How Long Does an Accident Case Take?

A personal injury accident case in New York typically takes anywhere from 6 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.

Investigating the Accident

The first thing a lawyer will do is to investigate the claim to determine:

  1. How the accident happened;
  2. The identity of all the people and companies that may be responsible for causing your injury and;
  3. The identity of their insurance companies. Claim letters will be sent to everyone.

The Injury

There is a lot of other work that a 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 and medical records and seek a settlement. If a settlement can’t be reached 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 can 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.

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.

The Lawsuit

The lawsuit is started by 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 a Answer usually within 1-3 months after the Summons and Complaint is served. The Answer is a legal paper denying almost everything.

The one thing that we look for in the Answer is that the defendant admits ownership of the property or ownership and operation of the vehicle involved in the accident.

After the Answer is filed, the Discovery phase begins. Simply, Discovery includes:

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.

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

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

We are 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

Waiting for a Trial Date after the Case is Finished

After your medical exam by the insurance company doctor, there will be another court conference where your attorney will seek a court order allowing your accident case to be certified as being finished.

The court order will allow your case to be put on the court’s trial calendar. It is now approximately 18 months-3 years after your accident.

Under certain circumstances such as if you are 70 years old, 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 for the court to have a judge, courtroom and jury available for your case.

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

With a personal injury case, you get a trial calendar number and your attorney comes into court many, many times just to say he or she is ready to try your case. This allows the court to make sure that everyone is alive and the case hasn’t been settled.

Once the case is placed on the court’s trial calendar, it typically takes 18-24 months before the trial is held.

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.

Timeline of Settling Cases

  • The fastest we ever settled a case was 7 weeks (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.

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

 

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