If you have recently filed a personal injury case, you may be looking forward to the day that your case comes to court, unfortunately, this may not be anytime soon, and it may not even happen. Actually, only 4–5% of cases filed will ever see the inside of a courtroom. The other 94–95% will settle out of court. Many of these settle due to the extensive amount of time it can take to get a personal injury case to court. Why do personal injury cases take so long and what is going on while you are waiting? Here are a few of the things that impact the amount of time your personal injury case may take.
Waiting for the Improvement of Your Health Status
Before your personal injury attorney is even able to consider taking your case to court, you must have reached one of two points: your physician must have discharged you from medical services, or you must have recovered to a point of maximum medical improvement (MMI).
Maximum medical improvement means that any further medical treatment is not expected to make a significant impact on your condition, although ongoing medical care may be required for you to maintain your current health status. To reach MMI, you may have already undergone the following:
- treatment of your injuries
- various courses of medications
- one or more surgeries
- physical and occupational therapies and more
The amount of time MMI takes will depend on your injury, as well as how aggressive your course of treatment is. Your physician will give you an estimation of how long this part will take.
Collecting Your Documentation
Every time you have a medical appointment, therapy session, or even pick up a prescription, there is a trail of information being created that your attorney will have to round up. In addition to your medical information, they may need to collect relevant documentation from your employer, collect witness statements, and any other related information. Collecting all of this can all take a considerable amount of time.
Calculating Your Claim
Before your attorney is able to start negotiating your case, they must work with you to attempt to calculate exactly how much they should be asking for. In this calculation the two of you must figure in economic and non-economic costs. Some of the economic losses include:
- Your lost wages
- Lost earning potential
- Medical expenses
- Property damages
- Anticipated future medical costs
In addition to these economic losses, they must also consider the general damages, or non-economic losses, that are often more difficult to place a price tag on. These include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium and more
Once a price tag has been established, they are then ready to contact the other party with an offer. This can take a long to determine depending on the extent of these factors in your case.
Negotiating Your Settlement Amount
Your attorney will attempt to begin negotiations with the party you are suing in the form of a settlement offer. Once the settlement offer is made to the other party, they must review it and get back with you. They will very seldom accept the first offer that is made, and they will come back with a counter offer and the dance will begin. You and the other party will go back and forth until you reach a point that one or both of you are no longer willing to make any other concessions.
Even once you are there, you still may not be ready to head to court. You may be required to participate in a settlement conference, mediation, or arbitration with the other party in an attempt to resolve the case prior to going to court.
Getting on the Court Docket
Another major hurdle if you case makes it this far, is the actual scheduling of your case on a court docket. Depending on where you live, and the court that your case must be heard in, Due to the overwhelming number of cases that many courts hear, these dockets can be already scheduled for months in advance. It may take you six months or longer just to get a court date.
Although much of this process is out of your control, you will want to make sure you are not doing anything to drag it out any longer. Make yourself available to assist your personal injury attorney during the process. Remember the two of you are a team and to be successful and team must work together. For more questions about this process, contact resources like Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake LLP.