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My Personal Injury Lawyer is Taking Too Long. What Should I Do?

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You’ve been in an accident. Maybe you slipped and fell on water in a store or restaurant. You could have been riding on a commuter train that derailed. When that happens, it can take days, weeks, or even months to recover. During that time, you can’t work and the bills are piling up. You’ve filed a personal injury claim, but it’s taking forever. If you feel your personal injury lawyer is taking too long, what should you do?

A Realistic Time Frame for Personal Injury Cases

You’ve done everything right. You went to the doctor and kept all of your medical bills and instructions. You’ve gone to follow-up appointments. You’ve stayed home and taken time off work. You filed the accident report. You hired a personal injury attorney.  How long is this going to take?

It’s hard to give a solid time frame for a personal injury case. While many cases are settled within two years, there are no guarantees. The Court Statistics Project looked at how long it takes different cases to reach a resolution. Things like car accidents took around 1 ½ years, and product liability and medical malpractice cases took about two years. The longest recorded processing time was close to 14 ½ years.

Several Steps Are Involved in a Personal Injury Case and They All Take Time

Before your personal injury case even makes it into a courtroom, there are several steps. In fact, the attorney is unlikely to file the complaint until you’ve reached Maximum Medical Improvement.

#1 – Maximum Medical Improvement

The attorney needs to see if you can make a full recovery or if you will be left with permanent injuries. You need time to heal, receive surgical treatments if necessary, go through rehab and physical therapy, and get a doctor’s input along the way. As long as the statute of limitations, which is often two years, hasn’t passed, there’s no rush to file the complaint before you’ve healed. Your lawyer needs to know how much the accident will impact your future to determine the amount you should receive from the responsible party.

#2 – The Lawsuit Is Filed

Once the attorney knows you’ve healed as best as you can, the lawsuit is filed before the statute of limitations runs out.  This period can take months or even years to complete everything that comes next in the pretrial steps.

#3 – Discovery

Discovery is a procedure in which both your attorney and the defense attorney get to research the claim and possible defenses that may be used during a trial. The attorneys will send a list of questions, talk to witnesses, and gather all of the information needed before the trial can take place. This can take up to a year to complete.

#4 – Negotiations, Settlements, and Trials

If your attorney and the defense are going to try to reach an out-of-court settlement, it comes after the discovery process. The clients and attorneys meet and talk about potential settlement offers. A mediator may need to come in to help with this step. If there is no settlement, a trial is scheduled. Personal injury trials are scheduled for a few hours rather than full days. Judges’ schedules and other trials may take precedence and lead to cancellations and reschedulings, which can make a trial last a lot longer than other types of lawsuits.

How Do You Know If Your Lawyer Is Taking Too Long?

Keeping that in mind, how do you know when it’s taking too long? Look at how often your attorney is contacting you. Have months passed without any word? Are your calls being returned on a timely basis? You have the right to ask what’s going on. If your personal injury attorney isn’t returning calls or is not giving you reasonable explanations, it may be time to talk to someone else.

Talk to your attorney and ask one question. “What’s going on with my case?” Give the attorney time to answer. It could be that the insurance company is causing delays. There may have been a personal emergency that kept the defendant from responding. It may be hard to get witnesses to answer calls. Use your best judgment as to whether the reasons you’re given seem legitimate.

With offices in California, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota, Trial Lawyers for Justice has helped people throughout the nation with personal injury cases. The attorneys have a record number of settlements and verdicts that exceed more than $1.5 billion for victims and their families. If you feel your personal injury attorney is taking too long, reach out to us. We will offer our honest opinion and if we feel you’d benefit from a new attorney. Call 1-866-TL4J-LAW for a free consultation.

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Trial by Human

Nick Rowley founded Trial by Human, a nationwide legal education course to help trial lawyers improve their skills in the courtroom by "being human".