How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?

A personal injury lawsuit can be slow, stressful, and confusing.  How long a lawsuit takes depends on quite a few factors.

But I’m going to break down the 7 main stages in a personal injury lawsuit. Of course, every case is different but, in general, most will follow these seven stages. 

7 Stages of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

  1. First, we file a complaint. 
  2. Then the defendant, provides their Answer to the complaint.
  3. Next there is a period of written discovery. 
  4. Then we move into Depositions 
  5. Then you have to have a “Compulsory Medical Examination” 
  6. Next we go into Mediation to try and reach a settlement 
  7. And finally, if we can’t reach a settlement, your case will go to trial. 

I’ll explain what each of these stages mean in more detail. But on average it takes about two years to go from the complaint stage to trial.  However, a case could be resolved in any of the stages, even right after the complaint is filed. 

Personal Injury Lawsuit Stage 1: The Complaint

If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s carelessness you may end up having to file a lawsuit to collect damages. A personal injury lawsuit is started by filing a complaint with the Court. This is a written document that outlines when and where the incident occurred and what the person or company did wrong.  

The complaint will also state, in general terms, the types of damages you are seeking. The person who brings the lawsuit (that’s you) is called the Plaintiff. The person who caused the injury and is being sued is the Defendant.   

There can be other defendants in a lawsuit. For example, your own insurance company – if you had uninsured motorist coverage but they denied your claim or did not pay what you were owed under your policy with them. 

Once the complaint is filed, the defendants get served and then we move to the next stage… 

Stage 2: The Answer

This is probably not the answer you’re looking for. 

After the Defendant is served with the complaint, they have to file a response. Generally, their insurance company’s attorney will file the response for them. Sometimes there are motions filed prior to an answer – such as a motion to dismiss. But eventually, an Answer should be filed. In the Answer, the Defendant will deny most, if not all, of the allegations in the Complaint. 

It is then our job to prove all of the allegations in the Complaint was denied by the defendants. In order to prove the allegations we need evidence. And evidence is gathered in a process called Discovery. The overall discovery process will be the longest part of most cases an spans the next three stages – written discovery, depositions, and compulsory medical examination. These three stages can overlap but the next stage after the answer is Written Discovery. 

Stage 3: Written Discovery

The written discovery stage comes next. Early in the lawsuit, we will receive written questions from the insurance company’s lawyers. These written questions are called Interrogatories. We will also receive a request for documents called a Request to Produce. There may be other types of written discovery such as Requests for Admissions as well. 

The written questions will ask about your background such as where you have lived and worked. You’ll be asked to explain how the accident happened and what the other party did wrong. They will ask you to list all the doctors you have treated with, both before and after the car accident. All the medical procedures you have had done, before and after the accident. Whether you have been in a prior lawsuit or if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime. The questions may even ask about your marriage.  

Personal injury lawsuits get PERSONAL.  

The insurance company will also ask for copies of your medical records, tax returns, photographs of your injuries and of the vehicles involved in the crash. 

By time we receive these requests, we will have most of the information relating to your accident and injury. But it is important that you are very accurate and complete in your responses. We need to make sure we have all of your prior medical providers, prior home addresses, prior lawsuits or claims, employment history and tax returns. 

After the written discovery stage, your deposition will take place. 

Stage 4: Depositions

This is the most critical part of your personal injury lawsuit. The insurance company’s lawyer will get to ask you questions about your case, medical history, employment, prior claims, and many other subjects. Your attorney will be with you while you are answering these questions as well as a court reporter who will transcribe every question and answer. Depositions in personal injury cases usually last two to four hours. But there is no time limitation. 

This is one of the only times the insurance company’s attorney gets to talk directly to you. Not only is the insurance company’s attorney looking to find information to poke holes in your case, they are also evaluating you. They are evaluating your demeanor, how you speak, how you interact with others, and your truthfulness. Ultimately, they are trying to get an idea of how a jury will perceive you if your case goes to trial. 

There are likely to be other depositions in your case. Depositions may be taken of the other parties involved, witnesses, and your healthcare providers. 

After your deposition, the next stage you are likely to be involved in is a compulsory medical examination.  

Stage 5: Compulsory Medical Exam

The insurance company will hire a doctor, or doctors, that they can use at trial to talk about your injuries. Normally, the insurance company is looking for doctors that can minimize your injury or give the opinion that your injury is not related to the car accident. The insurance company’s doctor will review all of your past medical records, the records of your injury, your deposition testimony and likely MRI or x-ray films. The doctor will also physically examine you. Most of these examinations last about one hour. After the exam, the doctor will write a report with their opinions on your case. Once the report is completed, we will get a copy. 

The entire discovery process encompasses written discovery, depositions, and compulsory medical examinations. Oftentimes these three stages will last many months or possibly more than a year. 

Stage 6: Mediation

If the parties are not able to reach a settlement on their own, the Court will order us to mediation prior to trial. We will go to mediation together and meet with the insurance company’s lawyer and a claims adjuster. The mediator will be an attorney that is selected by your attorney and the insurance company’s attorney.  Most mediators are former personal injury attorneys, insurance company attorneys, or judges. Some mediators have a combination of those experiences. The mediator will facilitate settlement discussions between the parties and try to get a resolution of the entire case. Sometimes mediation ends in a resolution and sometimes it does not. 

Mediation is not the last time to resolve your case as but it is at minimum, beneficial to help the parties see the other side’s point of view and often brings the parties closer to a resolution. 

If the parties are never able to reach a settlement agreement, then this is the final stage to resolve the case is trial. 

Stage 7: Trial

Usually the only time you will physically go to the courthouse will be for trial. If the parties are never able to reach a settlement agreement, then this is the final option to resolve the case.  

On average it takes at least two years, from the date a lawsuit is filed to the time you get to trial. Your case will be a jury trial. This means a jury of your peers decides the case as opposed to a judge. Most personal injury trials last a whole week.  

The first day, the jury is picked. A jury in a Florida civil case is made up of 6 people. After the jury is picked, opening statements are given by the attorneys to outline the case. Then the evidence stage begins. Most of the evidence comes through witness testimony. This includes you taking the witness stand as well as experts and other witnesses.  

For the entire week, the jury is evaluating you. Whether or not you are on the witness stand. The final day, closing arguments are presented by the attorneys. Then the jury goes out of the courtroom to deliberate. Once the jury reaches a decision, they come back into the courtroom and the judge or clerk reads the jury’s verdict. 

Although I’m ending the stages here, even after the jury verdict, there are likely to be many issues the Court has to address over the following weeks or months. Or there could be an appeal for a variety of reasons – the most common being where the losing side thinks it should get a new trial. 

Wrap-Up

During our discussions about your personal injury case, I will often reference trial and a jury. It’s important that you and I continually evaluate your case in light of what evidence a jury will actually hear and what they may ultimately decide.  

All of the stages I described will occur over months, likely years. There will be many other hearings with the judge. This will include hearings to determine legal issues or evidence issues for your specific case. You will not be required to attend most of these hearings as they will just be handled by the attorneys.  

During your lawsuit, it’s important that you promptly respond to our office’s emails and phone calls. Without your prompt responses, we cannot move your case forward. 

And always feel free to ask questions. We understand this process will be confusing, difficult and stressful for you. You hired us to advocate for you and lead you through this process. And that is what we will strive to do.