A personal injury case tends to have various stages. While the case can be settled at any stage in the process, when that ultimately happens depends on a variety of factors.
The initial stage of an injury case is the first several weeks after the collision. The injured party begins their initial treatment, while the attorney who has been retained starts the process of opening up the file.
The most critical part of this initial stage is the attorney discovering what auto insurance policies are in play, and in what amounts. This will lay the groundwork for knowing what the possible amount of recovery is depending on if the damages ultimately warrant a full recovery of the available insurance limits.
The attorney also does other things like sending out open records requests and securing witnesses, as well as notifying the client’s health insurer and other necessary parties about his representation of the client.
After several weeks to a month, the client usually knows at this point whether he believes the injury is fully healed and he wishes to conclude medical treatment, or if the injury is still bothering him. If it is still painful, the client might begin to seek out orthopedic or physical therapy care, or get an MRI and/or injections.
The client will continue on with more conservative care and eventually either fully heal, achieve maximum medical improvement and decide to just live with it, or continue to get more aggressive in the treatment, and possibly choose surgery.
Typically, the more treatment the client undertakes, the more the damages continue to increase. All along, the attorney should be evaluating if the damages are such that they are worth the policy limit(s) of each available policy.
If so, the attorney often will make a demand for the policy limits, even if the client is still treating. If the case is not worth the policy limits, the attorney will often wait until the client concludes treatment before making a settlement offer.
Sometimes settlement offers can be made in the first month after the collision. Other times, the attorney will wait until close to the expiration of the statute of limitations to make the first offer. It’s even possible the attorney doesn’t make a settlement offer pre-suit and files the lawsuit without even making an offer.
If a case does not settle prior to filing suit, the lawsuit process usually does not go very quickly. Most cases typically don’t settle after a suit is filed until discovery has been completed. Discovery takes at least six months.
From the conclusion of discovery until a trial date, there is usually about a year. During that time, the parties usually settle the case, either on their own, or through mediation. However, if the parties cannot settle the case, then it heads to trial. Oftentimes, the trial date is 2-3 years after the date of the collision.