A serious injury can leave you suffering physically and shaken emotionally. The negative impact of such an injury on your life may have far-reaching consequences.
If you have been hurt as a result of someone else’s negligence or wrongful act in Massachusetts, you may be able to pursue compensation for all you have gone through. With mounting medical bills, lost days of work, and additional pain and suffering, it is reasonable to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Understandably, an injury victim usually wants to settle his or her claim as quickly as possible and move on in life. However, each case is unique and there are many factors that impact how long it may take to resolve a personal injury claim. While some injury cases may settle within just a few months, others may take several years.
The following will discuss what is involved in a personal injury lawsuit and the steps required to settle it successfully.
What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A personal injury lawsuit is a civil action brought by an injured person against the person or entity responsible for the harm caused. The purpose of the lawsuit is to recover financial compensation for the damages suffered because of the accident. These may include medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional trauma.
To win such a civil lawsuit, you must be able to show that the defendant is liable for your injuries. This means proving that the other party was negligent or otherwise at fault for the accident. Once negligence has been established in your personal injury case, the court will determine how much money you may receive in damages.
The Process of a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The process for litigating personal injury cases involves multiple phases. Each of these steps are part of trying to settle a personal injury claim in a just and fair manner. Most of these phases are best handled with the assistance of a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.
Seek prompt medical attention
The actions you take immediately after your accident can significantly impact the strength of your claim. Once you’ve been hurt, it is critical to have a medical evaluation as soon as possible. Addressing your injuries right away can help to ensure a better long-term prognosis, as well as document the severity of what happened.
Medical treatment and expenses account for a significant part of the compensation amount commonly awarded in personal injury cases. It is important to have detailed medical records documenting the gravity of your injuries from the very beginning.
Meet with a personal injury lawyer
Personal injury claims and lawsuits can be complicated. It is in your best interest to consult an experienced personal injury attorney, as soon as you are physically and emotionally able to, after an accident.
Your lawyer will be able to examine the evidence and evaluate the strength of your claim. He or she can help you navigate the legal system and advise you on the best steps to take to attain maximum compensation for what you have suffered.
Begin an investigation into the incident
Once you retain an attorney, the personal injury law firm will begin an independent investigation into the injury accident on your behalf. In this way the facts of your case can be established, laying a strong foundation for a successful lawsuit moving forward.
Your lawyer’s legal team will likely examine any evidence from the scene of the accident and your medical records, as well as interview any eyewitnesses of the incident and the circumstances that led up to it.
File a personal injury claim
Once your lawyer has established the facts of your case, he or she will send a demand letter to the insurance provider for the at-fault party. This notifies the other party that you intend to hold them accountable for your personal injuries and how much compensation you are seeking.
Complete the discovery phase
The discovery phase of a personal injury lawsuit is when both parties exchange information to learn all they can about the case. During this time, each party may be asked to respond to questions while under oath.
Additionally, the defendant and plaintiff will request to see paperwork, accident reports, medical records, and other evidence such as pictures and physical objects related to the case.
The discovery phase is also when your attorney will investigate any disputed facts in your case. Depending on the circumstances and complexity of your case, the discovery process can take several months, if not longer, to complete.
Settlement negotiations and mediation
In an effort to avoid a costly and potentially lengthy civil trial, the majority of personal injury lawsuits are settled outside of court through a series of settlement and mediation conferences between the involved parties and their legal representatives. Through such proceedings, the plaintiff and the defendant retain more control of the outcome of the case, rather than leaving it in the hands of a judge or jury.
Take the personal injury case to trial
In the event that the parties involved can not come to a reasonable settlement agreement through negotiation or mediation, your attorney will argue your case at trial. It may take several months to get a personal injury trial scheduled on the court docket. Often, your lawyer will continue the settlement discussions up until trial.
Additional Factors Impacting How Long It Takes to Resolve Your Personal Injury Lawsuit
Personal injury claims have many variables. The complexity of the case, the parties involved, and the extent of the damages all impact the length of time required to successfully pursue an injury claim. In determining how long a personal injury lawsuit may take, these additional factors must be considered.
The nature of the accident
Some injury cases are straightforward and easily proved. Such claims can often be amicably settled within a relatively short amount of time.
On the other hand, alleged negligence can be much harder to establish in other cases, such as when concerning medical malpractice or a multiple-vehicle accident. In these types of claims, additional time may be needed to uncover the absolute truth of how the accident came about.
You have not reached maximum medical improvement
If you experienced minor injuries from which you recovered quickly, you may be able to reach a personal injury settlement relatively soon. However, serious injury cases often take a significant amount of time to litigate – and rightly so.
Serious or even catastrophic injuries may impact the entire course of your life. If you are still receiving medical treatment for your injuries, you have not reached maximum medical improvement. It is rarely in your best interest to settle a personal injury lawsuit without first evaluating the full extent of your injuries and calculating how much money you really need to cover your medical bills.
The recovery process is not always what you expect it to be. If there are complications, the amount of time you need to reach maximum medical improvement can vary. However, your doctors can submit documents detailing your prognosis to the insurance company and the court.
Together with your medical providers and attorney, you can establish how much financial compensation is needed to cover your current and future medical expenses and otherwise make your life whole again.
The amount of damages involved
When you seek significant damages, your case could take longer to resolve. High-value settlements, stemming from complicated injury claims, are often delayed.
Such complex cases usually involve extensive insurance negotiations. It is not uncommon for insurers to drag out the negotiations in an attempt to pressure the accident victim into accepting a less substantial settlement.
How many parties were involved
If multiple parties were involved in the incident that led to your injuries, the personal injury claim process will likely be more complicated. Further, if your own actions in some way contributed to the injuries sustained, this will impact the settlement process.
Under the Massachusetts comparative negligence law, the award for damages the plaintiff may receive in a personal injury case is based on his or her degree of fault. This means that even if you bear a degree of responsibility for the accident, you can still recover damages – as long as your share does not exceed the combined negligence of all other parties in the case.
That being said, if you were partially at fault for your injuries, or there are multiple at-fault parties, these factors will almost certainly impact how long your personal injury case takes. When several parties are involved, this probably means dealing with more insurance companies, attorneys, and claims adjusters. Clearly, reaching an acceptable settlement agreement among multiple defendants is rarely a simple or quick process.
The defendant’s willingness to settle
When the defendant is willing to admit fault for your injuries, the entire claim process may go much smoother. When they offer you a fair settlement and you decide to accept, your injury claim will end as soon as you sign the settlement contract.
Additionally, some defendants are more eager to reach a settlement than others if they are anxious to avoid the expense or publicity associated with a lawsuit or jury trial. On the other hand, if there are large companies or corporations involved, they may unnecessarily draw out the legal process in the interest of protecting their bottom line and reputation.
Clearly, the person or entity who was responsible for your injuries, and their willingness to settle, can have a large impact on your personal injury lawsuit timeline.
Understand the Importance of Your Personal Injury Claim
As a rule, settling a personal injury claim is final. When you accept compensation from the other party, you are also giving up your right to demand additional money in the future.
Once the settlement is made, even if further evidence emerges or it turns out that your injuries are more serious than originally thought, you cannot reopen your case. The defendant will no longer be financially responsible in any way after the claim has been closed.
For these reasons and others, it is important not to rush a personal injury claim or lawsuit to its conclusion. Attaining a reasonable settlement or fair judgment award takes time, and a sizable amount could be essential to get your life back on track after a serious personal injury.
Indeed, your patience could pay off. There may be considerable time involved in getting the compensation you deserve, but you don’t want to find yourself regretting a hasty settlement agreement.
Contact a Massachusetts Personal Injury Lawyer for Advice
Sustaining serious injuries due to someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior can be a traumatic experience. The best way to ensure that you get your rightful compensation for the incident as quickly as possible is to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
The committed personal injury attorneys of Kiley Law Group have been helping Massachusetts accident and injury victims resolve injury claims and settle lawsuits for over 40 years. We have the know-how and resources to maximize your ability to recover the compensation you deserve.
Please call the Kiley Law Group office today at 888-514-1543 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. We want to hear your story.