This is one of the most difficult questions to answer. There is no definitive answer because each personal injury case is unique. However, an experienced personal injury attorney may be able to determine how long the personal injury claims process will take after evaluating all the factors that come into play.
Depending on the complexity of your personal injury case and your state’s statute of limitations, among other factors, it could take from a few weeks or months to several years to settle your claim or achieve a verdict through a lawsuit.
It’s essential to discuss your case with a lawyer to determine how long it will take to settle your claim. Contact our personal injury attorneys at Howe.Law with offices in Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi to help you speed up your case.
The timeline of a personal injury case
Before we delve into the factors that affect how long it takes to settle your claim, it’s essential to understand the timeline of personal injury cases:
- The victim incurs an injury in an accident because of someone else’s negligence.
- The victim seeks medical attention to diagnose their injury and receive medical treatment.
- The injured party contacts a personal injury attorney to discuss the case.
- Their attorney conducts an investigation and collects evidence to establish fault and support the personal injury claim.
- The lawyer prepares an insurance claim and demand letter on behalf of the victim.
- The attorney negotiates a settlement offer with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
- If you cannot reach a settlement, the lawyer files a lawsuit to resolve a dispute in court.
- The victim’s lawyer helps them go through the discovery process.
- The parties attempt to settle the dispute through mediation or arbitration.
- The personal injury case goes to trial.
The entire process may take from several months to a few years, depending on the factors discussed below.
10 factors that affect the timeline of your personal injury case
There are ten factors that may affect the timeline of your personal injury case. We will discuss each of these factors to help you estimate how long it might take to settle your claim.
1. The state where you file your personal injury claim
Each state has its own specific rules regarding the statute of limitations or the time limit within which an individual is can file a lawsuit.
The statute of limitations can have a tremendous impact on the timeline of a personal injury claim. In Georgia, you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit (O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33). The clock starts running on the date of the injury. The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is one and three years in Tennessee and Mississippi, respectively (TCA § 28-3-104 and Miss. Code. § 15-1-49).
2. The difficulty of the investigation
When pursuing compensation through a personal injury claim, you will need a skilled lawyer to assist you with the investigation in order to collect all available pieces of evidence. The investigation is necessary to establish the value of your claim and determine liability.
The difficulty of the investigation depends on such factors as:
- the availability of evidence;
- the need for accident reconstruction experts;
- whether or not there were any eyewitnesses;
- whether you have all necessary documentation and records to establish a claim for damages (photos, videos, medical records, police or accident reports, witness statements, and others).
The more difficult it is to collect evidence or conduct an investigation, the more time it will take to investigate your injury case.
3. The number of parties involved
If your personal injury case involves multiple parties, it becomes more complicated instantly, especially if several parties may be at fault. Your attorney will need more time to investigate the incident to establish each party’s fault.
Under Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee law, you may be entitled to compensation even if you were partially responsible for your injury. Mississippi follows the rule of pure comparative negligence, which means you can recover damages if you were mostly at fault (Miss. Code § 11-7-15).
Georgia and Tennessee, on the other hand, adopted the doctrine of modified comparative negligence, which provides that injured parties cannot seek compensation if they were 50% or more at fault (O.C.G.A. § 51-11-7 and TCA § 29-11-103).
4. Whether you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI)
The personal injury claims process might take longer if you are still receiving medical treatment and/or have not reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), which is defined as the point at which your injury is unlikely to change significantly.
As a rule of thumb, it’s not advised to settle your personal injury claim before reaching MMI. This is because the full extent and scope of your injuries and damages are not clear yet.
5. The severity of your injury and the need for extensive medical care
If you are still undergoing extensive medical treatment, it may take longer to settle your personal injury claim. Thus, the more severe your injury, the more time you may need to settle your claim. This is because you are more likely to require multiple surgeries, rehabilitation, therapy, or other types of ongoing medical care.
However, when you are represented by an experienced personal injury lawyer, you can expedite the process of evaluating your injury case even if you are still receiving medical treatment.
6. Whether the parties agree on the settlement amount
The willingness of the parties to negotiate and settle a personal injury claim also affects the timeline of your case. Typically, when the injured party and the insurance company agree on the amount of damages, it takes less time to settle the claim.
If the parties are not able to agree on the settlement amount, it will take longer to resolve the claim. If you are unable to reach an agreement, the personal injury case may proceed to trial to resolve the dispute.
7. Whether fault is contested
The negligent party admitting their fault can speed up the claims process. However, when fault is contested in a personal injury case, it might take longer to resolve the claim.
As mentioned earlier, the injured party may be entitled to financial compensation even if their own fault contributed to their injury. However, you should not admit fault if the insurance company says you were partially responsible for the accident. Instead, consult with a knowledgeable lawyer to establish responsibility in your case.
8. The responsiveness of the insurance company
How long the insurance company takes to respond to your claim, demand letter, and requests also affects the timeline of your personal injury case. If the insurer takes weeks to respond to your claim, don’t expect your claim to settle in a timely manner.
For example, under Georgia law, insurance companies must accept or deny claims within 30 days from receipt (O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1).
9. Whether you have an attorney
Generally, claimants who are not represented by an attorney take longer to settle their personal injury claim than those who hire a lawyer. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you prepare a strong case and conduct a prompt and effective investigation to ensure that your claim is settled for a fair amount and as soon as possible.
10. The strength of your case
The stronger your personal injury case is, the faster you can settle your claim. The insurance company will evaluate your claim based on the strengths and weaknesses of your case. For this reason, the more evidence you have to support your claim and provide an effective demand letter, the more likely the insurer is to accept your claim promptly.
Why you need a personal injury attorney
Once you have sought medical attention for your injury following an accident, it is important to contact a personal injury attorney. You need to discuss your case with a lawyer to find out:
- How long it might take to settle your claim;
- How much your personal injury case is worth; and
- Whether you should file an insurance claim or lawsuit to receive compensation.
A skilled personal injury lawyer can help speed up the claims process while fighting for the maximum compensation you deserve. It’s true that you can settle your claim faster if you accept a lower settlement offer.
However, doing so is not recommended because you need the settlement offer to reflect the full extent of your injuries and damages. Also, keep in mind that once you accept a settlement offer, you automatically waive your right to additional compensation for your injury.
For this reason, it’s vital to negotiate a fair settlement offer to ensure that you are compensated for all of your damages and losses. It’s advised to contact a personal injury attorney to handle all negotiations and communications with the insurance company on your behalf while you focus on recovering from your injuries.
Schedule a consultation with our personal injury attorneys at Howe.Law. We will discuss the details of your case and help you navigate the claims process. Our law firm has offices in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia. Speak with our lawyers to learn about your legal rights and obtain the compensation you deserve. Call us at 844-876-4357 to get a consultation.