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How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?

Published in Personal Injury on January 15, 2019.

Guide [2019] | Personal Injury Process

how long does a lawsuit take

After an accident, many victims are shocked by the expenses that suddenly start piling up.

In addition to pricey medical care, they also have to repair any damaged property (like their vehicle) and often need to arrange to have someone clean their home and cook their meals.

If their injuries are particularly serious, they have to stop working at the same time, which only increases the stress.

If you’ve been searching around the web, you probably know you can sue the person who was at fault for your accident and force them to pay compensation.

This money will certainly help, but how long does a lawsuit take? How long does a lawsuit take to get a settlement? You probably need the money now and don’t want to wait.

As a leading Indiana personal injury law firm, we receive many questions from the public every day, and one of the most popular is, “How long does a personal injury case take?” The correct answer is, “it depends.”

Every case is different, but we will go through the steps our clients must take to receive compensation.

Investigating the Accident

In some cases, it is obvious who is responsible for your injuries. For example, if you walked into a grocery store and slipped in an aisle, then the business is probably responsible since they have control of their premises.

Something similar plays out in simple car accidents. If you were going through an intersection on a green light when someone T-boned you, then they are at fault because they ran a red light.

However, in other situations, it is not always clear who bears responsibility for your injuries. For example, you might have been involved in a 15-car pileup on the highway.

Which driver is to blame for the accident? To answer that question, you will probably need to undertake an investigation, which can involve:

  • Securing and analyzing the police report
  • Identifying and questioning witnesses to the accident
  • Finding and studying any CCTV video that might have captured the crash

The more complicated an accident, the more time it will take to complete a lawsuit. But you need to gather evidence to use, and you do that during the investigation phase.

Disputing Fault

It can take a long time to settle a lawsuit if there are good-faith disagreements about who is at fault. For example, both drivers might have thought they had a green light, and there are no third-party witnesses to testify.

The fault is important because the person at fault pays compensation to the victims.

Under Indiana law, you can also contribute to your injuries through your own negligence.

You can still receive compensation so long as your own negligence is not greater than the negligence of all other parties.

But the amount of compensation you will receive will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

So if you had $40,000 in injuries but were 25% responsible for the crash, you can only receive $30,000 in compensation.

For these reasons, the fault is often hotly contested after an accident, and it can take months to work out who is responsible.

When insurance adjusters cannot agree on fault, then cases often go to court.

Negotiating a Settlement

Negotiation is an art, and experienced attorneys like those at Eskew Law realize that you cannot maximize compensation by accepting the first offer made by the insurance company.

Instead, negotiation often involves a back-and-forth process between all sides.

This process can take quite a bit of time. Very rarely, insurance companies will make a generous settlement offer right out of the gate, but we must usually negotiate to receive full compensation for our clients for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage
  • Pain and suffering

Filing a Lawsuit

When negotiations break down, our clients have no choice but to march into court to vindicate their rights.

A lawsuit starts with filing a complaint in court and then serving a copy on the defendant. In this document, your attorney will explain the significant details surrounding the accident and make a request for compensation.

This process is complex because a deficient complaint will be tossed out of court.

Preparing for Trial

Depending on the complexity of the case, trial preparations can easily take well over a year in many cases. This is often why settling a case is ideal, if at all possible. Trial preparation takes many forms, including:

  • Engaging in fact-finding (called discovery) by asking the other side questions under oath and requesting documents in their possession or control.
  • Using a subpoena to obtain documents from third-parties.
  • Filing pretrial motions to limit the issues in dispute and keep unduly prejudicial information away from the jury.
  • Creating exhibits and other trial documents that will simplify the issues so a layperson can understand them.

As part of discovery, our clients often have to sit down for a deposition, where they answer questions under oath. Topics include the severity of their injuries and how they remember the accident unfolding. Scheduling depositions and court appearances for a time that works for everybody can be challenge and contributes to the length pre-trial period.

Trial

Trials usually go pretty quickly—once you eventually get there. Each side can present witnesses and ask the other side’s witnesses questions in cross-examination.

An attorney makes an opening statement and a closing argument to the jury, which finally retires to reach a verdict in the case.

If you win, you get a court judgment, but it is still up to the defendant to pay the amount owed to you. If the defendant has insurance, the insurer should pay quickly.

But when defendants do not have insurance, then it is up to the injured victim to find personal assets to help satisfy the court judgment. All told, from start to finish, a personal injury lawsuit will usually take over a year.

Speak with an Experienced Indiana Personal Injury Lawyer

As you can see, the answer to, “How long does a personal injury lawsuit take?” is complicated.

If you can reach a favorable settlement, you will receive badly-needed compensation much faster than if you are forced to go to trial.

At Eskew Law, we have decades of combined experience filing lawsuits and negotiating favorable settlements for our clients.

If you want to work with us, or if you have questions, you can reach us by calling 317-974-0177.

We offer a free initial consultation to all members of the public.

Please don’t delay.

Indiana law gives injured victims a short window of time to hold defendants responsible for their injuries.

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