. However, sometimes doctors do not take advantage of available medical options and the client needs to seek additional care from another provider.
The Pre-Suit Phase – Law Firm Perspective
While the client focuses on physical recovery, the legal team starts to work focusing on monetary recovery. We build a case to establish liability and demonstrate the full extent of injuries and the impact on the client’s life.
Members of the legal team collect evidence such as accident reports and footage from surveillance cameras. We contact witnesses and analyze photos. Often we hire experts to assist. To establish the severity of the injuries, we acquire medical records and bills, carefully question the client, and again may consult experts.
We contact the defendant’s insurance company to set up a claim. We calculate the value of expenses, anticipated future needs, and noneconomic losses. Precedents from similar cases can provide a guideline for valuing intangible effects such as pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Demand Letter, Negotiation, and Beyond
When we have the full picture of our client’s losses, then we prepare a demand letter for the defendant’s insurance company. We demand money to fully compensate the client for those losses, including intangible effects such as pain and suffering.
What happens next depends on the insurance company. If they are willing to pay a fair amount to compensate the client, we can settle the case. If the insurance company delays in responding, denies liability or makes an unreasonable counteroffer, then a lawsuit will likely need to be filed.
More Information About the Life Cycle of a Personal Injury Case
We often tell clients that the pre-suit phase usually takes between three months to a year. The injuries in the case are usually the biggest determining factor, as we typically don’t send a demand letter until we know the client’s future medical prognosis. However, if liability is complicated to prove, the investigation could cause this phase to take longer as well.
On average, personal injury cases usually last from nine months to several years. Any case that is resolved in the courtroom is going to take much longer than one settled pre-litigation, with time allotted for discovery, mediation, and other phases associated with preparing for trial.
If you would like additional information about what to expect during a personal injury case, just give the team at Zweben Law Group a call. We go the extra mile for our clients—and our colleagues in the legal field as well.