As a personal injury lawyer a question I hear at almost every initial meeting is “How long will my case take.” The answer I give is rarely satisfactory but is always honest. The answer I give is “as long as is necessary to achieve the best result for you.” The real answer in terms of time is “I do not know or I cannot say for sure.” Then I elaborate as to why that is the answer. The question is likely asked because when an accident and/or injury occurs it is normal for that person to want it to be over as quickly as possible. It is human nature to want bad and unfortunate things to be gone and over with. But as an attorney while I do try to resolve a case as quickly as practicable the ultimate goal is the best result possible not the quickest result possible.
There are many factors which contribute to how long a case will take. Probably the single biggest factor is the type and severity of injury that is suffered as a result of the incident. This is the case because it is normally not advisable to settle a case until the medical treatment associated with your case is done or at a minimum there is a known or final prognosis concerning your condition. A good attorney does not settle a case for a specific amount until they know that they have all the necessary information to determine the maximum value. The client is not served if their case is settled quickly but for less than they might receive by waiting a little longer. Ultimately the value of any case is based upon the actual damages and injuries that are suffered. This cannot be determined until the medical care is received and in most instances completed. Once completed then the attorney has to actually get the medical records and reports from all the doctors and medical providers. This all takes time and can be very different from one case to the next.
A second significant factor in resolving a case is the insurance company that is representing the responsible party. Each insurance company handles cases and claims differently. Some prefer to try and resolve cases early on while others try to drag every single case out to the bitter end. Some try to resolve certain types of claims whereas others have a corporate policy of taking every case to trial. In every case the insurance company goal is to try and pay the smallest amount possible. But the time frame in which an insurance company may make an offer is as varied as the number of companies that exist.
Another important factor is which attorney represents the responsible party. Just like the different insurance companies, different attorneys have variable methods of handling cases which take different periods of time. Whether a case can be settled before the filing of a lawsuit is also a major factor. Once a lawsuit is filed and the courts become involved then there are many court mandated procedures that take time and which the parties sometimes do not have control over.
There are a host of other factors that all contribute to the complexity of this simple question. What is the prior history of the claimant; in which court and jurisdiction will the case be filed; will the other party be disputing liability or not; will necessary witnesses be cooperative.
This short discussion has only scratched the surface as to the great number of factors that are involved in answering the age old question of “How long will my case take. I believe the best and correct answer is “as long as is necessary to achieve the best result for the client.” If you have questions regarding the litigation process, feel free to contact me here in my firm’s Marlton, New Jersey office with any questions you may have.