What Is the Timeline of a Personal Injury Case in California?

February 10, 2021 Posted In Personal Injury

If you are considering or pursuing a personal injury claim in California, a common concern is how long it will take to reach a resolution. Unfortunately, there is no exact answer because each case is different. However, a timeline of what occurs and when, can help you understand what to expect. 

Step 1: Investigation of Claim

Average Length of Time: weeks to months

After choosing an experienced San Bernardino injury lawyer whom you trust, your legal team will begin investigating your claim. That will involve asking you to describe every single detail leading up to the accident, how you were harmed, the extent of your injuries and medical treatment, as well as how your life has and will be impacted in the future. 

To help in their investigation, give your attorney any reports and relevant documentation that you have on hand, such as: 

  • Police reports
  • Witness statements
  • Medical bills and records
  • Pay stubs
  • Receipts for any accident-related expenses, etc. 

Your lawyer will obtain any documents that you are unable to supply, collect additional evidence to build your case, and will consult with experts if necessary, such as medical experts or accident reconstruction experts. The amount of time this process takes will depend on your unique situation and type of case. 

Step 2: Demand Letter and Negotiations

Average Length of Time: weeks to months

After reviewing all the documentation and evidence in your case, your lawyer will give their professional opinion as to how much the opposing party will likely be willing to settle for. Based on that estimate, your attorney will draft a demand letter that details the facts of the accident and asks for a specific amount of money by a set date to resolve the claim. Your lawyer will likely recommend holding off on sending a demand letter until you have fully recovered or reached the point of “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). Waiting will give both you and your attorney the most accurate information about your case’s worth.

Negotiations will then commence and if both sides reach an agreement, the case will settle and a lawsuit does not need to be filed. Your attorney should keep you informed of the settlement discussions and the realistic chances of resolving your case in negotiations. 

Step 3: Filing a Lawsuit

Average Length of Time: one to two years to get to trial

Each state differs in their pretrial procedures, but a personal injury lawsuit will typically take one to two years to get to trial in California. The lawsuit must be filed within the two-year statute of limitations, otherwise the court will reject your case.

Step 4: Discovery 

Average Length of Time: six months to a year depending on the case’s complexity

In this phase, each party will review the opposing party’s evidence and legal claims, send document requests to each other, take depositions of all relevant witnesses and parties, often beginning with you as the plaintiff, and the defendant. 

Step 5: Mediation and Negotiation

Average Length of Time: weeks to months 

The discovery provides each side with much more information regarding the case’s value, strength of evidence, and what the likely outcome will be at trial. As a result, a second attempt to settle the case will typically take place towards the end of discovery. Over 95 percent of civil cases settle before making it to trial, so it is very likely that these discussions will lead to a settlement agreement.

Step 6: Trial

Average Length of Time: days to weeks

Cases that do not settle during the discovery phase must prepare to go to trial. The trial itself may take a day, a week, or sometimes even longer. Keep in mind, that just because you have a trial date doesn’t necessarily mean it will begin on that date. Scheduling conflicts with judges often cause delays, resulting in trial dates being rescheduled. 

Step 7: Collecting a Judgment, Post-Trial Motions, and Appeals

Average Length of Time: months to years

Even if a jury has returned a verdict awarding you compensation, it can be months or years before you receive your personal injury settlement. Parties are entitled to file certain post-trial motions and appeals of various decisions that occurred throughout the litigation process. 

Were You Injured in an Accident?

If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident, as the result of another’s negligence, contact Hanson & Mouri. Our highly skilled Inland Empire Personal Injury Lawyer can help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Reach our Riverside office by calling (951) 688-0006, to set up your free consultation today. 

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