How Long Does a Car Accident Lawsuit Take in California?

how long does a car accident lawsuit take

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!

The Car Accident Lawsuit Process: What to Expect

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:

Filing the Initial Complaint

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.

The Discovery Phase

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.

Pursuing Settlement Negotiations

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.

The Trial Stage

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.

Settlement or Verdict

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.

Typical Car Accident Settlement Timelines

Every car accident case is unique, but some general timelines apply:

  • Simple Cases: May settle within 6-9 months if liability and damages are straightforward.
  • Typical Cases: Often take 1-2 years to resolve through settlement or litigation.
  • Complex Cases: Severe injuries, multiple defendants, and disputed facts add time. It may take 2+ years.

Having an attorney helps streamline the injury claim process as much as possible. But patience is key – car accident lawsuits are not quick resolutions.

Steps You Can Take to Expedite the Process

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.

  1. Document the Scene and Damage — The police report from the scene provides initial evidence, but you may need to conduct your own investigation. Take photos of damage to vehicles, skid marks on the road, or any other relevant details. This visual evidence can help establish how the crash occurred.
  2. Get Witness Statements — Talk to any witnesses and get their written statements about what they saw. Eyewitness accounts help support your version of events.
  3. Seek Medical Care ASAP — It’s critical to get medical treatment immediately after an accident, even if you don’t feel hurt right away. Down the road, the records will show you sought care promptly. Follow up with the recommended treatment plan.
  4. Consult an Attorney Early — An experienced car accident attorney can help gather evidence, communicate with insurance companies, and determine a realistic settlement amount based on your specific case. Having a legal expert on your side levels the playing field.

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.

Author Bio

Arthur Paul D’Egidio is the Managing Partner of DP Injury Attorneys, a San Diego personal injury law firm. With more than 12 years of experience in California injury law, he has dedicated his practice to representing clients in a wide range of personal injury matters, including car accidents, workers’ compensation, slip and falls, catastrophic injury, and wrongful death cases.

Arthur received his Juris Doctor from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California as well as the San Diego County Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named a Super Lawyer for seven straight years by Thomson Reuters and a “Top 40 Under 40” by the National Trial Lawyers.

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