Every personal injury claim is different so there is no definitive timeline on how long each case will take, but you should expect it to take at least a few months total if the at fault party decides to settle, and up to a year or more for final results if a lawsuit has to be filed to recover compensation. The process of going to trial can greatly extend the timeline of your personal injury case, though statistically, most cases settle before they get to trial, even when a lawsuit is filed. Let’s get into the details so you have a good perspective on how long it takes to get a personal injury settlement check.
Some of the main factors that affect the timeline of your case are: getting medical treatment, your lawyer investigating the claim and reviewing all necessary documents, sending out demand letters, negotiating with the other parties, discovery phase which is each party investigating the other side’s story, deciding to settle or go to trial and finally if needed, filing the lawsuit and going to trial.
It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t want to rush a settlement. Colorado has a three-year statute of limitations for car crash cases, which means that you have three years from the date of your injury to settle with the insurance company before you have to file a lawsuit to protect your claim. It’s not usually a good idea to try to settle your case before you’re done treating, which means before your doctors have told you you’re back to the condition you were in before the accident, or you have reached a state of maximum improvement. Keep in mind that some cases are less clear-cut than others, and statutes of limitations are different depending upon the type of case involved. If you’re unsure about something, it’s a good idea to talk to an experienced Colorado personal injury attorney so you are fully advised about your case.
It’s also good to keep in mind that most personal injury cases do not go to trial, but are settled outside of court by negotiating a fair settlement. This can drastically shorten the amount of time it takes to resolve your claim as opposed to filing a lawsuit. In this article we will go over every step in depth so you have a full understanding of what to expect from your case and the process behind it all.
The first step of the process is to get your injuries looked at, have medical treatment and begin any rehabilitation needed to get yourself back to 100% like you were before the accident. Delaying medical attention signals to the at fault parties that the injuries were not very serious and could dramatically affect the outcome of your case. Also, if your doctor refers you to a physical therapist or another specialist, it’s important to keep up to date with your appointments. Insurance companies will use any delays or gaps in treatment to try to pay you less than your claim is worth.
Pre-existing injuries and conditions should generally be excluded from this treatment, because an insurance company is not going to pay for treatment that you got for an injury that didn’t result from the accident. Sometimes, however, an accident can aggravate a pre-existing condition, such as when you get rear-ended and it makes your already-existing back problem much worse. In that case, it is absolutely fair to recover damages for the aggravation of that pre-existing condition.
You should always keep in mind that it’s never advisable to try to settle your case until you have reached (MMI) maximum medical improvement because any bills that accrue after settlement will be your own responsibility. A good Colorado personal injury attorney will make sure you are getting the maximum compensation so don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help with your case. Many people are concerned with being able to afford the treatment that they need, but there are always options to finance that treatment in advance of a settlement. A good attorney will recognize that your health is the number one priority in any injury case, and give you sound and competent advice about how to take care of yourself so that you can get back to the health that you were in before you got injured.
Some small personal injury cases can be handled directly by the parties involved, but for any major accidents or for anyone who doesn’t feel 100% comfortable managing the process on their own, you should at least speak to a personal injury lawyer about your case so that they can walk you through what needs to be done. Once you have spoken to an attorney, you can decide whether to go about it yourself or have an attorney handle everything for you to ensure you are getting maximum compensation and covering all of your bases. If you do decide to handle it all yourself, make sure you understand what questions to ask before accepting a settlement.
A consultation with a Colorado personal injury attorney is always free at Rector Stuzynski, and you will never be pressured to sign up if it is not what you feel is the right fit at the time. Many firms will try to pressure you or make you feel like there’s a rush to sign up with a lawyer right away. Remember, as long as you have plenty of time left on the statute of limitations for personal injuries, it is not a decision that you have to make hastily.
Once you enlist a Colorado Springs personal injury lawyer to take on your case, the lawyer will typically work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if they recover money for you. Your attorney will interview you about the accident, costs associated with the accident, as well as medical costs and any previous medical history that is related to your current injuries.
The lawyer will also need to investigate coverage. Coverage is how much money there is under any insurance policy that may have to pay on the claim. Colorado law requires that any driver have at least $25,000 of bodily injury liability coverage to legally drive in the state. However, there may be more than one policy that will apply to the claim, and you may also have an underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage on your own policy. Most lay people, and frankly some attorneys’ offices, are not able to do a complete investigation into coverage, as there are many ins and outs associated with this process.
Depending upon the complexities of the investigation process, this may take some time. Always remember that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and try to be patient as your attorney investigates these important issues. It will always be in your best interest that all this information be in hand before the negotiation process begins.
Once your attorney has gathered all of the required information, there should generally be a consultation with you to discuss the findings. Once a decision has been made on how much to ask for in your personal injury settlement, it’s time to make a demand, based upon all the factors, your attorney will draft up a demand letter setting out the negligence of the at fault party that caused the accident, outlining the damages done, and making a demand for payment. This demand will be based on the nature of your injuries, past medical expenses, any future projected medical bills, past and future lost wages, hardships, pain, suffering, emotional distress, income loss and more due to the accident. If you have a permanent injury, that will be included as well. Again, it cannot be stressed enough that you should wait until MMI (maximum medical improvement) if possible to draft your demand letter so you don’t get caught paying for medical bills later out of pocket.
A good Colorado personal injury attorney will be able to write a persuasive demand letter that moves the case toward settlement negotiations. That means putting a fair value on your claim and not asking for a dollar amount that is way too high based upon the injuries. Your lawyer should advise you early and often regarding the way cases are valued. Keep in mind that case valuation depends on a wide variety of factors and it is not easy to put a dollar amount on a case too early in the process. Once the insurance company receives the demand letter, the attorney and the adjuster will negotiate back and forth until they agree on a fair settlement price and it will be settled without having to go to court.
Settlement does not always happen though. Many times the opposing sides can’t come to a reasonable settlement amount. This can be due to a number of reasons, but it does happen, even when you are being reasonable and forthcoming with your demand. There are a slew of other reasons as to why settlement may not be reached, but just know that most at fault parties will try to get off for as cheap as possible and if they think they can get out for a lower price they will most likely try to. That being said, the vast majority of cases are usually settled without litigation, and a competent attorney is often able to help you recover more money than you could negotiate on your own.
When the opposing parties can’t come to an agreement on a fair settlement price, they are denying fault or the negotiations for settlement are too far apart, the next step is to file a lawsuit. This means your lawyer will need to file a personal injury lawsuit in court which starts the clock on the trial and its attendant deadlines. Once the case has been filed, you will have to wait your turn until your case can be heard, which can take a very long time in some situations.
Now that the case has been officially filed in court, each side has to dig into the other side’s arguments, evidence, testimonials, etc to get all the details. Your statements, as well as the opposing parties and any witnesses will be taken down officially and all documents needed will be requested from both sides. This allows each side to have a complete understanding of what the opposing side thinks and what needs to be focused on to be able to reach a fair agreement so make sure you have all of your ducks in a row when you reach this point. Be aware that this can take up to a year to get done sometimes and you may still have to go to trial afterwards. This process can seem extremely frustrating, and at times unfair.
Once the discovery is done and all parties have all of the relevant information about the case, the final step before trial is a mediation or settlement conference. Most jurisdictions in Colorado require the parties to participate in mediation before a case goes to trial. This is done to reduce the number of cases that proceed to trial, but is also generally a beneficial process. A settlement conference involves both sides sitting down with a neutral arbiter, usually a retired judge. That mediator hears both sides and tries to bring the parties together on a mutually agreeable resolution or settlement. This doesn’t always lead to an agreement though, in which case the case will move on to trial in court.
In the event that every attempt to settle until this point has not worked, including attempts at using a mediator, the case moves on to trial in the courtroom. This process can take a long time to get started, depending on the judge’s schedule as well as if either parties file motions that delay the trial for whatever reason. This is a common thing so don’t worry, most trials get delayed multiple times along the way and in some cases it’s just the judge’s schedule that got pushed back which affected your trial date.
Trial itself, once it gets started, usually only takes a few day to a week, but in some cases may go much longer, however that is rare. Again remember that other unexpected delays can majorly affect this time period and draw it out over a very long time so be prepared for that.
This entire process can take a very long time so sometimes it is easier for you to settle quickly to be able to pay those bills from your injuries, but getting a great lawyer on your side can help speed up the process as well as make sure you are getting the compensation you deserve. At Rector Stuzynski LLC we leave no stone unturned and find every last detail that we can possibly use to make sure you end your lawsuit with a fair compensation package instead of a huge bill to pay. We take pride in our work and treat every case with compassion because we believe everyone has the right to a great defense backing them up when the time comes. Don’t hesitate to call us for a free consultation on your case, we are available by phone 24/7 at (719) 578-1106 and available during the weekdays at our downtown office, so stop by and let’s talk about your case!
We serve clients charged with crimes or injured anywhere throughout the state of Colorado, but we focus on residents of these areas: Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Briargate, Monument, Black Forest, Pueblo, Canon City, Larkspur, Security-Widefield, Peyton, Falcon, Calhan, Castle Rock, Teller County, El Paso County, Elbert County, Park County, Douglas County and beyond.