A personal injury case in Houston, TX, often moves at its own speed. While you seek little more than the compensation you’re entitled to, snags may arise that make the proceedings feel they’re inching along. A seasoned personal injuries lawyer will review the evidence, depose the witnesses, and negotiate with the insurance adjuster, but even in the face of such diligence, some factors may continue to delay a settlement.
Ask a Personal Injuries Lawyer in Houston, TX: How Long Does a Personal Injury Case Usually Take?
Because each personal injury case is unique, there is no average time in which you can expect yours to settle. The resolution process is comprised of many moving parts, some of which may develop more slowly or more quickly as they relate to your case. One important time frame to keep in mind is this: all Texas residents have only two years from the date of their accidents to file a personal injury lawsuit.
When people hear the word lawsuit, they often imagine going to trial. Your case, however, will likely settle out of court, as nearly 95 percent of all civil cases in the United States do. The decision to move to trial is ultimately yours to make. Your attorney will empower you with information and guide you in making a choice, but the final call rests in your hands. Choosing to settle or go to court will impact the timeline of your case (more on this momentarily).
Factors That Affect Every Case
Although every personal injury case is unique, as just mentioned, each demands the injured victim receive medical treatment. Your personal injury lawsuit cannot be resolved until a doctor releases you from care. In severe cases, patients must continue with treatment for years. Less critical cases may involve treatment plans that last only several weeks or months.
The point is that a personal injuries lawyer can seek compensation for your injuries only after they know the total cost of your care. Once your attorney contacts the insurance company asking for a settlement, that amount cannot be increased. You must therefore provide your attorney with all relevant medical records and ensure your care plan is complete before settlement negotiations begin.
Cases seeking smaller compensation amounts generally move more quickly than their high-dollar counterparts. In situations involving the latter, insurance companies tend to delay the settlement process as they investigate every angle of the case. They also hope that as time passes, the victim will acquiesce and accept a lower dollar amount. Keep in mind insurance adjusters strive to pay as little as possible to accident victims.
Your Houston, TX attorney will need to provide the insurance company with evidence that tells a compelling story. Gathering evidence is a process in and of itself that takes time. Your lawyer will need to review all available details to determine which party was liable and precisely what caused your injury or injuries.
Let the Story Be Told
Evidence must be analyzed to ensure it proves the defendant’s negligence; a personal injury plaintiff in Texas may recover damages only if they are less than 51 percent responsible for the accident. To substantiate your claim, a personal injuries lawyer will use photographs, documents, and more to show:
- A suitable defense cannot be built against your claim
- You are a credible person telling the truth in all aspects of your case
- Your injuries were severe and caused directly by the accident rather than a pre-existing condition
Most personal injury claims involve a defendant unwilling to admit their mistake. If they tell the insurance company a story that differs from your own, the adjuster will use this discrepancy to full advantage. In other words, they will include the defendant’s story in their defense strategy and, again, delay proceedings.
An insurance adjuster will likely contact you after the accident, often in the first few days of your recovery. They may ask for a statement that sounds innocent enough but is designed to release them from any obligation to compensate you. You should therefore avoid speaking with all representatives of the insurance company unless your lawyer tells you otherwise.
Proceed with Caution
Anything you say could be twisted to benefit the insurance company. Likewise, any document you sign could waive your legal right to pursue recompense. Rest assured your attorney will fight to keep your claim moving in a progressive manner, even if the insurance company and defendant drag their feet.
The Discovery Process
Every personal injury case goes through a discovery process that, as you likely guessed, has no time parameters. Attorneys for both sides use discovery to exchange evidence and obtain testimony from potential witnesses. You can expect the discovery stage to last between a few weeks and several months. Negotiations for a settlement may also continue during this phase.
Choosing to Settle or Go to Trial
Every personal injury victim with a legal claim must choose whether to settle or move to trial. Going to trial does require more time and also involves additional expenses compared to out-of-court settlements; it is, however, sometimes a victim’s only path to fair compensation.
If you choose to go to trial, your attorney will need to complete and file the necessary paperwork and prepare to argue your case before a judge. Similarly, courts in Houston, TX tend to be backlogged, so obtaining a trial date may take some time. Once your trial gets underway, it will likely be completed in a few days or weeks. Again, until the evidence surrounding your case is analyzed, it’s impossible to determine its level of complexity.
Steps to Help Your Case
You can take certain steps to help your lawyer reach a speedier resolution, starting with acting in a timely manner. The date you choose to seek medical attention will impact both your recovery and the progression of your personal injury case. The sooner you see a provider, the better; delaying can give the insurance company reason to contest all or part of your claim.
An insurance adjuster will likely ask why, if your injuries were so severe, you did not seek immediate treatment. While each victim may properly justify a delay – perhaps your doctor’s office had no available appointments for several days – insurance companies will look for dishonesty in your actions. The bottom line is you should see a provider as soon as possible, even if that means going to the emergency room or an urgent care provider.
Follow Orders and Document Injuries
In addition to seeking the proper treatment, you must also observe your provider’s instructions for aftercare. This includes taking all medications as prescribed, heeding referral orders, and attending follow-up appointments.
Likewise, you should document your injury and recovery with video or photographs. If your injury required a cast or brace, use video to document the hindrances this caused in your daily life.
Last but not least, you should have items in hand for your initial consultation or collect them as soon thereafter as possible. These items include pictures of the scene and a copy of the police or accident report. Also write a summary of the facts from your perspective, while they’re still fresh in your mind. Your medical bills will similarly be necessary to help your attorney craft an estimate for your claim.
Different personal injury claims can be settled in different timeframes, depending on their complexity, the date of medical treatment, and the compensation pursued. Other factors that will impact the settlement process include defendant cooperation, the discovery phase, and whether you choose to settle or proceed to trial. Schedule your free personal injury consultation today by contacting Houston Injury Lawyers, PLLC.