How Long Does an Accident Case Take?

Q. How long does a personal injury case take to get to court?

A. A personal injury accident case in New York typically takes anywhere from 4 months to as much as 5 years! The quickest we ever settled a case is 7 weeks (for the entire insurance policy) but this is not common. See, below, why a personal injury case takes so long.

How Long Did the Longest Lawsuit in the US Take?

The oldest-longest running lawsuit in the country is 53 years old and was finally settled. Well, it’s not quite finished! U.S. District Judge Marvin Aspen approved a settlement allowing the Chicago Housing Authority to finish the 53-year-old case by July 2024.

The lengthy lawsuit was a class-action which alleged the Housing Authority discriminated against lower-income, African-American residents by denying them access to better resourced, white communities.

Investigating the Accident

A personal injury lawyer will start investigating the claim by:

  1. Requesting a copy of an NYPD police report or a police report on Long Island to see how the police think the accident happened;
  2. Determining how the accident really happened (we see many police reports that are obviously wrong);
  3. Identifying all the people and companies that may be responsible for causing your injury and;
  4. Identifying all of their insurance companies.

Claim letters will be sent to every potential defendant and their insurance companies. There is a lot of other work that will also be done.

The Injury Makes a Difference

There is a lot of other work that a personal injury lawyer will have to do but the first thing that could delay a case is the type of injury.

When someone has a broken bone, a lawyer can immediately request the hospital records. It used to take us 2-3 months to get the hospital records but using a federal law, we now get hospital records within 30 days.

If the value of the broken bone is more than the insurance policy, we can usually force the insurance company to settle the case immediately. If the insurance policy is larger than the value of the injury, we will have to wait for more medical treatment and seek a settlement later.

If a settlement can’t be reached, and the injury is worth more than the insurance policy, a lawsuit can usually be filed immediately.

Where someone has a neck or back injury, treatment is often provided over a long period of time and may include surgery a year or two later. Lawyers will often wait 6-12 months before trying to settle or file a lawsuit to see what will happen with the medical treatment.

Settlement before Filing a Lawsuit

Once the client has either finished receiving medical treatment or has received a sufficient amount of medical treatment, a personal injury attorney will order all of the medical records from each hospital, doctor, radiology facility, and physical therapy facility.

The medical records will be sent to all defense insurance companies together with a claim letter outlining the liability of the defendants and either demand the entire insurance policy or another amount.

Where the injury is worth more than the insurance policy limit, the case might be settled for the entire insurance policy before filing a lawsuit.

If the lawyer attempts to settle a neck or back injury case in the first few months, the insurance company may not offer any settlement or may offer only a few thousand dollars.

We have had clients with neck or back injuries that would have settled for $20,000-$45,000 within the first few months but because we waited, these cases were settled for much more money.

For instance, in one case where our client had a previous existing neck injury, our client had neck surgery more than a year after the accident. We settled the case for $1 million. If we had settled earlier, the insurance company would have offered only a few thousand dollars.

Another case was settled for $750,000 where our client had back surgery more than a year after the accident and also had a previous existing lower back injury. Again, the insurance company would have offered only a few thousand dollars if we had settled earlier.

It is common for insurance companies to offer nothing or almost nothing even when it’s obvious that they will have to pay a lot of money at trial.

We have had many cases where the insurance company never made an offer even though our client had serious injuries and we won Summary Judgment which means that the court ruled that the defendant is 100% at fault and awards 9% interest on top of the judgment that a jury awards. In many of these cases, we obtained more than $1 million.

If the personal injury case cannot be settled, a lawsuit will be started. Depending upon numerous factors, lawsuits are usually started within 3-18 months after the accident.

The Lawsuit

The lawsuit is started by purchasing an Index number and filing a Summons and Complaint against all defendants. It usually takes a couple of weeks for the process server to serve all the defendants.

Once the defendants are served with the Summons and Complaint, the defendant’s insurance company will hire a defense lawyer to represent the defendant.

The defense lawyer will serve an Answer usually within 2-4 weeks after the Summons and Complaint are served. The Answer is a legal paper denying almost everything.

The most important thing that we look for in the Answer is that the defendants admit ownership and maintenance of the property or ownership and operation of the vehicle involved in the accident.

Discovery

After the Answer is filed, the Discovery phase begins. Discovery is the process during which each side is allowed to discover the information known to the other side.

During discovery:

Depositions

A deposition is where the attorney for one party asks questions of the other party. The questions and answers are recorded by a court reporter. Read more about how the depositions are conducted and how we prepare you for your deposition.

Most lawyers try to schedule the deposition testimony of both sides on the same day but we have found there really is no advantage to this. The disadvantage is that it usually causes delays of 6-12 months when the defense attorney claims their client isn’t available.

To avoid this delay, we often have our client testify even if the defendant is not ready. This forces the defendant to stop delaying tactics. Once your deposition is completed, the defense doesn’t want to explain to the judge why the defendant didn’t appear at a deposition.

Defense Medical Exam

After the plaintiff has testified at a deposition, the plaintiff will be examined by the defendant’s insurance company doctor.

How Much Legal Work Goes into a Lawsuit?

This is the size of the paper file in a case that went to trial – it weighed 60 pounds!
Papers in the file of a case that went to trial

We are now a “paperless” office so every paper is scanned and stored in our computer server and backed up. Before trial, many of the papers are printed to make it easier to prepare for trial. After the trial, they are shredded. We don’t charge for computer storage and backup, copying, shredding, and many other expenses! See our Simple Fee Guarantee

How Much of My Time Is Needed for My Case or Law Suit?

Q. If my lawyer has so much paperwork and many court appearances, do I have to spend much time with my case or lawsuit?

A. No, other than the time to see your doctors, you will not have to spend much time being involved with your lawsuit. In fact, you will spend more time dealing with your accident without a lawyer than you will if we represent you. That’s because we fill out many of the forms that you would have to fill out without a lawyer and we take care of problems that you would have to deal with, such as with medical bills.

If your personal injury case is settled before a lawsuit is started, you will not need any real time to be involved with your case.

If your personal injury case cannot be settled and a lawsuit is started, you will not appear at the many court conferences. Only the lawyers for both plaintiff and defendant appear at the court conferences.

The time needed from you will be three hours to prepare you for your deposition, 2-5 hours for your deposition and the defense medical exam which usually is done in five minutes.

If your case still is not settled by the time it goes to trial, your trial will likely take anywhere from 3-10 days.

Waiting for a Trial Date after the Case is Finished

After your medical exam by the insurance company doctor, there will be one or more court conferences where your attorney will seek a court order allowing your accident case to be certified as being finished. This will allow your case to be put on the court’s trial calendar.

It is now approximately 18 months-3 years after your accident. When your case is placed on the court’s trial calendar, the court issues a trial calendar number, just like taking a number at the DMV.

Under certain circumstances such as if you are 70 years old or have a terminal illness, you will be entitled to a “special preference” which will put your case at the top of the trial calendar. If you are entitled to a special preference, your case can go to trial within a couple of months.

The purpose of placing your case on the court’s trial calendar is to wait and wait and wait for the court to have a judge, courtroom and jury available for your case.

We have to wait on line similar to waiting at the DMV. At the DMV, you take a number and sit down until you are called two hours later. But waiting online for a trial date is a lot longer than waiting at the DMV!

Once a personal injury case is placed on the court’s trial calendar, it typically takes 18-30 months before the trial is held.

While we are waiting, we have to come to court a dozen times or more just to say we are ready to try your case.

This allows the court to make sure that everyone is alive and the case hasn’t been settled. Each time we come to court, we sit in a large room and wait a couple of hours just like in the video below!

This Could Be the Trial Assignment Part with Attorneys Waiting to Be Called for Trial!

Why Does It Take so Long for the Court to Give You a Trial Date?

Personal injury trials go to the back of the line. Other trials such as commercial litigation and divorce have priority.

Trials usually tie up a courtroom and judge for 1-2 weeks, so with all kinds of trials going on it takes a long time. With personal injury trials going to the back of the line, you’ll wait 18-24 months.

How to Find the Status of Your New York Accident Case

If you want to see how your New York personal injury case is progressing through the New York State Supreme Court, you can search for your case for free on elaw.com or Find New York State Civil Supreme Court cases on the NYS Supreme Court website.

Timeline of Settling Cases.

  • 7 weeks was the fastest we ever settled a case (for the entire insurance policy).
  • Quick settlements usually take 6-12 months.
  • Other cases may be settled within 12-24 months.
  • After that, cases don’t usually settle until it’s close to the trial date. The time it takes to get to trial is typically 3.5 years to 5 years.

Of course, we will try to move your case as fast as possible. Not only do you need the money but we would also rather get the money sooner than later. That’s why we will push to have your deposition done if the defendant isn’t available. It can save 6-12 months of delaying tactics.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Settlement Check?

Our clients usually receive their settlement check within 2-4 weeks but it can take a little longer. For more detailed information, see our article How long does it take to get my settlement check after settling my accident case?

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If you were injured in an accident in New York, we will make your case go as fast as possible.

Call the HURT911® Personal Injury Dream Team right now 7 days/nights for a free consultation with no obligation at 1-800-HURT-911 >> 1-800-487-8911

At HURT911® you can speak with Dream Team Partners Rob Plevy, Esq. and Phil Franckel, Esq. whenever you need, days/nights/weekends.

Attorney Rob Plevy, Esq.         Attorney Phil Franckel, Esq.

Get the HURT911® Personal Injury Dream Team™ on your side!
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