This is one of the questions I get asked all the time. And like any question you ask a lawyer, the answer is, “It depends.” Specifically, it depends on two factors: how long it takes to recover from your injuries, and how long it takes to reach a settlement.
Your injuries matter for a few reasons. Most importantly, your personal injury case depends mostly on your injuries. If your injuries are severe and long lasting, your case will take a long time. If your injuries take less time to recover from, your case will take less time to complete. Also, it is important to wait until you’ve recovered from your injuries before making a claim because you only get to make the claim once. In exchange for a settlement, you will be required to sign a release. The release means that you can never again make a claim against the person who hurt you for the injuries covered by the release. So, if you’re in a rush and settle your claim before you’ve fully recovered but later discover that you need an expensive surgery, you’re out of luck. After you’ve settled, you can’t go back even if you discover a new injury. So, you have to wait until you’re better (or at least as better as you’re going to get) before settling.
How long it takes to reach a settlement also depends on a number of factors. Most importantly, it depends on you and the person who hurt you or her insurance company. If both sides are willing to be reasonable, a letter and a few phone calls can be all that’s necessary to reach a reasonable settlement. If any one of you, the other person, or the other person’s insurance company decides to be unreasonable, settlement can take a long time. To understand why, you need to understand a little about how a personal injury claim works.
A personal injury claim starts out with an insurance claim. Once you’ve recovered from your injuries, you or your personal injury lawyer trusts will collect your medical records and other evidence and send it to the insurance company. At that point, the insurance company will probably make a settlement offer. If the insurance company makes a reasonable opening offer, negotiations usually move fairly quickly from here. If not, and you can’t get a fair offer, the next step is a lawsuit. At least in Colorado, if you have to file a lawsuit, you have to file it against the person who hurt you, not the insurance company. Although you can settle at any point during a lawsuit, if you have to go all the way through trial and appeal, the case can take years to complete. Usually, a lawsuit will settle within a year of when it is filed though.
So, there you have it. It’s not a simple answer, but I hope you now understand a little bit more about how long personal injury cases take. Contact me at the link below if you want to know more.