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How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?

According to the CDC, there are 39.5 million personal injury cases that result in medical treatment each year.

From this vast number, only a fraction of them result in personal injury claims where the injured party alleges that they should be reimbursed for lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses due to another party’s negligence.

When a personal injury claim cannot be easily resolved between the parties and their insurance companies, the case may go to trial. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, this happens in only about 3-4% of cases, and the timeframe to receive compensation can extend to months or years.

This article provides an overview of the personal injury lawsuit timeline and what you can expect in terms of the duration of the lawsuit for personal injury.

Incident and Initial Medical Treatment

The first step in the personal injury claim process is to determine whether you have a personal injury claim. You may have a claim if you suffered physical or financial harm as the result of another person’s wrongful conduct (or failure to act).

Common personal injury claims include (but are not limited to) the following:

The incident itself could take mere moments, and it is on this date that the clock begins to tick on the personal injury lawsuit timeline.

Details of the Injury-Causing Event

At this early phase, it is helpful to collect as many details as possible regarding the injury-causing event. This evidence will be used by your attorney, insurance companies, or the courts to determine the details of the injury-causing event, such as:

  • The severity of your injuries
  • Which parties are involved
  • Who is liable
  • Whether liability is shared
  • Whether a government entity is involved

Using this information, an insurance company may arrive at an early settlement offer. However, it is strongly recommended to avoid accepting an offer until you speak with an attorney.

Consultation With an Attorney

personal injury attorney checking documents of his client

The role of a personal injury attorney is to serve as a legal advocate and represent your best interests against insurance companies and other parties.

At your initial consultation, your attorney will review the incident with you, discuss the available evidence, and make recommendations about the next legal steps.

What Evidence and Documents Should You Gather Initially?

The evidence-gathering process can take several months and will usually involve the following actions:

  • Gather evidence: You will be advised to gather evidence like medical bills and other expenses. Your attorney will also conduct an independent investigation of any other available evidence, such as a police report, witness statements, forensic evidence, surveillance videos, expert reports, and more.
  • Draft a settlement demand letter: Once your attorney comes up with an evidence-backed estimate of what your case is worth, they will prepare a settlement demand letter that includes the amount of money you will agree to accept to settle your claim.
  • Begin settlement negotiations: The strength of the evidence and documents you have can greatly influence the outcome of settlement negotiations. In most cases, your attorney will arrive at a fair compensation figure that all parties are reasonably satisfied with.

Filing the Complaint

If settlement talks fail, the next appropriate step is often to file a lawsuit. This involves several steps that must be logically done in order.

What Steps Are Involved in Filing a Lawsuit?

The steps involved in filing a lawsuit include:

  1. Filing a complaint: This document provides a detailed account of your personal injury allegations and requests appropriate damages. The defendant typically has 30 days to respond to the complaint by filing a court document called an “answer.”
  2. Receiving an answer from the other party (defendant): In the answer to the complaint, the defendant responds to each element of the complaint by admitting it, denying it, or stating that there is a lack of sufficient information. The answer will also include defenses that outline why the injured party should not prevail.
  3. Conducting discovery: The discovery phase involves gathering evidence, testimony, and documents from the parties and third parties.
  4. Pre-trial motions: Before trial, motions may be filed to request that the court take specific action. Depending on the number of motions and how long it takes to respond, this can extend the timeline for personal injury settlement resolution.

Exploring Options: Settlement or Trial?

courtroom with chairs tables and flags

There’s no single right answer to the question of whether receiving a settlement or going to trial is best. It will be highly dependent on the circumstances of your case, your injuries, and the willingness of the other party (or parties) to settle.

When and How Are Settlement Discussions Initiated?

Settlement negotiations tend to be initiated early in the legal process, often soon after the injury occurs. AtteFmpting a settlement negotiation can shave months or years off of the personal injury lawsuit timeline.

While settlement talks tend to occur early on, they can also be revisited after filing the complaint, during the discovery process, or during mediation or alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

What Factors Contribute to the Decisions To Go to Trial?

Your attorney will discuss with you the pros and cons of going to trial, and it will ultimately be your decision on how you want to proceed.

While there is no universal rule about when a case is ripe for trial, the following factors should be considered:

  1. The strength of the case
  2. Your tolerance for risk
  3. The cost of litigation
  4. Time considerations
  5. Publicity concerns
  6. Emotional impact

Facing the Court: The Trial Process

Most personal injury cases will be resolved within a few days after going to trial. The trial process is much like any other case, with opening statements from both sides, questioning the parties and witnesses, and summarizing the case during closing arguments.

The legal proceedings for personal injury cases include selecting a jury to hear the facts of the case. There is a keen emphasis on jury selection, as the members of the jury will ultimately determine liability and the amount of damages to be awarded.

What Key Events Occur During Jury Selection?

The overall goal of jury selection is to assemble an impartial jury that can objectively evaluate the evidence and reach a verdict. Ideally, your attorney will look for jurors likely to form a favorable impression of their client and eliminate jurors who may be prejudiced.

The questioning of jurors to determine if they can be impartial is referred to as “voir dire,” and both attorneys, as well as the judge, may ask questions to identify any red flags.

What Was the Court’s Verdict, and Are There Post-Trial Actions?

judge holding gavel in court

Unlike criminal cases that deliver a guilty or not guilty verdict, personal injury cases are based on determining whether a party is liable or not liable. Depending on the outcome of the case, there could be post-trial actions that include one or more of the following:

  • Motion for a new trial
  • Motion to set aside the verdict
  • An appeal of the verdict
  • Steps to enforce a judgment against the other party
  • Post-motion judgments
  • Further settlement negotiations

How Long Does It Take for a Personal Injury Lawsuit To Be Resolved?

The length of time it takes for a personal injury lawsuit to be resolved varies based on the severity of your injuries, your recovery time, how long it takes to investigate the incident and gather evidence, and the insurance negotiation process.

Further, there could be delays based on the availability of trial dates and the complexity of the case. Overall, it can take as little as a few months or as long as several years.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

The personal injury compensation timeline can vary widely, from months to years. To preserve the evidence of your case, there are recommended legal steps after personal injury incidents occur, including contacting an attorney.

At Sadaka Law, we help people injured by people, products, and corporations. Contact us at (800) 810-3457 to request a free consultation.



Principal & Founder
This article was written by Mark Sadaka, a seasoned trial lawyer in nationally significant cases. He fearlessly champions clients impacted by fatal or severe injuries caused by others or corporations. Renowned for his expertise in complex litigation, he's featured in books, sought after by media for interviews, and a highly sought speaker. Notably, he exclusively represents individuals facing life-changing injuries or substantial financial losses.

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