Timeline for a typical personal injury or wrongful death case

In my last article I discussed factors to consider when deciding which attorney is the best fit for your case.  In this article, I will provide a timeline for a typical personal injury or wrongful death case or Minnesota wrongful death case .

After a serious accident occurs, most cases follow a pattern:

  1. For 3-12 months the insurance company gathers information about the medical bills, the work loss, and pertinent facts about the collision.  If the injured person’s medical condition is stable, for example, if the injured person has a broken arm and the arm has healed, during this time period settlement negotiations may occur.  If the injured person’s medical condition is not stable, or in other words, if we do not know if the person will need medical care or treatment in the future, then we cannot settle the case during this time period.
  2. After the injured person’s medical condition can be assessed, then negotiations occur.  After 2-6 months of negotiation, typically, the insurance company makes a final offer.  The client either accepts or rejects the final offer.  If the final offer is accepted, then the case ends.
  3. If the final offer is not accepted, then the only option is to sue the responsible party.  This is called “litigation”.  During litigation, often settlement negotiations still occur.  More than 95% of personal injury cases in litigation settle before trial.  The beginning phase of litigation is called “discovery”.  During discovery, the defendant learns about our case and we learn about the defendant’s case.
  4. Usually, before trial, most jurisdictions require the parties to try to settle the case in ADR (alternative dispute resolution).  In ADR an independent party either makes a decision, or an independent party tries to reach an agreement between the sides. The first ADR method is called arbitration and the second is called mediation.
  5. If ADR does not resolve the case, then the parties have a “pretrial” with the trial court judge.  Sometimes cases are settled at the pretrial.
  6. If the case is not settled at the pretrial, then the trial is set and at trial, the jury decides responsibility for the accident and the damages.  Usually, a trial occurs 1-2 years after the lawsuit is filed, and this time depends upon the court’s backlog of cases.

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