A common thought when pursuing a personal injury claim is wondering how long it will take. Unfortunately, the answer is not simple since the timeline is unique to each case.
However, here is a general idea of the process and how long each step takes until you receive compensation.
First Six Months
The first six months of a personal injury claim typically involve recovering from your injuries and your personal injury attorney’s initial investigation.
Seeking medical care is critical to your health and also protects your right to compensation. If there is a gap between the accident and your treatment, an insurance company can argue that your injuries are not as severe as you state or were not caused by the accident with their policyholder.
Once you hire a personal injury lawyer, they will immediately begin gathering evidence to determine which parties are liable and prove their fault. That may involve visiting the scene of the accident, taking photos, interviewing witnesses, obtaining copies of the police report, medical records, pay stubs, tax returns, any receipts for accident-related expenses, hiring experts, and more. The amount of time their investigation will take often depends on the complexity of your case.
An attorney will advise you to wait until you fully recover from your injuries or reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) before sending a demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance company. That way, you and your lawyer will have a complete picture of the extent of your injuries and losses. They will then carefully draft a demand letter that details the facts of the accident and the amount of compensation you are requesting to resolve the case. The insurer will typically respond with a counter-offer, and negotiations will begin. If both parties can agree on a settlement, the case will resolve. If not, you and your attorney may decide to file a lawsuit.
Months Six to 12
In Texas, you typically have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit under the state’s statute of limitations law.
Filing a Lawsuit
Once your attorney files the appropriate paperwork and the defendant (at-fault party) is served, they have 21 days to respond and deny the allegations. Sometimes, filing suit is enough to prompt the insurer to settle.
Months 12 to 18
The discovery portion of a lawsuit is often lengthy and commonly involves:
Both parties will send lists of written questions to the other to clarify the facts of the case.
Attorneys for both sides depose all relevant witnesses and the parties to the lawsuit, which on average can take three months.
An Independent Medical Examination
The defense may request an independent medical examination to be completed by a doctor of their choosing.
If your case has not settled by this point, both parties will typically hire expert witnesses to testify at trial. Each side also has the opportunity to depose the witnesses.
Months 18 to 24 and Beyond
The remaining time involves further negotiations and, lastly, trial.
Once discovery ends, each side will better understand how a jury might decide the case. Sometimes, the attorneys can reach a settlement, or the parties may attend mediation. A mediator acts as an objective third party that helps the parties communicate and resolve a claim.
When mediation fails, the case will proceed to trial. A trial can take anywhere between a few days to multiple months.
If you are awarded compensation, it is typically dispersed to your attorney within 30 days of successful mediation or a favorable verdict.