When someone is injured in an accident, whether it is a car crash, slip and fall, or other type of accident, they often want to know how long their personal injury case will take to finalize. At Mahaney & Pappas, LLP our goal is to help our clients resolve their personal injury case as quickly as possible. The time frame for the personal injury process depends on a number of different factors. Here I will review some of the more important factors so an accident victim can understand how long to expect their case to take.
Generally, A Personal Injury Case Will Not Settle Until Treatment Ends
If a person is seriously injured in an accident in Massachusetts, it is likely that their injuries will require significant medical treatment and recovery time. An accident victim can only get one settlement for their injuries suffered in an accident. When a personal injury case settles, the negligent party’s insurance company will require the accident victim to sign a release. The release will forever discharge the negligent party and their insurance company from any further claims that stem from the accident or injury. Therefore, the best position to be in, before settling your case, is to have your injuries fully healed (or reach a maximum medical improvement) and to know what the prognosis is or future medical needs are. This is why the length of time it takes to settle a case depends on how long it takes an accident victim to treat and recover from his or her injuries.
For example, if someone is seriously injured in a trucking accident and the injuries will require many months of treatment, the accident victim doesn’t want to settle their case only a few months after the accident. Remember, the value of a personal injury case generally depends on the total amount of the medical bills, among other factors. If you settle the case only three months after the trucking accident, when you have many more months of treatment expected, you will not get the full value of your case. This is because you will not know what the total medical costs and expenses are for your injuries.
An accident victim, however, should keep in mind that the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Massachusetts is three (3) years. So, if the length of treatment and recovery time is likely to take more than three years, the accident victim should file a lawsuit before the three year statute of limitation expires in order to protect their legal rights.
The Settlement Process After Treatment Concludes
Once treatment has finished and the accident victim knows their anticipated future medical needs, there is a process to get the case settled. First, all the medical records and bills must be obtained from all the doctors, therapists and other medical providers. Once all the medical records and bills are obtained, they are reviewed in order to evaluate the case.
At Mahaney & Pappas, LLP, we perform a full settlement evaluation, which entails a complete review of the medical records and bills as well as a full assessment of liability and value of each case. Don’t forget, each case is different. Prior case results do not predict the settlement value of any future cases. This is why each case is independently reviewed by our legal team. We then conference the case with our clients before submitting a demand to the insurance company. The conference with our clients will confirm our understanding of how the accident happened, the extent of the injury and medical treatment, any prior injuries, how the injuries impacted our client’s lives, as well as any liens. We will also discuss the reasonably anticipated settlement value of the case.
After the settlement evaluation is completed with our legal team and clients, we will prepare a demand package to send to the insurance company. The demand package will comprise of a detailed letter addressing how the accident happened, the injuries and treatment, the medical bills and other losses, and a clear demand for settlement. All of the medical records and bills are enclosed with the demand letter and sent to the insurance company.
Once the demand package is received by the insurance company, it generally takes them several weeks and in some situations more than a month to review and evaluate it. Sometimes they may request additional documentation or information. Once they have everything they need and reviewed the demand, we will then engage in settlement negotiations. This is the process where we discuss settlement with the insurance company. Sometimes it take a few phone calls to settle a case and other times it can take numerous phone conferences.
If a Lawsuit is Filed, a Case May Not Resolve Until After Discovery or Trial
In some accident cases there may be an issue of liability that requires a personal injury lawsuit to be filed. Liability means who is legally responsible for causing the accident and the accident victim’s injuries and losses. Liability in Massachusetts is determined by establishing who was negligent and caused the accident.
In motor vehicle accidents, for example, it can sometimes be difficult to determine who was at fault for causing the crash. An insurance company may deny liability claiming that their insured did not cause the accident. When this happens the accident victim must file a lawsuit against the other driver to pursue compensation for their injuries.
To establish negligence, you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the other driver was at fault. Preponderance of the evidence means the greater weight of the evidence required in a civil lawsuit, or that the other party was more than 50% responsible for causing the accident.
The discovery phase of a personal injury lawsuit is where the parties to the lawsuit discover facts and evidence about how the accident happened and the plaintiff’s injuries. There are different discovery tools available to parties to a lawsuit in Massachusetts, such as interrogatories, requests for production of documents and depositions. Generally, discovery can take quite a while, depending on the facts of each case. The evidence gathered and obtained through discovery will, hopefully, help the plaintiff establish that the other party was at fault for the accident.
Where the evidence obtained during discovery demonstrates that the other driver (or defendant) in the lawsuit was negligent and caused the accident, their insurance company may want to settle the case before a trial. If the evidence, however, doesn’t clearly establish negligence, the insurance company may refuse to settle and want to try the case before a jury or a judge. In this situation, the personal injury lawsuit will not resolve until the trial has finished. This can take years in some cases. Every case is different. Complex cases may have more witnesses, exhibits, and/or expert witnesses. These cases, generally, take longer to resolve.
Speak With An Experienced Legal Team
Chuck Pappas and Joe Mahaney are experienced personal injury lawyers who specialize in representing accident victims in Massachusetts. Our focus is getting our clients the compensation they deserve for their injuries and losses.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, please contact us online or call (508) 879-3500 to schedule a free meeting to discuss your case and learn about your legal rights and options.