If you have been injured in an accident due to someone else's negligence or wrongdoing, you may be eligible to receive compensation from the at-fault parties by filing a personal injury claim. There are a number of questions injured victims often have regarding this potentially complex process.
One of the common questions is how long it will take to move through the proceedings to the part where they receive much-needed compensation. How long does it take from the time you send a demand letter to the insurance company to when you reach a settlement?
The experienced Orange County personal injury attorneys at Timothy J. Ryan and Associates understand that time is of the essence when you are dealing with severe losses such as medical expenses and lost earnings. Here is some helpful information regarding a possible timeline although it's important to remember that the timeline on each case could be different depending on the facts and circumstances.
Demand Letter Process Timeline
Writing a "demand letter" is one of the initial steps plaintiffs need to take in the personal injury claims process. The demand letter essentially opens a discussion between you and the other party or their insurance company by explaining your side of the story, the losses you have incurred in bills and expenses, and the total amount you are requesting as the settlement. Once you send your demand letter, if your efforts to resolve the dispute are not successful and you decide not to mediate, your matter will move on to court.
Once a demand letter is written, it is sent to the insurance company. This may have one of several outcomes. In some cases, the insurance company may completely ignore the letter. Typically, the process will enter negotiation between the attorney and the insurance company. It is extremely rare for insurance companies to accept a claim without negotiation or deny them completely. Insurance companies prefer not going to court and denying a claim increases the risk of a lawsuit being filed by the plaintiff. Often, the insurance company makes a counter officer, which the plaintiff may accept, reject or respond with a counteroffer of his or her own.
If the company fails to respond, it is typical to follow up on the demand letter. However, in most cases, lawyers will file a personal injury lawsuit so they are within the statute of limitations. The negotiation process could take up to several months. Negotiation is, without a doubt, a quicker, simpler and more economical process compared to a lawsuit. All parties in a personal injury lawsuit tend to prefer settling out of court.
The Process of Reaching a Settlement
The negotiation process involves the various parties involved in the case meeting with their respective lawyers and discussing the case. The settlement depends on the evidence each side has and how strong their case is. Should there be an impasse where the two parties are unable to reach the settlement, the next step often is to initiate a lawsuit. This impasse usually occurs because the plaintiff finds the defendant's settlement offer unfair or not satisfactory.
When the settlement process fails, it is important that lawyers file a lawsuit right away because the statute of limitations for filing a civil lawsuit might expire. The statute of limitations refers to a strict time limit for filing a lawsuit after an accident or injury. In California, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit typically is two years.
After the lawsuit is initiated, the parties engage in another round of negotiations known as the "discovery process." In this phase, both parties request legal documentation and evidence. Depositions are also part of the discovery process. This is where the parties involved can be asked to testify during a hearing under oath. Statements made during a deposition will often be used in court should a trial take place.
Usually, in personal injury cases, the case concludes with a settlement offer after the discovery process. The discovery process could take anywhere between six months and a year depending on the complexity of the case. If a settlement is still not reached, they may go before a mediator to reach a settlement. When a settlement is still not reached, the case will proceed to trial.
It could take weeks or even months to get a trial date. Once that date is set, the actual trial could last from between a day to several weeks depending on the judge's schedule and the schedules of the lawyers and parties involved. The trial is the end of the line for civil lawsuits sometimes taking place up to a year after the original incident.
Protecting Your Rights
The strength of your personal injury case will depend on the evidence you have to back up your claim. Doing the work to build your case methodically can help maximize your damages even if your case never goes to trial. Having a strong case and solid evidence can pressure the defendant to offer you a fair settlement. If they know you have an edge against them in a trial, they will be inclined to make a fair settlement offer. Having an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side can certainly help give you the advantage and edge you need to motivate the opposition to make a fair settlement offer. Finally, never rush to sign a settlement until you have discussed it with your attorney.
The experienced Orange County personal injury attorneys at Timothy J Ryan & Associates know what it takes to fight for the rights of injured clients. We have a long and successful track record of negotiating with insurance companies and standing up against their tactics to lowball injured victims. We know what it takes to help our clients secure maximum compensation for their injuries, damages and losses. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don't pay anything unless we win for you. Call our law offices today at 1-800-838-6644 for a free consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.