Q: How Long Does A Car Accident Injury Case (Typically) Take To Resolve?
A: Cases that are filed in court and that ultimately end up in a jury trial may take an average of one to two years to reach a verdict.
How long it might take for a car accident case to settle or to go to trial will depend on multiple factors.
In cases in which the liability of the defendants is clear, the insurance company might be more willing to negotiate a settlement. Many cases are resolved through settlement negotiations without a formal lawsuit ever being filed.
Once you retain a car accident attorney, he or she will commence the process by sending a demand letter to the insurance company that outlines your legal claims, the extent and nature of your injuries and losses, and a demand for monetary compensation.
The insurance company may then respond by accepting the demand, denying the claim, or offering a lower amount.
How the insurance company responds to this initial demand often dictates how long your case accident case could take.
QUICKEST RESOLUTION: Insurance company recognizes you have a strong case
If the insurance company recognizes you have a strong case, they may be likely to accept the terms of your demand. In this case, you will likely reach a settlement rather quickly.
TAKES TIME: If the insurance company offers a settlement that is too low
At this point, your lawyer may try to negotiate with the insurance company until he or she secures an agreement to settle your claim outside of the court process for a reasonable and fair amount. This negotiating process can add a fair amount of time before settling your claim but is typically faster than going to court.
LONGEST: If the insurance company denies your claim
If the insurance company disputes or denies your claim, your attorney may be forced to file a formal lawsuit on your behalf in court.
Cases that are filed in court and that ultimately end up in a jury trial may take an average of one to two years to reach a verdict.
Especially complex claims may take longer than that. The cases must proceed through the civil process before they head to trial.
After your complaint is filed, the defendant will be given time to respond with his or her answer. Once the complaint and the answer have been filed, the case will go through the discovery process, which can take months.
Keep in mind: during discovery, your lawyer will continue to negotiate, and your case may settle short of a jury trial.
Other Factors That Impact The Length Of A Claim
Each case is different and it is impossible to tell exactly how long it may take before a verdict is reached. No attorney can predict just how long the process will last.
In addition to the factors outlined above, a few other things that can impact the timetable of your case may include:
- Medical treatment
- Medical evaluations over the course of time as well as health and status updates may impact the length of a claim. For instance, a defendant may be more likely to settle if the severity of your car accident-related injuries takes a turn for the worse or if it is determined that a full recovery will not be made.
- The strength of your case
- As you might expect, an increased likelihood of winning your case will generally increase the likelihood that the defendant will wish to reach a quick settlement before trial.
- The firm that you hire
- Law firms and individual attorneys generally build a reputation in the legal community over time. A firm with a strong, successful reputation may warrant a more favorable demeanor from opposing defendants and insurance companies and be more likely to secure a favorable outcome in a quick timeframe.
- The circumstances of the accident
- Things such as video evidence, eye witnesses, strong documentation, photos, etc., of your car accident and the resulting injury, it may be easier to secure a quicker outcome.
- Your willingness to reach a settlement vs go to trial
- Some clients prefer a quick settlement as opposed to (potentially) going to trial. Others may feel they have a strong case and might believe their chances at getting the most money lies in going to court. Each situation is unique, but the decision is yours entirely and can be made with the expert guidance of your attorney.
- Developments in your case over time
- There are things that may come up throughout the process of a claim that could speed things up in your favor. For instance, if your medical outlook changes, if a new witness comes forward, or if a particular expert agrees to testify on your behalf, as a few examples.
Keep in mind: It is important to pay attention to the statute of limitations where your accident occurred. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims establishes the period during which your claim must be filed. If you wait too long and try to file your case after the limitations period has expired, you will be barred from recovering compensation for your losses. The statutes of limitations regarding car accident injuries in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland are as follows:
- Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-101 – 3 years
- D.C. Code § 12–301 – 3 years
- Va. Code § 8.01-243(A) – 2 years