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Why Do Personal Injury Cases Take So Long?

Posted on: October 4, 2017 by Edwards & Patterson Law

personal injury cases

Personal injury cases are time-intensive, without a doubt. Of course, quick solutions to complex legal issues often leave clients with undesirable results. Getting the best result is not always getting the quickest result. As personal injury attorneys, we are often asked, “Why do personal injury cases take so long?” There is no definitive answer to that question, because just as every accident is different, every personal injury claim is also different.

When the extent of a victim’s losses are known and liability for the accident is not being disputed, settlements can be reached in one or two months, even without filing a lawsuit. Complex personal injury cases can often consume years of time before a resolution is reached, due to motions or court delays. In order to get an estimate of timing for your case, you must understand how processing a claim works, along with the most common steps toward reaching a resolution.

Evaluating the Injury

With any type of accident, time must pass in order to determine the full extent of injury. In serious injury cases, a year or more must pass before physicians and medical specialists can determine complete healing or any level of permanent impairment. It is critical for medical specialists to take all the time necessary to fully evaluate injuries and determine when a victim has reached their maximum level of medical improvement. Settlements are final; victims cannot go back at a later date and claim more compensation for additional injury complications that were not discovered beforehand.

Discussions Toward an Initial Settlement

Only after the full and complete extent of losses have been ascertained can the process of gathering documentation begin. All medical records, bills, estimates for property repair, and any other documents must be gathered and assimilated into a claim. The victim, or their attorney, will provide this information along with a detailed letter stipulating demands for compensation to the liable party or parties involved in the accident.

Very often, there will be a process of back-and-forth negotiation as both sides will ‘test the waters’ to try and find common ground. Sometimes, a fair settlement agreement can be reached through this process, which can then be agreed upon and validated by the court. If common ground for a settlement cannot be reached, then it’s time to take the next steps of beginning a personal injury claim lawsuit.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

When a settlement cannot be reached between the involved parties, the victim can file a lawsuit in the civil court system. This complaint filed with the court details all allegations against the defendant concerning the accident and all injuries that were incurred as a result. This will also include a court-issued summons that provides these documents to the defendant or defendants.

The Discovery Period

A period of discovery allows all involved parties time to investigate the claims of each party. Attorneys will exchange disclosure statements that enumerate the facts of the case, listing any experts or witnesses involved. Victims will be asked to verify every bit of information provided under oath, and will usually be subject to an independent medical evaluation.

Preparing Depositions

During a personal injury deposition the victim is asked questions under oath. A court reporter makes a complete record of everything shared. A competent attorney will prepare the victim for the deposition and defend it by objecting to questions from opposing attorneys that seem irrelevant or harassing in nature.

Pre-Trial Motions

Attorneys can file all manner of motions before trial, objecting to certain evidence or testimony, or asking for case dismissal if not enough concrete evidence exists to prove liability. If the court is already loaded with scheduled motions, your case could take much longer than expected.

Mediation and Settlement

A process of mediation is often required before personal injury cases are presented before the court for trial. In this process, a neutral mediator will try to help all parties reach a settlement agreement. Sometimes arbitration is warranted. An arbitrator acts like a judge to evaluate evidence and decide issues pertaining to the case. There may be several conferences aimed at mediation and settlement before a case actually goes to trial.

Trial in the Court

If a settlement cannot be reached through the aforementioned processes, the personal injury case goes to trial where a judge or jury will decide if the defendant is truly liable for the accident that caused injury, and if so, the amount of fair settlement that is warranted. Courts stay busy, so a six month or longer wait before the trial can be held is to be expected. The trial itself can last from days to weeks, depending on the amount of evidence to be presented and the number of allegations to be covered.

It is possible for the involved parties to settle the case at any point during the trial, at any time before the case goes to the judge or jury for deliberations. In addition, once the trial is over, further appeals or motions can be filed that would put a hold on final settlement.

Experienced Attorneys for Personal Injury Cases

As you can see, the process is long and complicated, and you need an experienced personal injury attorney to guide you and provide necessary legal advice and help. Edwards and Patterson Law are personal injury attorneys with vast experience and expertise. We have helped settle numerous personal injury cases throughout eastern Oklahoma, Tulsa, and McAlester. Contact us today by phone or online to schedule your free consultation.

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