If you have been injured and are pursuing a personal injury case, one pressing question that you might have is in regards to just how long your case will take to settle. The timeline of your case is important for a number of reasons--you’re committing your time and energy to the case, and you surely want to recover compensation as soon as possible. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to the duration of a personal injury claim; some claims settle quickly whereas others can take multiple months, or even more than a year, to resolve. At the office of Cutter Law P.C., our accident and injury claims attorneys in California will be your personal injury guides throughout the entire process, and will work hard to get you a settlement as quickly as possible without compromising the value of your claim or accepting a lowballed settlement offer. If you have been injured and are filing a personal injury claim, here’s what you should know about the process and what to expect along the way, as well as a few notes about how long certain steps of the process usually take--
One of the first things that you should do after being involved in a serious accident is to seek medical care. Getting medical care is important for your own wellbeing, but also to establish a connection between the accident and your injuries. It also serves as an important piece of evidence, and it is highly likely that the testimony of your doctor will help to establish the value of your claim based on the extent of your injuries.
The second step of the personal injury claims process is the investigatory process. If you have hired an attorney, then your attorney will manage this process on your behalf. During the investigation, all evidence relevant to your claim will be collected and analyzed. This might include photographs of the accident scene and your injuries, eyewitness' statements, video footage of the accident, vehicle repair data (depending on the type of personal injury accident in which you were involved), police reports, and more. If fault is disputed or if liability is unclear, your attorney may also hire an accident reconstruction expert whose professional role it is to piece together the accident to get a clearer picture of what happened and who’s to blame.
The investigatory process is also used to gather evidence about the extent of the plaintiff’s (your) damages. In order to file a demand letter requesting compensation for the at-fault party or their insurer, a plaintiff must calculate the full extent of their economic and noneconomic losses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, property damage costs, pain, suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life. Working with a personal injury lawyer who can help a plaintiff calculate these damages, particularly noneconomic damages, is strongly recommended.
If certain pieces of evidence are particularly hard to track down or require going through the courts to get access, this process can be delayed.
The majority of time in the personal injury claims process is often concentrated in the settlement negotiations phase. During settlement negotiations, the insurance company and the plaintiff go back-and-forth over what a fair settlement looks like. Typically, the first settlement offer that is made to the plaintiff in a personal injury case is much lower than what the plaintiff asked for or deserves. Depending on the details of the case, how unambiguous fault is, and the value of the claim (claims where more money is on the line tend to be more disputed and take longer to resolve), the negotiations process could take months to conclude. And in some cases, a settlement cannot be reached at all.
When a settlement cannot be reached in an accident and injury claim, the plaintiff has two options: they can accept the settlement that is being offered, even if it’s much lower than they deserve, or they can file a personal injury lawsuit.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit: Timeline
If your personal injury case does not resolve during the settlement phase and you file a lawsuit, your case will almost surely take more than a year to finalize. Again, having a personal injury guide in the form of a lawyer by your side is strongly recommended, especially if you are pursuing litigation. Don’t forget that you must file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations, which is two years for many bodily injury claims in California.But, there are shorter statutes of limitations that may apply, so it is important that you contact an attorney so you know how much, or how little time you have.
Discovery. The first step in the personal injury lawsuit process is the discovery process. During discovery, both parties have the right to investigate the other’s legal case/defense, review the other side’s evidence, and conduct depositions. Sometimes, this process can take months.
Settlement negotiations continue. Even though a lawsuit has been filed at this point, it’s likely that there will still be some talk of settlement negotiations; it’s still possible to settle the case at any point during the process.
Alternative dispute resolution. It’s possible that the parties may wish--or be ordered--to engage in some form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, such as mediation or arbitration. If this is successful, then the case will be finished. If it is not, then the civil lawsuit will proceed to the next step: trial.
Personal injury lawsuit trial.If it has still proved impossible to reach a settlement, then the next step in the process will be the personal injury trial. If a case actually goes to trial, which is fairly rare in personal injury cases, it is very likely that the trial will take multiple months or over a year to conclude. At this point, the entire case may have been underway for well over a year, perhaps even coming up on two years. During the trial, all of the information collected during the discovery phase will be presented to the court and a jury, which will ultimately make a decision about fault and the amount of damages the plaintiff should be awarded. Usually, before the trial actually begins, a lawyer will prepare for the trial by hosting a mock trial to prepare the plaintiff for what might happen.
Get Help from an Experienced California Personal Injury Attorney
For most accident victims who have grounds to bring forth a personal injury claim, the idea of committing months of their life to the process seems daunting and far from the most attractive option. Unfortunately, while the personal injury claims process can be time-consuming, especially if the case goes to trial, it is likely the only way to recover compensation for the losses that you’ve suffered. The worse your injuries, the more money you will likely need to take care of you for the rest of your life. The rest of your life can be a very long time to regret settling for ‘too little.’ One way that you may be able to improve the outcome of your case is to hire an experienced California personal injury guide with experience working on accident and injury claims like yours.
At the office of Cutter Law P.C., our California personal injury attorneys empathize with you and understand what you’re facing and how important it is that you receive a settlement, and as fast as possible. Please reach us today for a free consultation and the help you need and deserve.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle crash, you probably have a lot of questions about what’s next and what the process of recovering compensation looks like. At the office of Cutter Law P.C., our California motorcycle accident attorneys can provide you with the advice and guidance that you need after a serious crash. Call us today for support.
Top Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Like other motor vehicle accident types, motorcycle accidents are almost always caused by the negligence of one of the parties involved. Common causes of motorcycle accidents include drivers:
Failing to check blind spots before changing lanes;
Performing illegal maneuvers;
Driving while distracted; and
Driving while impaired.
Of course, not all motorcycle accidents are the fault of the driver involved; other factors that can lead to motorcycle accident crashes include unsafe road conditions, defective vehicles or vehicle parts (tires, steering equipment, brakes, etc.), unmarked turns, missing or incorrect signage, and motorcyclist negligence in some cases.
Injuries from Motorcycle Accidents
Because motorcyclists have few protections to protect against injuries, the damages suffered in a crash can be particularly severe. Typically, if the motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet or other safety equipment at the time of the crash, the injuries are even more serious. Common injuries that a motorcycle operator or passenger may suffer in a crash include:
Traumatic brain injuries. A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is one of the most common motorcycle accident injuries. If a motorcyclist hits their head, especially if they are not wearing a helmet at the time of impact, their injuries could be permanently disabling. Traumatic brain injuries can affect cognition, thinking, learning, language, sensation, emotion, and more.
Spinal cord injuries. Another very common type of injury that a motorcyclist is at risk of suffering during a crash is a spinal cord injury. This is also one of the most severe and devastating injury types. The spinal cord is responsible for relaying information between the brain and the rest of the body--when you want to lift your arms, stretch your legs, or even go to the bathroom, your spinal cord is what allows that to happen. If this system of sending messages between the brain and the body is disrupted, the result can be partial or complete paralysis for life.
Internal injuries. A motorcyclist who is thrown from their bike may also suffer internal injuries in the form of trauma to internal organs that leads to internal bleeding. This can be fatal if not treated immediately.
Bone fractures and soft tissue injuries. The many bones and soft tissues of a motorcyclist’s body may be fractured, stretched, or torn during a motorcycle accident. Depending on the extent of injury, this could lead to long-term disability and complications.
The above is by no means an inclusive list of all of the injuries a motorcyclist may suffer in a crash. Nor does it discuss the non-physical injuries that are possible, including psychological harm in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression related to injuries. When you work with our skilled motorcycle accident attorneys in California, we’ll aggressively advocate for your right to compensation for all of your losses.
Damages Recoverable in a Motorcycle Accident Claim in California
Before you can recover compensation in a motorcycle accident claim in California, you’ll need to establish liability. Liability refers to legal responsibility for the accident and related damages and, if there is no liability, then a case likely won’t be worth very much. Determining liability requires an investigation into the accident, which our lawyers can handle on your behalf.
If you can prove that the responsible party should be held liable for your damages because they breached the duty of care owed to you, then you can seek compensation for the full value of your losses. Damages usually fall into two categories:
Economic damages. Economic damages are damages for all of the economic, out-of-pocket costs that you have incurred as a result of your accident and injuries. This includes the cost of repairs to your motorcycle, medical bills, lost wages, future rehabilitation costs, etc.
Noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages are harder to calculate, and refer to the value of your noneconomic losses, such as the value of your pain, suffering, emotional distress, diminished quality of life, etc.
In rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded. Punitive damages are not intended to compensate the victim; they are intended to punish the wrongdoer. Punitive damages are only recoverable in cases where there is evidence that the defendant engaged in malice, oppression, or fraud.
Statute of Limitations and Shared Fault
Two important rules to know after you’ve been in a motorcycle crash and are thinking about filing a claim are the rules related to shared fault and the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations is the legal time limit on how long a plaintiff has to file a claim after an accident. The statute of limitations for motorcycle accident claims in California is often two years from the date of the accident, although it may be shorter in some situations, such as when a governmental entity is responsible for creating a dangerous condition that caused the accident. If more than two years pass from the date of the crash before a plaintiff files their case, they will likely be permanently barred from recovery. This is one of the primary reasons that it’s so important to initiate the claims process and to hire an attorney as soon as possible after a crash.Since the consequences of missing a statute of limitations can be you losing all of your legal rights, it is important that you promptly consult a knowledgeable attorney.
Shared fault laws in the state impact the amount of damages that a plaintiff can recover if they are found to be partially at fault for their crash. Under the law in California, a person can still recover damages if they contributed to their own harm, but their recoverable compensation amount will be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault. Consider a motorcycle accident case where a motorcyclist is hit by a drunk driver. While the drunk driver is surely fully to blame for the crash, the motorcyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet--therefore, the motorcyclist is found to be five percent to blame for their overall injuries. As such, the motorcyclist can only hold the drunk driver liable for 95 percent of their total damages.
Why It’s Important to Work with a California Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Being involved in a motorcycle accident isn’t just scary--it may be life-changing. As you think about the future and your losses, having an experienced California motorcycle accident attorney on your side could make a big difference. Your attorney will support you and improve the chances of your claim being successful by:
Investigating your case;
Bringing in accident reconstruction and other experts where necessary;
Representing you in talks with the insurance company;
Proving fault and liability;
Calculating your damages;
Filing a demand letter;
Reviewing a settlement offer;
Negotiating your settlement;
Representing you in court if appropriate.
Call the California Motorcycle Accident Attorneys at Cutter Law P.C. Today
If you have been involved in a motorcycle accident, or if you are representing a family member who has been severely harmed in a motorcycle crash, the California motorcycle accident attorneys at the office of Cutter Law P.C. are here to support you. Our personal Injury Lawsuit can review your case free of charge today and always work on a contingency fee basis. Call us now or send us a message online to get started.