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How Long Does It Take to Settle a Personal Injury Claim?

Colburn Law

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When you are suffering from a personal injury, you may incur significant expenses, such as mounting medical bills, lost wages during your recovery time, property damage, and much more. The settlement you receive at the conclusion of your case can compensate you for your losses — but how long does this take?

While each personal injury claim is unique, each case typically follows similar pathways. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your case and your compensation needs, this process may take several months to a few years.

Step #1: Beginning Your Case

Your first step in a personal injury claim should be to contact a Seattle personal injury attorney, especially if you are suffering from an injury that keeps you out of work for a few days or more, have expensive medical bills or property repairs, or have painful injuries such as broken bones.

Your lawyer will take the time to learn your side of the story and may begin preliminary paperwork or contact the at-fault party about your intention to file. He or she will also recommend that you complete or continue your medical treatment during this time — these records will be an important piece of evidence for your case.

Step #2: The Investigation

After the initial consultation, your attorney will begin to collect relevant pieces of evidence and investigate the facts of your case. This evidence may include medical records, police reports, witness interviews, and consultations with medical experts.

At the conclusion of the investigation, your lawyer will hope to identify who is at fault for the accident, which defendants you can name in your claim, and the facts surrounding your claim that he or she can use to craft a strong claim.

Step #3: Negotiations

During this step, you, the at-fault party, and your attorneys will meet to discuss the case and try to settle the case out of the courtroom. This step is optional, and your attorney may advise you to commence litigation and proceed to trial directly instead.

Your case may settle during this negotiation period if your attorney believes that the offer is sufficient. If the at-fault party refuses to negotiate, settle, or offers an insufficient settlement, the case will proceed to trial.

Step #4: Filing and Discovery

If the negotiation period is unsuccessful, your attorney will file the personal injury lawsuit in Washington civil court. This will launch the discovery period, where each side involved in the case exchange evidence and continue to investigate the case. You may have to attend a deposition, and this process can take a long time — from 6 months to 1 year, or longer.

Step #5: Settlement Discussions

You may enter another set of negotiations at this time with the at-fault party and your attorneys. Many cases settle during this period before proceeding to trial, but this may not be the best option for your case.

Step #6: The Trial

If your case does not settle prior to trial, you will proceed to the courtroom. Your attorney will present your case in front of a judge or jury and ask for a settlement based on the facts of your claim. The at-fault party will also have the opportunity to present his or her case.

Step #7: The Verdict

Your verdict may come 1 to 2 years after filing your claim, depending on your case.  After the verdict, the judge will enter judgment against the defendants.  The judge will inform you whether or not you can collect on your judgment and the specific amount of the judgment.  Even after a verdict and entry of judgment, settlement remains a possibility.

If you do not receive a fair trial, you can file an appeal and restart the process again. If you do receive a settlement, the defendant will owe you the specified amount in the judgment. The payment process will depend on the agreement you create with the defendant and whether or not an insurance company is involved.

Get Sound Legal Representation

The personal injury claims process may be lengthy, but without an attorney, unnecessary errors and missed deadlines can extend this timeline. For best results, contact a personal injury attorney in Washington before filing your claim.

Hiring an attorney can provide a number of benefits for your case, including access to resources and expert witnesses, knowledge of the paperwork and processes necessary to file your claim, and experience building compelling cases for accidents similar to yours. Contact your lawyer as soon as possible following your accident to strategize your next steps.