How Long Does a Typical Car Accident Lawsuit Take?

If you have found yourself in the unfortunate situation of pursuing a car accident lawsuit, you’re likely wondering about the timeline for receiving compensation. The duration of these cases is unique to each situation, contingent on various factors. However, here is a general guide on how long a lawsuit can take.

First Six Months

During the initial six months of your car accident case, crucial groundwork is laid for the subsequent legal proceedings.

Investigation

Your car accident lawyer will initiate a thorough investigation, collecting evidence to construct a solid case. This process involves visiting the accident scene, gathering physical evidence, obtaining police reports, interviewing witnesses, and more. The complexity of your case influences the duration of this investigative phase.

Medical Care

While your lawyer conducts the investigation, your primary focus should be on recovery and adhering to your doctor’s treatment plan. Consistent medical care is crucial, as any gap in treatment can be exploited by the insurance company to downplay the severity of your injuries.

Demand Letter

Once your lawyer understands the full extent of your injuries and future financial implications, they will draft a demand letter detailing the accident facts and proposing a specific amount of compensation. The response time from the at-fault party’s insurance company can vary, but they will likely send a counter-offer which will initiate negotiations.

Settlement

According to West Virginia Code §33-45-2, an insurance company is required to either approve or deny a personal injury claim within 40 days of receiving it through manual submission or within 30 days of receiving it electronically. However, your attorney will likely advise you to wait on settling until you understand the full extent of your injuries and losses.

Months 6 to 18

Filing a Lawsuit

Under West Virginia’s statute of limitations, you generally have two years from the accident date to initiate a car accident lawsuit. The defendant (at-fault party) must then be served and has the opportunity to respond and deny the allegations.

Discovery

Following the defendant’s response, the discovery phase begins. This includes interrogatories, depositions, and independent medical examinations, providing a clearer picture of how the case might fare in a trial.

Months 18 to 24 and Beyond

As the case approaches the two-year mark, negotiations, mediation, and potentially, a trial are next.

Negotiations & Mediation

Upon completing discovery, parties may reenter negotiations. If an agreement remains elusive, the court may mandate mediation, a process where a mediator helps the parties find common ground. Over 95 percent of civil cases settle before reaching trial.

Trial

If mediation fails, the case proceeds to trial, which can typically last from four days to two weeks, with more complex cases extending up to several months.

Compensation

After a settlement or favorable verdict, receiving compensation may take 30 days. However, if the defendant appeals, the process may be prolonged.

Understanding the stages of a car accident lawsuit can help manage expectations throughout the legal process. For more information unique to your case, arrange a free consultation with a trusted Charleston, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.