Among the most common questions posed to North Carolina personal injury attorneys includes something about how long the process of filing a civil claim for compensation could take. The reality, unfortunately, is that it depends.
Though that is a frustrating answer to a pretty simple question, the personal injury claims process is actually made up of several different stages and each stage can vary greatly in length.
The first stage in the personal injury claims process involves the plaintiff’s medical treatment and recovery. Before a claim can be filed, the person who has been injured in the case needs to either have fully recovered from the accident or have reached their maximum recovery, known in the business as “maximum medical improvement.”
The reason that the process needs to wait before moving forward is simple. If a plaintiff agrees to a settlement with an insurance company before they have fully recovered and then must undergo additional medical procedures or expensive tests, it then becomes too late to do anything about it.
Once the patient has improved and the injuries can be quantified, the claims process moves on to the negotiation stage. During this stage of the process, your personal injury lawyer will put together a claim for the insurance company, a relatively easy step that requires gathering medical records, accident reports and evidence concerning time off from work, as well as anything else needed to show loss sustained by the plaintiff.
Once this has been submitted to the insurance company it takes usually a matter of weeks for the insurance adjuster to review the initial claim and begin the negotiations process. As offers are traded back and forth, it can take weeks or possibly months to reach a settlement that works for both sides. In some cases, there may be no suitable agreement and the matter will then need to move to the final stage: trial.
Though trial can often be the longest part of any personal injury claim, it is important to note that just because a case moves towards trial does not mean that a trial will actually occur. In the vast majority of cases filed in court, a settlement is ultimately secured before trial begins. It is better to think of this as a continuation of the negotiation phase, a necessary part to convince the insurance company that the claim needs to be taken seriously.
Given the multiple components to a personal injury claim it is impossible to know for sure how long it will take to conclude. The severity of a person’s injuries, the stubbornness of an insurance adjuster and the necessity of an actual trial all depend on your particular circumstances.