How Long Will It Take My Personal Injury Case To Settle?
The length of time that it takes a Florida personal injury case to settle varies significantly, based on the unique facts and circumstances of the situation. Nevertheless, a figure of 9 to 18 months is more or less accurate for most cases. That said, some cases resolve in a few weeks, while a few cases take years to resolve.
Special Case: Florida’s No-Fault Auto Insurance System
Car accidents are the most common form of personal injury in Florida, and Florida handles car accidents differently than it handles other personal injury claims. Every Florida driver must carry $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance.
In the event of an accident, each driver typically files a claim with their own insurance. PIP pays up to 80% of medical care and 60% of your lost earnings. If your injuries are serious or if another exception applies, however, you can take legal action against the other driver.
PIP will expedite your car accident claim, which is one of the main purposes of the PIP system. Following is a timeline:
- You must seek medical care within 14 days.
- You have 35 days from the date of your medical treatment to send in your claim to the insurance company.
- The insurance company has 30 days to pay your claim, subject to certain possible exceptions.
Under this timeline, you should be able to resolve your claim within a few weeks after your accident.
Property damage claims, by contrast, are fault-based, and they typically take longer to resolve. The same is true for claims against the at-fault party.
General Personal Injury Timeline
Following is a description of a typical sequence of events following an accident that generates a personal injury claim. Since every case is different, the timeline of your case may vary from the hypothetical timeline described below.
The Immediate Aftermath of the Accident
Take the following actions in the immediate aftermath of the accident:
- Seek medical attention.
- Report the accident to the police, and to the manager of any establishment where the accident may have occurred.
- Photograph the scene of the accident. Include anything that might be relevant, such as photos of your injuries, any witnesses, anyone else involved in the accident, and any vehicle damage.
- Get names and addresses from the scene of the accident. In a car accident, get insurance details from the at-fault driver.
Perform all of these activities at the scene of the accident, to the extent that your injuries allow. Otherwise, have a friend or relative take care of some of these items– such as photographing the scene of the accident.
Initial Case Consultation With a Personal Injury Lawyer
You can hire a personal injury lawyer without paying any money until you receive your settlement or verdict. Don’t waste time, because your lawyer’s timely advice can prevent you from making mistakes that could damage your claim. It shouldn’t take you more than a few days to set up an appointment.
Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
Ask your doctor to tell you when you’ve reached MMI. MMI is the point where your medical condition has improved as much as it ever will. You’ll need to reach MMI before you can accurately calculate the value of your claim. The date you reach MMI depends on the nature of your injuries as well as other factors.
The Preliminary Investigation
Your lawyer should handle the preliminary investigation of your claim. They might:
- Obtain a copy of the police report;
- Gather your medical records;
- Interview witnesses;
- Seek other evidence, such as CCTV footage of the accident; and/or
- Perform other evidence-gathering activities.
This stage should take a few weeks.
Send a Demand Package
A “demand package” is a demand letter plus supporting documentation. It goes to the party responsible for paying your claim, typically an insurance company. Your demand letter should include an explanation of your claim and why you deserve compensation. You should add a deadline and (perhaps) a specific dollars-and-cents settlement demand.
Unless the insurance company ignores your demand letter, the next step is to negotiate your claim. The insurance company will send you an extremely low first offer, which you should reject. Continue negotiating with offers and counteroffers until negotiations break down. With luck, your claim will end here. This stage shouldn’t last more than a few weeks.
File a Lawsuit
If the opposing party refuses to cooperate, it’s time to file a lawsuit. Don’t worry, as you can always withdraw your lawsuit later if it makes sense to do so.
Engage in the Discovery Process
The discovery process is a court-supervised process where each slide gathers evidence that is in the possession of the other party. It might include:
- Depositions: Under-oath, out-of-court testimony;
- Interrogatories: Written questions that must be answered under oath; and
- Demands for the production of documents and physical evidence for inspection or copying.
The discovery process typically takes 6 to 12 months to complete, as a rough guideline.
Return to the Negotiating Table
The discovery process typically provides a wealth of evidence that tips the scales in favor of one party or another. Now is the time that the negotiating stalemate might break.
Participate in Mediation
If you still can’t settle, the judge will likely pressure you to mediate. You can participate with no obligation to settle your claim, and you shouldn’t settle unless you receive an acceptable offer.
Settle Your Claim
To settle your claim, you’ll need to draft and sign a settlement agreement. Let your lawyer draft the settlement agreement with the other side’s lawyer so that both sides find it acceptable.
Go to Trial
If you can’t reach a settlement, it might be time to go to trial. Very few claims (far less than 10%) go to trial. The stages of a trial are:
- Jury selection (a competitive process);
- Opening statements by each lawyer;
- Examination and cross-examination of witnesses and presentation of evidence by you (first) and by the defendant (later);
- Closing statements by each lawyer; and
- Final verdict.
Most trials take only a day to complete.
You can always appeal if you have grounds to do so. Appeals usually fail, however.
Receive Your Verdict or Settlement Funds
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. The funds will go to your lawyer’s account. Your lawyer will deduct their fees and case expenses, and they will also deduct any other appropriate amounts. They will pay a medical lien, for example, if you have a lien on your settlement funds. You should receive your funds within a few weeks.
Enforce Your Settlement
If the opposing party signs a settlement agreement but refuses to pay you, you now have a contract claim. Sue them in court to enforce your claim. Ultimately, a court can garnish the defendant’s bank account if necessary to enforce your claim.
Contact an Experienced Clearwater Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have a personal injury claim, or if you think you might have one, contact a reputable Clearwater personal injury lawyer from Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers at (727) 787-2500 to set up a free initial consultation. If you are seriously injured, the lawyer might even be willing to meet with you in the hospital. The sooner you involve a lawyer, the more compensation you are likely to win.