How Long Does It Take to Settle or Otherwise Resolve a Personal Injury Claim? – Part IV
The Lawsuit Phase of Your Personal Injury Claim.
The third, but not always final, step in resolving a personal injury claim is to prosecute a personal injury lawsuit against the at fault party. In Florida, a personal injury lawsuit can take years to conclude. Pursuant to Rule 2.250, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration, the target time to complete the average civil claim, like a personal injury lawsuit, is eighteen months. Simple cases can sometimes be pushed through the judicial system more quickly; however, complex lawsuit often take two years or longer. Depending upon the facts of your case and the specific county where your case is filed, the following are the phases of progression of the average personal injury lawsuit in Florida:
- File the lawsuit and obtain service of process. To initiate the lawsuit, your attorney must draft a complaint (the document that sets out your legal claim against the at fault party) and file it with the court, along with certain other required documents. Once the court opens a file and stamps the complaint, it must then be served upon each named defendant along with a summons. This process can easily take one or two months, sometimes longer if a defendant is hiding or otherwise cannot be located.
- Complete the initial pleading process and resolve any motions directed at the initial pleadings. Once the complaint is served, Florida law provides thirty days for the defendant to file an answer or one of several types of motions which are beyond the scope of this article. Once an answer is filed, the plaintiff may file a reply to the answer. This process generally takes about two months, but can take much longer if there are motions directed at the initial pleadings.
- Complete fact discovery. Discovery is the phase of litigation where each party is allowed to obtain information about the claims and defenses. This includes, inter alia: interrogatories to parties (written questions requiring written answers); requests for production to parties (requiring parties to produce physical items for copying and inspection); requests for admission to parties (requiring parties to admit or deny facts in writing) non-party subpoenas (requiring non-parties to produce physical items for copying and inspection); and depositions of parties and non-party witnesses (where the attorney verbally asks witnesses questions under oath). This process can take six months to one year and, in complex cases, much longer.
- Complete expert discovery. Generally, Florida courts will permit each party to present testimony from one expert in each field. The more valuable a case, the more experts will likely be involved. Florida courts generally require parties to make expert disclosures and then allow each party to depose the other party’s experts. This process usually requires several months as it can be somewhat difficult to coordinate the calendars of several law firms and their professional experts.
- Mediation. Florida courts generally require personal injury cases to be mediated, where the parties, there attorneys, and a neutral mediator meet to discuss and amicable resolution of the lawsuit. Although the actual mediation will likely require less than one day. It often requires months to find a mediator agreeable to all parties, schedule the mediation, and prepare for the mediation.
- Dispositive Motions. Following the close of discovery, the parties usually file motions for summary judgment or other dispositive motions requesting the court to enter judgment in their favor as a matter of law. A discussion of this procedure and these motions is well beyond the scope of this article; however, this stage of a personal injury lawsuit typically requires several months to resolve.
- Final Trial Preparations. The last couple months immediately preceding the trial are typically utilized by the court to hold a pretrial conference; resolve any pending motions, such as final dispositive motions and motion in limine; review proposed jury instructions, and organize and finalize other trial arrangements.
- Trial. Depending on the number of witnesses and the volume of evidence, the trial of a personal injury case will usually require between three days and two weeks. Complex cases; however, can take much longer.
- Post-Trial Motions. Once the jury has returned a verdict, it may take several more months before the court enters a judgment, after considering a litany of potential post-trial motions.
- Appeal – Even if you win your case at the trial level, the at fault party and his or her insurers can seek an appeal, which will likely take at least one additional year to resolve.
Based upon the foregoing discussion, a personal injury lawsuit can easily take between eighteen months and several years to resolve. In addition, you should know that the foregoing list of items is very general and your specific case may or may not follow this general progression and could take shorter or longer to resolve.
This post was submitted by CDC99.