Once you have decided to meet with an attorney to discuss the possibility of a personal injury lawsuit, one of your first questions is likely to be: “How long will this process take?” Understanding the steps in a personal injury case can help you get a feel for what is to come. When you contact a Los Angeles personal injury attorney at The Salamati Firm, you can expect the highest degree of communication every step of the way, so you always feel like a priority and never just a number!
Step 1: Meet with an LA personal injury lawyer.
California allows up to two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. Most of the time, the law is meant to be interpreted as “two years from the date the injury occurred,” but in some cases, the extent of the injuries take time to manifest, or the negligent acts / parties are initially unknown. It is free to speak with a personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, so the sooner the better! You will need to sign a release form that allows the lawyer access to your medical records, police reports, and other information related to the case.
Step 2: File a lawsuit.
If the Salamati Firm’s personal injury lawyers feel you have a substantial case, we’ll agree to represent you and you’ll have the option to sign a contract with us that spells out what legal fees are owed if we secure a successful settlement or jury verdict on your behalf. We formally submit a complaint on your behalf and the judge will issue a summons to inform the other party of the litigation proceedings. The defendants have up to 30 days to respond to your complaint. They may admit to negligence, deny any wrongdoing, or argue there is insufficient evidence. Nearly a third of defendants never respond. In rare instances, a counterclaim may be filed against the plaintiff. All of this must be sorted out by the judge.
Step 3: Begin fact-finding and discovery.
Discovery may include written interrogations, sworn statements, requests for information, and the assembly of medical records, police reports, and other documents pertaining to the case. Through more than a decade of fighting on behalf of injured plaintiffs, we know the right questions to ask to get the information we need and poke holes in any possible defense.
Step 4: Hear motions to resolve before trial.
Summary judgments dismissing the case can come from the bench in the earliest stages of litigation if there is:
- Lack of subject matter
- Lack of jurisdiction
- Improper venue
- Insufficient service of process
- Failure to state a proper claim
Step 5: Negotiate a settlement.
Here is a shocking statistic: Only 4-5 percent of personal injury cases in the United States go to trial. In other words, 95-96 percent of personal injury lawsuits are settled prior to trial. The majority of defendants prefer to settle before enduring the expense and public humiliation of a court trial. The Salamati Firm will never settle just to get another win. We only agree to the settlement terms when they are good for you and in line with what we think your case is truly worth.
Step 6: Go to trial.
In most cases, a jury is selected and three to five days of court hearings are necessary. In rare cases, a trial may take longer, from several weeks to months.
Step 7: Collect money following a successful judgment.
Winning is not always a slam-dunk. Collecting the money can be particularly tricky if the defendant does not have a lot of money or plans to appeal. Experienced LA attorneys come in handy in ironing out wage garnishment, assets liquidation, bankruptcy filings, or collection proceedings when you are not promptly paid what is owed to you. Many states allow up to 10 years for a defendant to pay on a judgment.
Step 8: Appeal an unsatisfactory decision or judgment.
The losing side always has the option to file an appeal. A panel of judges review the trial documents to determine if sufficient justice was served. If an appeal is lost in state or federal court, there is still an option to file an appeal with the Supreme Court if a federal or constitutional right may have been violated.
Contact the Salamati Firm to start your personal injury claim in California.
Every case is unique, but the Court Statistics Project found that 13.7 months is the median lawsuit processing time. Nearly half of all personal injury lawsuits are disposed within one year. By two years, three quarters of the cases get resolved. Sometimes cases take longer if the facts surrounding the case are complex and disputed, if the amount of money you seek is extremely large, or if you are still in a state of recovery, where it’s particularly challenging to estimate the extent of your losses. Product liability, medical malpractice, and toxic substance cases tend to take longer (two years).
The Salamati Firm’s Los Angeles personal injury lawyers are standing by to take your call, should you wish to learn more about filing a lawsuit in California.
More resources for “personal injury lawsuit timeline”:
- Bureau of Justice Statistics, Tort Cases in Large Counties, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/ascii/TCILC.TXT
- The Law Dictionary – Pre-trial Settlement Percentage: Statistics on Personal Injury Settlements, http://thelawdictionary.org/article/pre-trial-settlement-percentage-statistics-on-personal-injury-settlements/
- NY Times, The Longest Trial – A Post-Mortem; Collapse of Child-Abuse Case: So Much Agony for So Little, http://www.nytimes.com/1990/01/24/us/longest-trial-post-mortem-collapse-child-abuse-case-so-much-agony-for-so-little.html
- NY Times – Study Finds That Settling Is Better Than Going To Trial, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/08/business/08law.html