The short answer is that it depends. Some cases can take as short as a few weeks. However, most cases take much longer than that. If you’re communicating with the insurance companies on your own, they will drag their feet about paying.
A lawyer expedites the process. When the insurance company knows that the victim has an attorney, things happen much faster. Insurance company adjusters and lawyers know that they cannot bully a good attorney, so they usually do not even try. Instead, they get down to business.
Most cases settle out of court, and that could happen at any time. Most cases follow this rough outline though.
Once an attorney has an idea as to damages, s/he send a demand letter to the insurance company. This can happen at any point during the case, so it could be before or even after the case is filed. The victim/plaintiff agrees to drop all claims in exchange for a sum of money. This sum should accurately reflect the victim/plaintiff’s economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. The insurance companies then decide whether to accept the offer, counter-offer, or reject the offer. Most cases proceed to the next step.
Filing a Claim
Most states are notice pleading jurisdictions. Complaints (the document that starts a lawsuit) only need a rough outline of the victim/plaintiff’s claims. But this document must be filed before the statute of limitations runs in order to recover damages. If it’s even one day late, the victim/plaintiff loses the right to recover any money.
Next, the parties exchange information and documents about their claims and defenses. In the United States, a trial’s primary purpose is not to select a “winner” and a “loser.” A trial is designed to discover the truth of the matter. Generally, there is both written discovery, such as document requests and written questions, as well as oral discovery, like medical examinations and depositions.
In most states, mediation is mandatory. A neutral third party works to facilitate a settlement between the victim/plaintiff and the insurance company/defendant. By this time, each side’s claims and defenses are fairly well established, so most cases settle at mediation.
Although only a few cases go to trial, a diligent attorney should always be ready to go all the way to the jury.
This is the part where you get ready for court. Every case can go to court and you should have a lawyer, like a personal injury lawyer Brookhaven, GA trusts, who knows how to try a case to a jury and who is ready.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Butler Tobin for their insight into personal injury cases.