The likely time frame for completing a vehicle accident case really depends on the many variables involved. Although everyone seeks a timely resolution, the underlying goal is to do what’s necessary to be fairly compensated for the injuries incurred. Choosing an experienced personal injury attorney is important because familiarity with these types of cases allows for better efficiency. The courts have a duty to handle cases in a fair manner without unnecessary delay. Identifying the different variables that may be involved will assist you in determining a rough time frame.
First Things First
In the wake of an accident, your first priority should be to receive proper medical care. If you have incurred moderate to severe injuries, it is best to wait until your condition has somewhat stabilized before pursuing a case. It may not make sense if you are still undergoing treatment and therapy because your long-term prognosis may not be determined. To accurately calculate damages, you need to know if your injury will result in long-term limitations or any ongoing medical care. Under Colorado law, those being treated for an injury after an accident may not be approached by an opposing party or insurer for at least 15 days and no discussions regarding liability agreements may occur for 30 days.
Is Fault Debated?
The first phase that may (or may not) be necessary is to determine who is at fault. When fault is disputed, parties may check witness statements, police reports, and interpret local traffic laws to support their standing. If multiple parties are involved, it may take longer. Police reports may be critical evidence in determining fault; however, even if a party was cited, it may not necessarily indicate fault in a civil claim.
What Would a Reasonable Settlement Be?
Ideally, the opposing insurance company would propose a fair settlement offer and litigation would be avoided. Unfortunately, this is rare. Both parties will generally assess the facts to determine a fair settlement and your attorney may need to calculate more complex damages, such as those for future lost wages, or pain and suffering. Your attorney may compose a settlement demand for the insurer, which may result in some initial negotiations.
What Can You Do to Move Things Along?
One of the best things that a plaintiff can do to keep the process moving is to be organized. Maintain all key documentation in a single location so that you can present it to your attorney. This includes:
- Accident reports
- Photos of the scene, property damage, and injuries
- Witness statements or contact information
- Medical records, assessments, treatment plans, etc.
- Documentation regarding any missed work
- Documentation of limitations you had from the injury.
Negotiating a Settlement
In most cases, a settlement that is deemed as fair to all parties is the best resolution. There are likely to be offers and counteroffers. If the two parties appear unable to reach an agreement, then your attorney will begin preparing for trial.
Initiating a Suit
After filing a complaint, the plaintiff must formally serve the defendant within a defined period established by the court. Once the case has commenced, parties may file motions and settlement talks may continue. A court officer managing the case will work with the parties to establish a schedule.
The trial process includes a number of phases, with opportunities for settlement discussions to continue. Some key parts of the process include:
- Subpoenas, depositions, and interrogatories
- Medical examinations
- Hiring, investigation, and deposition of expert witnesses, and
Statute of Limitations
The law limits the amount of time that injured parties have to file a lawsuit for recovery. For those involving motor vehicle accidents, the period is three years. Many other types of personal injury claims have a two-year limitation.
A car accident case may get complex so having an experienced personal injury attorney is critical for navigating the process. Each vehicle accident case has a unique set of facts, evidence, circumstances, and challenges that must be analyzed and handled in accordance with the law. As you recover from the often damaging effects of an accident, your attorney will manage the legal process with your best interests in mind.