Unfortunately, the answer is, “it depends.” The most common factors that determine how long it may take before a case can be resolved include:
- Whether you settle out of court or take your case to court;
- The complexity of the case; and
- The severity of your injuries and how much compensation you need
Cases that go to trial will always take longer than cases that don’t—one to two years is common. And complex cases, like those where the at-fault party isn’t clear, or medical issues are raised, will take longer than cases where witnesses saw someone cause your injuries by running a red light.
Not all of this time is taken up by the actual trial. In fact, the trial itself may only take a few days. Instead, the majority of the time is needed for the “discovery” period, which is when both side’s lawyers gather evidence and testimony to build their case. In Columbus, Georgia, where our firm is located, at least six months is given to the other lawyer before a judge will even consider setting a case for trial.
At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, one of our firm’s most important values is helping our clients make an informed choice on how they want their claim to proceed. We also work hard to move cases as quickly and efficiently as possible without compromising preparation. Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution for personal injury cases, we always recommend speaking to a lawyer about what may be the best option for you. We offer free initial consultations, and our phone lines are open 24/7.
But be wary of big, out-of-town firms that try to pressure you to accept an offer you don’t feel is enough. They may not have your best interests in mind and may only be thinking of resolving your claim as soon as possible so they can move on to the next one.
Don’t Accept the Insurance Company’s First Offer
What you need to know and keep in mind is that getting fair compensation after an injury caused by someone else is probably going to take longer than you’d like. But that’s why it is even more important to hold out for what you deserve.
You may get an offer from the at-fault party’s insurance company right away, and you’ll likely be tempted to accept it because you need money for your bills NOW. They may even imply that your property damage claim is part of a settlement. Remember: you have two cases, and the injury case can remain open ever after dealing with your car repairs.
Also remember that the first offer is almost always far less than the insurance company knows your injury is actually worth, and they’re making it because they are hoping you’ll be desperate enough to take it anyway, or because they want you to sign before you know the full extent of your injury.
Those lowball offers may only compensate you for your initial treatment and not include compensation for any ongoing treatment or additional treatment you need down the road, such as for surgery, physical therapy, medications, or mobility aids like crutches.
It probably won’t sufficiently make up for the paychecks you miss or any reduced earning capacity due to your injuries, and likely won’t include any compensation for your pain and suffering at all. But once you accept that offer, you won’t be able to make another claim for that same injury or ask for more compensation later, even if it didn’t come close to covering all your expenses.
Again, you don’t have to wait on your injury claim to get your car repaired or paid off. This is why it’s a good rule of thumb to NEVER accept an insurance company’s offer without first speaking to a lawyer, who will have a better idea of what your claim is actually worth.
Why to Wait Until You’ve Finished Medical Treatment to Conclude Your Lawsuit
If you plan to file a lawsuit, you MUST do it before the statute of limitations runs out, which is generally 2 years from the date of the injury in both Georgia and Alabama. But that doesn’t mean you must wrap up your claim in that same time frame.
Most personal injury attorneys will recommend that you don’t conclude your lawsuit until after you’ve completed all treatment and are totally recovered, or as recovered as your doctors believe you will ever be, in the case of permanent injury.
The legal term for MMI, which stands for “maximum medical improvement.” This is to make sure that ALL your medical expenses associated with your injury are properly added to what you are owed in compensation. There are, of course, exceptions and many times we do recommend filing suit even before treatment is concluded.
It is not always possible to wait until our patients are fully recovered, especially when they suffer permanent disability that may require years or even lifelong treatment. In those cases, your lawyer can compare your case to similar cases and hire expert witnesses such as medical experts and economists to determine a fair settlement that should cover what you will need into the future.
Discuss with a lawyer whether you should settle your claim or wait until you have a better understanding of your medical needs post-injury.
What If I Can’t Wait that Long to Get Compensation?
When getting treatment for a car crash or other injury that was caused by someone else’s bad decisions, make sure to tell the healthcare provider treating you how you were injured.
If they know that you are pursuing a personal injury lawsuit and you have a strong claim to compensation, they may agree to treat you without payment now in exchange for receiving payment from your settlement when you win. This is called a medical lien. Our blog discusses how to get treatment without health insurance in more detail here. A lien can be filed by your healthcare provider with a lawyer, but a lawyer is usually helpful in coordinating the process. If you went to the emergency room of a local hospital, they will usually set up their own lien for reimbursement.
Generally, if you have health insurance, we recommend you file a claim with your own health insurance to pay your bills now, and then deal with paying them back from your settlement through a lien if it is required. Our blog discusses why to use your health insurance to cover bills in more detail here.
If you are in the army, a dependent, or a retiree, other rules may apply.
Have Questions? Gary Bruce Has Answers.
At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, we work hard to make sure that all our clients are completely satisfied with the progress of their cases and the settlements they receive. We’re a local firm who has established our reputation on that, and our years of dedication to supporting injury victims in our communities stand as proof.
Out-of-town lawyers, meanwhile, may not care about their reputation in our community or whether you get the money you need, when you need it, as long as they get paid at the end.
If you aren’t sure whether to take a settlement or go to court, our lawyers can help you determine the best path forward based on the circumstances of your claim. And the best part is that your initial consultation at the Law Offices of Gary Bruce is always free. Contact us today to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney.