If you’ve been in a car accident in California, you may be wondering how long it takes to settle a car accident lawsuit. The timeline can vary a lot based on the details of your case!
Some cases wrap up quickly in a few months, while complex cases with severe injuries can drag on for years.
Let’s walk through the typical stages of a car accident lawsuit so you know what to expect. The process has more steps than you might think!
If a fair settlement can’t be reached prior to litigation, then your attorney may file a lawsuit to bring the case before a court. The litigation process involves several key phases:
To officially commence a lawsuit, your attorney will prepare and file a civil complaint with the court. This document names the defendant(s), outlines your allegations against them regarding negligence or liability, and specifies the categories and dollar amounts of damages you are seeking compensation for, such as medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, etc.
The complaint has to contain specific facts and legal arguments that establish the grounds for your claim and the right to relief under the law. Your attorney will take care to craft a complaint that is detailed, persuasive, and compliant with procedural rules. Filing the complaint sets the legal machinery in motion.
After the complaint is filed and served to the defendant, the discovery phase begins. This is a lengthy pre-trial process where each party can request relevant information and evidence from the other side to build their case.
Discovery methods include interrogatories (written questions), requests to produce documents, requests for admissions, depositions (interviews under oath), and independent medical exams. Experts may also be retained to provide reports and testimony supporting each side’s version of the case facts and damages.
The discovery phase takes significant time since there are usually multiple rounds of information requests and legal wrangling over what must be disclosed. But it results in evidence crucial to the case.
Well before trial, car accident settlement negotiations will typically commence between the parties. Many civil cases – over 90% – settle prior to trial because both sides want to avoid the risks and costs of litigation. Settlement talks may take place directly or through mediation with a neutral third party.
Reaching a settlement involves back-and-forth negotiation and compromise to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement. Having an experienced attorney who can realistically evaluate cases, negotiate skillfully, and push for maximum compensation is key during this process. If no settlement is reached, trial is the next step.
During the trial itself, witnesses are called to testify, evidence is presented, and arguments are made before a judge or jury, who will then decide the verdict. The plaintiff’s attorney must prove liability, causation, and damages through persuasive arguments and credible evidence that establishes the case by a “preponderance of the evidence.”
Trials can vary in length but often take several days or weeks, depending on the complexity of the case facts and the number of witnesses called. Both sides will also engage in motions practice before and during the trial to resolve evidentiary issues and legal disputes.
Many cases settle shortly before a final verdict is reached at trial. If not, the judge or jury will decide whether the plaintiff is entitled to collect damages from the defendant based on their view of the trial evidence and arguments. Appeals may follow.
Every car accident case is unique, but some general timelines apply:
Having an attorney helps streamline the injury claim process as much as possible. But patience is key – car accident lawsuits are not quick resolutions.
The most valuable things you can do for your car accident case happen immediately after the accident.
Here are a few steps you can take to lay the groundwork for your claim.
Being injured in a car accident can derail your life. You need strong legal advocacy to recover fair compensation for your losses. A knowledgeable car accident attorney will protect your rights every step of the way.
At DP Injury Attorneys, our attorneys have decades of experience successfully representing injury victims in California. We understand the pain and disruption these accidents cause. Our legal team will aggressively pursue the maximum compensation you deserve.
Contact us today for a consultation – we’re here to help get your life back on track.