One of the most common misconceptions about injury cases is they take years to be resolved. New clients regularly express this concern. This misconception comes from cases in the news which have taken years to settle. However, for the most part, it remains a myth.
Let’s look at some of the factors which do influence how long a case will take. The first is the seriousness of the injury, and how long it takes to complete required medical care and rehabilitation. Generally, no lawyer can put a value on an injury claim until the medical treatment has been completed, and it is known whether the injured client fully recovered or will require future treatment. Some clients complete treatment in months. However, the most seriously injured may require years of medical care. This is one of the most significant factors influencing how long a case will require.
Once a client’s medical treatment is completed, the lawyer and client must decide whether to attempt to settle the case or to file a lawsuit without settlement negotiations. Where settlement is pursued without a lawsuit, cases can be resolved in a matter of months depending on a variety of factors. The chief factor determining the success of settlement negotiations is the amount the injured party will accept in compensation, and the amount the defendant will pay. No settlement occurs unless and until those two figures converge.
The second factor influencing how long cases require is whether the case involves litigation in which a lawsuit is filed. In most jurisdictions, even routine auto accident claims require a minimum of six to nine months in order to complete the required discovery process and get the case to a mediation conference. The vast majority of lawsuits in Florida do settle at a mediation conference or shortly thereafter. If the case does not settle at mediation and must be scheduled for trial, it may easily take an additional six months or longer, depending on how long is required to get on the signed judge’s trial docket. More complicated cases do require more time, especially when multiple defendants have been sued and are represented by separate lawyers.
Many wrongful death cases involving fatal accidents can be settled much more quickly, often without a lawsuit. That is because, where the deceased died during, or shortly after the accident, there is no prolonged waiting period for medical treatment and rehabilitation to be completed. Often there is limited insurance coverage available and the value of the death claim is far greater than the available insurance. This greatly influences the responsible party to settle the case more quickly.
Obviously, death claims can have enormous value. In cases in which there is enough insurance to fully compensate the survivors, litigation may be necessary in order to obtain fair and reasonable compensation. The decision of whether to file a lawsuit, or settle without a lawsuit, is always made by the client. I have discussed this in a companion article entitled “Will My Case Go to Court?” Clients should always retain the ultimate decision making authority on this issue.
We have found that many cases settle within a year of the date of the accident, if no lawsuit is involved. However, there are a great many factors which influence that process, beyond what may be discussed in this article. I encourage clients with concerns about how long their case may take, to frankly discuss those concerns. Many times it may actually shorten the process of resolving a claim by filing suit prior to the time the client actually reaches the completion of their medical treatment. That may allow the case to be worked up for mediation shortly after the completion of the medical treatment. Each case is different. We routinely explore with clients the options available to shorten the time required to resolve their case. family mediation near me