Published in Personal Injury on January 15, 2019.
Guide  | Personal Injury Process
The following topic was updated in October 2022
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 in Indiana? 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.
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 challenging and contributes to the length of the pre-trial period.
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.
Factors That Can Influence the Timeline for a Lawsuit
You now understand the steps that make up the personal injury lawsuit process. However, this knowledge may not help answer the question, How long does a personal injury lawsuit take? Unfortunately, the answer depends on the facts of each particular case. Read on to learn about factors that can influence your lawsuit timeline.
The Severity of Your Injuries
The severity of your injuries significantly affects a settlement timeline. Catastrophic injuries usually demand greater settlement values, and a liable party may be hesitant to agree to a large settlement. Additionally, your attorney may advise you to complete the entirety of your prescribed medical treatment before agreeing to or negotiating any settlement. You may have years of doctor visits, prescribed medications, or physical therapy sessions ahead for which you do not receive compensation if you settle too early.
Complexity of Your Case
Simple cases usually move more swiftly through the lawsuit process. For example, a case may settle quickly in an accident where the liable party rear-ended a vehicle, caused injuries to the driver, admitted fault, and offered fair compensation. In other situations, a party may refuse to accept liability, or the parties may be unable to agree on settlement value.
Willingness of Parties to Settle
Although many personal injury cases result in a settlement, when parties refuse to settle or demand a trial, the timeline for a lawsuit is expanded. Personal injury lawsuits often involve intense emotions due to the degree to which an injured victim’s life was upended by the liable party’s actions. Some plaintiffs may be determined to seek more money at trial and refuse to settle. In other situations, a plaintiff may be eager to move forward and accept a fair settlement offer while the defendant refuses.
An attorney experienced in personal injury matters acts as your legal advocate. It’s vital that you provide all the information that your lawyer needs to represent you effectively. For example, after reviewing the facts of a case, an attorney may advise a client to push for settlement for the most favorable result. In more complex cases, an attorney may advise their client to take their case to trial when settlement offers fail to offer just compensation.
How Long Does a Lawsuit Take in Indiana?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to the question, How long does a personal injury lawsuit take? Each case is different and presents its own unique set of facts and challenges. Some parties may go through all the steps of investigating the accident, filing a lawsuit, negotiating, and trial. Others may only complete a couple steps before settling for fair compensation. Your attorney is there to help you through the process and determine your best path forward.
What Are the Factors that Influence the Timeline for a Lawsuit?
Many factors may influence the timeline of your case. However, not all factors apply to each case. Determining the impact these factors may have on your lawsuit timeline helps manage expectations for how quickly or slowly your case may progress.
What Is the Information that Your Lawyer Needs?
It’s vital to provide your attorney with all relevant information related to your case. Without this information, your attorney is unable to provide effective legal representation. Save any records, especially medical records, about your case. Send any photos or other potential evidence to your attorney. And above all else, be absolutely honest with your attorney. There’s no such thing as too much good information. Your attorney is there to counsel you on your best options as you move through your case, and it serves your best interests to provide the information needed to build a strong case on your behalf.
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.