How Long Does a Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?
You've been injured in an accident that was not your fault. Your medical bills are piling up, and you haven't worked in months. You're considering filing a personal injury claim.
You might be wondering how long your Philadelphia personal injury lawsuit or case will take. The answer is – it depends. Let's take a look at some of the variables that might affect the timeline of your case.
Statute of Limitations in PA
In every state in the US, there is a statute of limitations for filing a claim. That means that you have a deadline for submitting your claim. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations is two years. The average Philadelphia personal injury lawsuit or case takes anywhere from two months to a year if it is settled out of court. If it goes to trial, it could take one to two years to reach the docket. That might sound like a long time, and it is, especially if you need money badly. But there are good reasons not to hurry things along.
First, Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer in Philadelphia
You might be tempted to file your personal injury claim on your own. By law, you are entitled to do this, but if time is a concern, consider the added time it will take you to learn how to do everything required for this process. Even if you were in perfect health, this would be a challenge. Given that you are not at your performance peak, it is a good idea to let a professional take the reins. Take some time now to interview lawyers and find someone you feel comfortable with and who is honest with you about the strength of your case. Once you have the right lawyer on your team, give your attorney time to build your case.
Build Your Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawsuit or Case
Your attorney will need time to gather information about your accident. These steps include:
- gather documentation – like medical records and the police report
- take photos at the scene – at the same time of day and same conditions as the accident
- interview witnesses
- talk you through your recollection of the events
Once your lawyer has this information, they will file a claim. The other side might take some time to respond. Since personal injury claims come with a ticking clock, some attorneys choose to file a lawsuit at the same time to show the seriousness of the claim. This is likely to elicit a response more quickly.
Get All the Medical Attention You Need in Philadelphia
Another variable that might delay your settlement is your medical condition. At the scene of an accident, adrenaline kicks in and can obscure the body's natural pain perception. You might be fooled into thinking you are not hurt, only to find out how serious your injuries are a few days later. Also, many people suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following an accident. PTSD can cause nightmares, anxiety, weight loss, and substance abuse. The cost of treatment for PTSD – including inpatient recovery and rehabilitation of any nature – should be included in your settlement, so it is best not to hurry until you know how much and the type of care you need.
Let the Lawyers Negotiate
Negotiations take some time – it is in your best interest to be patient while your attorney negotiates the best settlement possible. Insurance companies are never excited to pay out for a claim, even when it is clearly justified. This is where your attorney’s experience will work in your favor. Most personal injury cases end in a settlement. If your attorney thinks the best course of action is to go to trial in a Philadelphia personal injury lawsuit, trust that this is true. It will take longer, but in the end, it will likely be worth the wait.
And Then, You Wait
Once your attorney has built a case, filed a claim, submitted a demand letter, and begun negotiations, there is nothing left for you to do other than wait. If your case goes to trial, there is a six-month period of discovery, during which the attorneys gather their research and prepare. Your time is best used for healing your mind, body, and soul.
If you need money now, there are private financing companies that may give you cash against your personal injury settlement, depending on the nature of your claim.
What Are the Stages of a Personal Injury Case in Pennsylvania?
Personal injury cases go through several stages. A settlement can occur at any time, from before the case enters the court system to during the appeals process. The vast majority of cases settle before going to trial. Trials are expensive and risky, so insurance companies usually try to settle out of court. However, if the facts of the case are in dispute, a trial may be needed. The following are the broad stages of a personal injury case:
After suffering an injury, you’ll need to consult with a personal injury litigator. These specialists understand injury law and how to prove a case. They also know the trigger points that prompt insurance companies to settle cases for larger amounts. Based on the facts of your situation, the lawyer can inform you about the strength of your case, any potential pitfalls, and what to expect specifically.
Most personal injury lawyers offer free consultations so that you can find out your case's strength without a large fee. Also, personal injury lawyers usually offer contingency fee agreements. Under these terms, you pay only if you collect. Other costs, such as filing- and expert witness fees, are also paid on a contingency basis. Because of these fee structures, plaintiffs can bring their cases without financial risk.
Depending on the case, your attorney may send a demand letter to the defendant or insurance company before filing a lawsuit. Demand letters request that the defendant pay the damages to avoid a court battle. While the demand letter sometimes opens the door to productive negotiations, many defendants and insurance companies refuse to provide a reasonable settlement unless the case goes to court.
If the defendant(s) are amenable to an out-of-court settlement, they will require the plaintiff to sign a waiver of claims. This is essentially an agreement not to file the lawsuit in exchange for a sum of money.
Filing the Lawsuit in Philadelphia
A lawsuit officially begins once you’ve filed a complaint. In the complaint, your attorney will provide a synopsis of the situation, including how the injury occurred and what damages the plaintiff sustained. The complaint also explains under which statutes the claim is filed and how the defendant violated those laws.
The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania requires you to file your complaint within two years of the injury.
Discovery is the process where your attorney seeks additional evidence. While you may have provided enough information for the complaint, such as your account of what happened and medical records, discovery allows your lawyer to obtain information not available outside the legal process.
For instance, if you suffered a personal injury from a truck accident, your lawyer may demand footage from a camera kept in the truck’s cab.
Discovery works both ways. You have the opportunity to demand evidence held by the defendant(s), but they can also compel you to provide information beneficial to their case.
Depositions are part of the discovery process. In a deposition, attorneys can ask questions of opposing witnesses. This process can benefit the plaintiff because it clarifies how the injury happened. Your attorney will design lines of questioning that prove the defendant(s) culpability. In addition, depositions often open the door to settlement talks when they firmly establish the plaintiff’s case.
Though settlement negotiations can occur at any juncture, they frequently produce an agreement after discovery. By this point, the plaintiff’s attorneys have had the opportunity to collect all the necessary evidence and can show the full strength of their case. In addition, discovery arms personal injury lawyers with documentation of all the pecuniary and non-financial losses suffered by the plaintiff.
Settlements can entail many types of compensation, including the following:
- Hospital bills
- Ambulance charges
- Doctors bills
- Medication costs
- Physical therapy
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of Enjoyment of life
- Lost income
If the defendant(s) refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, then your personal injury attorney will take the case to trial.
Trials in a Personal Injury Case PA
While settlements usually occur without going to trial, some cases require us to take the case before a jury. Trials occur when there is a contention about the facts of the case. For example, if the plaintiff contends the defendant was at fault for an auto accident and the defendant blames the plaintiff, a trial may be necessary so a jury can decide where the fault lies.
After a trial, the losing side may appeal the decision. The appeals process can be long and expensive. As a result, the defendant(s) may choose to enter into a settlement during the appeals process, whether the plaintiff or the defendant(s) filed the appeal.
The legal process takes about a year on average for cases that end in settlements without a trial. However, a trial case with appeals often takes two or more years. Your personal injury lawyer will take the case as far as needed to achieve an equitable settlement.
Speak to a Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorney Today
You may feel overwhelmed in the days immediately following an accident. There is a lot to consider, and you might not be up to handling it. Leave the worry to a professional. The personal injury attorneys at Mattiacci Law care about the outcome of your Philadelphia personal injury lawsuit or case. We make ourselves available at all times of the day and night, so you have someone to talk to about your accident right now. Contact our offices by phone, email, or chat on our website.
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