Aside from how much money a case is worth, Fort Myers personal injury lawsuit plaintiffs often want to know how long their case will take to resolve. Most are not thrilled to hear the ever-popular lawyer answer: It depends. But the truth is that determining how long a case will take to resolve can be more of an art than a science. First, know that settlements can often be preferable to litigation. They take less time and tend to use fewer resources. You may never even need to file a lawsuit if your injury attorney can successfully negotiate a fair resolution with the insurer(s) involved. While this is oversimplified for purposes of making this a brief blog post; for a settlement to be reached, both sides need to agree on two main issues: Liability and fair value.
Liability refers to which party is legally responsible for paying. Florida follows a system of “pure comparative fault,” essentially meaning a plaintiff (the person filing the case) could be 99 percent liable – and still collect the remaining 1 percent of damages from the other at-fault party. However, your damage award is going to be proportionately reduced by your degree of fault. So if you are 40 percent liable, your total damages will be reduced by 40 percent.
Fair value refers to how much your case is reasonably worth in light of the severity of your injuries, how much physical pain you suffered, the totality of your medical expenses (past and future), the time you had to take off work, the impact to your future wage-earning capabilities and the extent to which this has impacted your personal life. Understand that for cases involving serious injuries, it is probably impossible to resolve in less than a few months because it is going to take at least that long (usually longer) to accurately determine the full severity of your injuries, the long-term estimate of future medical expenses and how these injuries are going to impact the rest of your life.
It should go without saying that you or your attorney will need to prove causation, that is that the injury for which you are seeking “fair value” was actually caused by (or made worse as a result of) the crash or incident. This is an often contested area as many of us have some evidence of the natural aging process going on in our body at a time that we may become injured.
Needless to say, there can be more than a few points of disagreement. When those differences cannot be resolved, cases end up going to trial.
Litigation is inevitably going to be more time-consuming than settling (though it can absolutely be worth it, so you want an attorney prepared to take that step if necessary). Whether your case settles or ultimately goes to trial, no injury attorney right off the bat will be able to give you a resolution date. What we can offer is a general timeline and an idea of factors that are likely to impact the pace of your case.
Fort Myers Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline
Several things need to happen for a case to be resolved. In general, the timeline goes like this:
- Date of the accident. This is when the injury occurred, and you receive emergency medical treatment, etc.
- Conservative treatments. This would be the treatment you receive with a single doctor, such as a chiropractor. This can take anywhere from a month to a little over a year.
- Aggressive treatments. This would involve things like surgery and other follow-up treatments. Usually, this takes anywhere from 2-6 months, though it depends on the severity of one’s injuries.
- Maximum medical improvement. Sometimes referred to as an MMI, this is when an injured person’s condition has reached a state that it is not going to be improved any further or when there is a treatment plateau in the healing process. It usually takes about 6 months to a year after surgery to reach this point.
- Pre-lawsuit settlement negotiations. These can begin right away, but they may not begin in earnest until you have reached MMI.
- Lawsuit. If a case is not settled, a lawsuit is the next step. Florida’s statute of limitations on personal injury cases is four years, per F.S. 95.11. Once you file, it can take about 1-3 years to get a trial date. Settlement negotiations can continue throughout this phase.
- Appellate phase. Once a verdict is rendered, either side has the option to appeal – the entire verdict or elements of it. It can take a year or two for an appeal to make its way through the court system.
Elements That Will Impact the Pace of Your Case
How quickly your case moves toward resolution may be influenced by several factors – some within your control and some that are not. These include:
- The complexity of your case. For example, many car accident claims are relatively simple and straightforward matters to resolve. Someone ran a red light. Someone swerved while driving drunk. Liability is not too complex, there is no denying who is responsible, and insurers can clearly see the injuries involved are severe enough to warrant prompt payouts of policy limits. A truck accident case, on the other hand, may take a lot longer because there are likely to be multiple defendants with various contracts among themselves, plus severe injuries and possibly several insurers likely to defend the case vigorously. Some cases, like those involving medical malpractice, require consulting with and hiring an expert witness to review the case and provide a professional opinion. That can take time too.
- How serious your injuries are. If you simply sprained an ankle or even broke an arm, your case may not take too long to resolve. However, if you suffered a traumatic brain injury, that could take much longer, especially because the full effects of that may not be immediately clear for a while.
- The amount of your damages. A case that is worth $2,000 is going to be resolved much quicker than a case that is worth $200,000 or $2 million.
- Degree of cooperation from defense/insurers. Insurance companies/defense attorneys can take a whole host of steps to slow or stall a case, particularly when it comes to cases of higher value. They can be slow in producing documents and other evidence. Many times, the unstated goal is to get the plaintiff to be so frustrated that they give up.
- Degree of client cooperation. Clients need to be cooperative throughout the process. That means keeping your attorney promptly apprised of any phone number or address changes, as well as responding right away to requests for bills, medical records, or other documents.
- The number of cases currently open in your jurisdiction. If the 20th Judicial Circuit is experiencing a backlog of cases, it could take longer for your case to be heard. Your injury attorney can continue negotiations with the insurer during this time.
If you are considering filing a Fort Myers personal injury lawsuit, our Southwest Florida injury lawyers can help.
If you are injured in Fort Myers, Naples, or Key West, contact our injury attorneys at The Garvin Firm at 800.977.7017 for a free initial consultation.
F.S. 768.81, Florida’s comparative fault law
More Blog Entries:
Ask a Fort Myers Injury Lawyer: Can I Sue for a Florida Work Injury? July 29, 2020, Fort Myers Personal Injury Attorney Blog