How Long Will My Car Accident Case Take?
If you were hurt in an accident, you are probably worried about your case dragging out, and may be stressed about medical bills and how your injuries are affecting your work and home life. However, it’s often best not to jump to settle too quickly if you want the best outcome. That may mean holding on and going to trial instead of accepting a quick, low-ball, settlement offer. There are a lot of phases to any lawsuit and every suit is different.
The first thing that usually happens after you hire a lawyer, is that the lawyer will investigate your case. This can involve getting information from the police and witnesses, possibly hiring an accident reconstruction expert, and reviewing your medical bills. Next, your lawyer may make a settlement demand on the insurance company and/or any other responsible parties to see if the case can resolve early for a reasonable amount. Often, the two sides are just too far apart until they get more information about the strengths and weaknesses of their cases. However, in cases with clear liability and clear damages, early settlements are possible when you have a good lawyer who knows what the insurance company needs to know to pay a reasonable demand.
Depending on how your medical treatment is progressing and other strategic issues, a lawsuit may be filed quickly or you may decide to wait until your treatment has stabilized. In New Mexico, personal injury cases must be filed within three years from the date of the accident or you may well lose your right to recover anything.
After the lawsuit is filed, your lawyer will start gathering information from the person or people at fault. We call this “discovery” and it is very important to help us learn what arguments and evidence may be used at trial. We often work more closely with experts at this stage and will take sworn testimony from the other side’s experts and witnesses. Around this time, the parties may both file motions with the Court, asking the judge to narrow the scope of the case for trial. The case may also be sent to mandatory mediation, which means that the parties are expected to meet and work with a mediator (an experienced lawyer or judge) to try to settle the case.
Lawyers sometimes have little say about when a case is set for trial. As Plaintiffs, we often want the earliest possible date that the Court will give us. Trials can be scheduled for a year or two after we file a lawsuit, depending on the judge’s schedule and when a jury is available.
In a nutshell, the timeline of a case depends on a lot of factors. However, a good personal injury lawyer will push the case and will try to minimize reasons for the other side to ask for delays. Aggressive representation and strong organization skills are required to push ahead. I have seen cases settle in the first two weeks after a suit is filed and I have seen cases take years to get to trial. I would be happy to talk to you or your loved ones about a plan to get your accident case resolved or set for trial as quickly as we can.