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How long does a personal injury case take?

Posted by Scott M. Peterson | Jan 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

When you've been injured because of something outside of your control – whether it' a car accident, fall down, medical negligence including a missed diagnosis or medication error – your primary focus should always be on getting better.

Sometimes someone else is at fault, and in that case you may be entitled to recover damages for your injuries. The question that we often receive from victims of medication errors, missed medical diagnoses or personal injuries is, how long does a “case” take?

The short answer is – it depends. The time it takes for a case to resolve – in other words for you to receive compensation (if successful) can range from a couple of months in rare circumstances to a couple of years in some cases. The calculation depends on a number of different factors.

#1 – will you be filing a lawsuit or trying to negotiate a pre-suit settlement?

Sometimes people just don't want to file a medical malpractice or personal injury lawsuit. They may feel that they don't have the time, that they're not the “type” of people to file lawsuits, or they may need compensation quickly. We've heard each of these reasons (and many others), and will always talk with a client/potential client to discuss her options and the benefits/drawbacks in settling a claim early versus filing a lawsuit.

Sometimes a victim can receive a fair amount of compensation prior to a lawsuit being filed. Other times, however, an insurance company – the real “party” in most cases because they will make the ultimate payment – will “low ball” a case before a lawsuit gets filed.

#2 – are you healed or still receiving treatment?

One of the factors that significantly delays lawsuits relating to late medical diagnoses, medication errors and other personal injuries is when the victim is still receiving medical care. As you might imagine this happens quite often.

The problem with attempting to resolve a claim while the victim is still receiving medical treatment is that you are playing a guessing game. It becomes much more difficult to determine the long term implications of the injury, which makes it more difficult to determine an appropriate value for the claim. The worst thing you can do is settle a claim quickly and later decide that your injuries are worse than you thought. Because once you accept the money and sign a release you are out of luck, and you cannot re-open your claim.

So if you are still treating following an accident or incident of malpractice (and there is still time left to file the lawsuit), it often makes sense to let things play out a bit before resolving the case.

#3 – Is someone clearly at fault or is liability disputed?

Cases typically fall into one of three categories – 1) the victim is clearly not at fault; 2) fault is split between the victim and the wrongdoer; 3) the victim is primarily at fault but the wrongdoer has some liability. We rarely accept cases in the third category.

If your case involves the clear fault of a defendant (a clear medication administration error, for example) it is somewhat more likely that it can be resolved more quickly than a disputed claim (a failure to diagnose cancer case where the doctor strongly believes that he acted appropriately, for example).

#4 – Do you have realistic expectations about the case?

One thing that can slow down resolution is unrealistic expectations about the value of a case. Everyone has seen stories online about people getting sky high recoveries for a lawsuit. Sometimes people forget, however, that these cases are the extreme outliers, and that for every one of these cases there are literally hundreds (or thousands) that did not resolve for that amount.

We try very hard to set realistic expectations for our clients at the start of the case. This does not mean that we try to push quick settlements (the opposite, in fact). But it does mean that we have a thorough discussion about what we think the “value” of the case is – and this discussion is based upon our years of experience and our research into the case. It is very important that the lawyer and client are on the same – or at least a similar – page at the start of the case. This will also help us give you a reasonable time frame for when the case may be completed.

These are just a few examples of why injury or medical malpractice lawsuits can take anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years to resolve. We generally tell clients that the average range is 9-18 months, but again that can vary substantially.

If you have questions about a personal injury, medical malpractice, missed diagnosis or medication overdoes case give us a call. We're happy to speak with you.

About the Author

Scott M. Peterson

Scott M. Peterson is the founding partner of D'Orazio Peterson, having left a partnership at a large regional law firm to limit his practice and focus on helping people protect their families.


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