Did you know that US federal courts alone handle 20,000 to 50,000 new civil case filings each month? Of these, the majority are personal injury cases, especially product and healthcare liabilities. Product liability filings alone jumped by a whopping 452.8% from the count back in 2016.
If you’ve been in an accident due to someone else’s actions, it’s your right to pursue them for compensation. It’s best you start a case right away, though, as it can involve years of court procedures.
On that note, we created this guide on the typical personal injury lawsuit timeline. Read on to learn the steps involved in such legal disputes so that you can also prepare yourself in the long-run.
Documentation of Medical Treatment
In the US alone, more than three million non-fatal injuries occur each year. While many are unintentional, many others result from another party’s behaviors or negligence. Personal injury occurs when there’s someone else involved aside from the injured person.
That said, you should get medical treatment even if you’re not sure yet if someone else is at fault for your injury. It’s vital to visit a doctor soon after an accident as many injuries don’t always show immediate signs.
An example is a whiplash injury, which can take days or even weeks to exhibit symptoms. What’s more, some whiplash injury symptoms can last for five years or longer. Traumatic brain injuries and muscle and nerve damage also often have delayed signs.
All that should be enough reason to see a doctor as soon as possible after you get injured. In doing so, your treatment and recovery can begin right away. More than that, your physician would document all your injuries and appropriate treatments.
Your medical report, in turn, is a crucial piece of evidence for your personal injury claim. If you postpone treatment, the other party may claim that they’re not the cause of your injury. That’s why it’s vital to begin your treatment right after you get into an accident caused by another party.
Personal Injury Claim Filing
If you’ve been in a car accident in a no-fault state, you’d likely need to file a claim with your own insurer. This is what your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage is for. Twelve states, plus Puerto Rico, have no-fault auto insurance laws.
Your PIP policy should cover your medical expenses following a car accident. It should automatically kick in regardless of who caused the collision.
By contrast, at-fault states involve filing a third-party claim. You’d make this claim against the other driver’s car insurer. However, the other driver’s insurer would require you to establish fault or negligence.
No-fault laws only apply to motor vehicle collisions. All other types of personal injury cases require proving the fault of the other party.
Assessment and Investigation of the Claim
Once you’ve filed a claim with the at-fault party’s insurer, expect to hear back from a claims adjuster. Claims adjusters investigate insurance claims to determine the extent of liability.
The adjuster will ask you questions about the accident and your medical treatment. They will look at your health records to see when you started treatment and how long you need it for.
The adjuster will also inspect property damage, such as those caused by a car crash. This will help them assess the extent of the damage and how much repairs or replacements would cost.
The adjuster would then let you and the other party know of the investigation’s results.
Let’s say the adjuster determines that the other party is liable for your injuries or losses. In this case, the other party’s insurer would offer you a personal injury settlement. They will base the settlement amount on the results of the adjuster’s investigation.
Settlement Acceptance or Rejection
Once you receive a settlement offer, you have to decide if it’s enough or too low. If you find it inadequate, you can reject the offer and proceed to file a personal injury lawsuit.
A common belief is that 95% of legal disputes settle without the cases going to trial. However, researchers say that this estimate applies mostly to auto insurance claims. This indicates that other types of personal injury claims are more likely to get denied or have to go to court.
For those reasons, it’s best to hire a personal injury attorney right after your accident. This way, they can assess the merits of your case and determine how much it’s worth. They can recommend whether your first settlement offer is acceptable or not.
Personal Injury Lawsuit Filing
If your attorney believes your settlement offer is too low, they’re likely to recommend you take it to court. From here, it can take another one to two years for the lawsuit to conclude. Don’t worry, though, as your lawyer would handle most of the legal proceedings on your behalf.
For starters, your attorney will file a summons and complaint in the local civil court. The summons is a legal letter notifying the defendant that you are suing them. The complaint documents why you are suing, as well as all your injuries, losses, and damages.
You, as the plaintiff, must serve all these within your state’s “statute of limitations.” The statute of limitations refers to the maximum length of time you can sue from your injury date. The time you have varies depending on the kind of injury you sustained.
The majority of personal injury cases have a deadline of one to two years. Either way, you need to file the lawsuit within this period, lest you risk invalidating your claim. This is another good reason to seek the help of a personal injury lawyer.
Use This Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline Guide to Prep for Your Case
As you can see, the personal injury lawsuit timeline can add one to two years to the personal injury process. This means you’d have to wait longer to receive a fair settlement amount. However, it’s worth waiting for so long as your lawyer can ensure you get a bigger settlement.
For that reason, it’s best you consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as you can after your injury.
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