When you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you will need to file a car accident claim in order to receive a settlement. The settlement process can vary greatly as far as how long it takes to complete and how much compensation is awarded.
Working with an experienced auto accident law firm will help you to maximize the amount of compensation you get in your injury claim and in some cases minimize the amount of time it takes to navigate the process with insurance companies. However, faster is not always better, something that can be discussed in a free consultation with attorney Beverly R. Caruthers.
The Car Accident Lawsuit Process
Most car accident cases settle through the car insurance claim process, without a lawsuit ever being filed in court. However, if there is a dispute as to who was at fault for the crash, or the scope and extent of an injured person’s damages, a car accident lawsuit becomes a distinct possibility.
The litigation process for each case will differ based on any number of factors, but the standard timeline of a personal injury lawsuit provides a rough idea of how long things can take.
- Step 1: The plaintiff files and serves the complaint
- Step 2: The defendant answers the complaint.
- Step 3: Discovery takes place.
- Step 4: The case settles. Car accident cases can settle at any time, although most car accident cases settle after discovery and before trial.
- Step 5: The trial occurs.
- Step 6: Potential appeal.
Step 1: How Long Will It Take to File and Serve the Complaint?
It only takes a few moments to file a complaint with the court, but getting the facts necessary to prepare a complaint could take several days or even a few months. One thing the plaintiff needs to worry about is filing the complaint before the applicable statute of limitation expires. That’s the law that sets the deadline for filing a lawsuit.
After filing the complaint, the plaintiff must serve a copy of it on the defendant. This usually takes a few weeks to complete, but can take longer if the defendant is particularly hard to track down. If it takes extra time to serve the defendant, the plaintiff will often have to ask the court for an extension.
Step 2: How Long Does the Defendant Have to Answer the Complaint?
Depending on the court where the lawsuit is pending, the defendant will have about one month to file its answer to the plaintiff’s complaint. The answer is the plaintiff’s opportunity to respond to the plaintiff’s allegations. It’s also where the defendant can list out any affirmative defenses or counterclaims.
Step 3: How Long Will it Take to Complete Discovery?
Each side will request and exchange information that can serve as potential evidence at trial. Discovery almost always needs at least a few months to complete, but can sometimes take up to a year or more, especially if there are disputes over a party’s access to certain information.
Step 4: How Long Does a Car Accident Settlement Take to Complete?
A car accident case can settle almost immediately after the plaintiff files the complaint, or it can settle after a trial finishes. Often, a case will settle after one side learns or reveals important information that could potentially decide the case. This is why most settlements don’t happen until discovery is complete. (Car accident cases in particular tend to settle via the insurance claim process, perhaps after a few weeks or months, but once a lawsuit is filed, settlement is unlikely until the parties complete discovery.)
For example, if the defendant initially denies causing the accident, but during discovery video evidence emerges showing the defendant running a red light, there’s no longer a liability dispute. Assuming each side agrees on the extent of the plaintiff’s damages, the chances are pretty good the case will settle very soon after the deposition. Even if this revelation means the plaintiff has a slam dunk case, the plaintiff will often agree to settle now to avoid the uncertainty of trial
Given how long it usually takes to complete discovery, most cases settle within a few months to a few years after the lawsuit commences.
Step 5: How Long Will the Trial Last?
A trial starts with the plaintiff presenting evidence to support their allegations. This evidence will typically take the form of eyewitness and expert testimony and the submission of relevant documents, like photographs and medical records. After the plaintiff finishes, it’s the defendant’s turn to present evidence to refute what the plaintiff just claimed. A car accident trial usually only takes a day or two to complete.
Step 6: How Long Will an Appeal Take to Complete?
If one of the parties isn’t happy with the result of the trial, an appeal is possible. There are several levels of appeals—even just one level of appeal could take six months to a year to resolve. Sometimes, a defendant uses the prospect of appeal as leverage to settle a case. They threaten a lengthy and expensive appeal unless the plaintiff agrees to accept a settlement amount that’s less than what the plaintiff might reasonably expect to win at trial.
Spanish Speaking Car Accident Lawyer in Houston, Texas
Spanish-speaking individuals can have a more difficult time seeking justice in their personal injury cases due to language barriers. This causes them to not take action against those who have left them with financial devastation and physical trauma. At the Law Office of Beverly R. Caruthers, our team refuses to let a language barrier affect your right to justice and compensation. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident and is in need of Spanish-speaking legal advice, our team is here for you.
Personal Injury Lawyer in Houston, Texas
If you or someone you love has been involved in a car accident and suffered an injury, experienced loss of income, or are unable to work due to a car accident, you can benefit from the services of a Houston car accident expert in your personal injury case. Whether you missed work due to an injury or due to not having access to a vehicle, Attorney Beverly R. Caruthers can help you!