A Painful Turn of Events: A Timeline for Personal Injury Claims
You’ve been injured in an accident. Now what?
Being injured in an accident is always a deeply upsetting experience, regardless if you were injured in a car accident, in an accident at work, or in a slip and fall. Nobody ever expects to be involved in an accident. In many cases, people are hurt in accidents that occur as they simply go about their day-to-day lives. So when an accident occurs, a lot of people are completely overwhelmed and don’t know what to do next. If they were to file a lawsuit, what is that process like? How long will it take?
No two personal injury claims are exactly the same, so it’s impossible to give one definitive time frame for how long it will take for a case to be resolved. But there are some distinct stages to personal injury cases, which can help give you an idea of what to expect.
Initial Evidence Gathering & Medical Treatment
One of the best things you can do after an accident is gather as much evidence as you possibly can at the scene. We realize that this may be difficult to do depending on the extent of your injuries. But if you’re able to take pictures of the accident scene, get the names and contact information for any witnesses, or make a police/accident report, do so. If another party is involved in the accident, such as in the case of a car accident, be sure to get their contact and insurance information. In the case of accidents that involve a customer injured at a place of business or an employee being hurt on the job, notify a manager or supervisor.
Even if you think you only suffered minor injuries in the accident, it’s still best to seek medical treatment right away. Sometimes, signs of serious injuries aren’t immediately obvious. And since accidents often get a person’s adrenaline going, pain might seem less severe at first. If you were to wait on getting medical treatment and later discovered you had a serious injury, it would be more difficult to prove that it was caused by the accident.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
The sooner you’re able to speak to a personal injury lawyer, the better. Even if you want to settle your case through an insurance company, having a lawyer help you can be very beneficial. Remember, insurance companies aren’t looking out for your long-term best interests, they just want to get you to settle your case for as little as possible. A personal injury lawyer will be able to deal with the insurance company for you and help you get all the compensation you need. If your case can’t be settled without filing a lawsuit, a lawyer will be able to answer your questions and help you understand what steps need to be taken to move forward.
Once a lawyer agrees to handle your case, they’ll get to work investigating your case. This will involve asking you very detailed questions about your accident, your treatment and recovery, your personal background, and how the accident has impacted your life. You may also be asked about your medical history prior to the accident. The lawyer will also start reviewing your medical records and bills. This can be a lengthy process, especially if you’ve been seeing multiple doctors and specialists for treatment.
Negotiating a Settlement or Filing a Lawsuit
Not all personal injury claims turn into lawsuits. In many situations, cases are settled without going to court. But in either case, the lawyer is likely going to want to wait until you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI) before proceeding. MMI is the point where a person has recovered from their injuries as fully as possible. For some people, that might be a complete recovery, but for others, they could have long-term effects to deal with. By waiting for you to reach the point of MMI, your lawyer will have a better understanding of your total medical expenses, how the injury has impacted (and will continue to impact) your life, and your long-term care needs.
If your lawyer is unable to negotiate a settlement or if filing a lawsuit is simply the best option for your case, your lawyer will start getting ready to begin that process. Once the lawsuit has been filed, both parties involved will begin a discovery phase where each side learns about the other side’s claims and defenses. After that, there’s still a good chance your case could be resolved through mediation or arbitration instead of going to trial. If the case simply can’t be resolved in any other way, it will go to trial.