Typically, understandably, and very early on, personal injury clients want answers to the following two inquiries: 1) how long will the case take to resolve?; and 2) when will they receive their settlements or awards? Unfortunately, there is no typical personal injury case, since every fact pattern, issue, party, and injury differs, even if slightly. Accordingly, it’s impossible to make an exact prediction, and in Nevada, a violation of Supreme Court Rules, to make a guarantee as to value, result and/or timing.
While many injury claims are settled within one to two years, matters resulting in personal injury litigation may require much longer periods to settle or complete, particularly if they involve complex issues and/or disputes in liability and/or damages.
The Life of a Personal Injury Claim
The first year of a personal injury claim is usually dedicated to the claimant’s injury and diagnosis and treatment of that injury. Any attorney hired by the injured party will conduct an initial case investigation and begin compiling key case records. The defendant(s) and any insurance companies are notified by the claimant’s counsel of the claim during this first year. The actual lawsuit may be filed, but the timing of such filing is governed by several factors, including the governing state statute of limitations and/or impasse in negotiations. It is during this initial phase that your attorney begins the case valuation process.
Prognosis Impacts Life of Personal Injury Claim
One of the major factors impacting the life span of a personal injury lawsuit is the treating doctor’s prognosis for the injured claimant. Because pain, suffering, and other types of injuries are part of the compensatory damages for which a claimant seeks compensation in a personal injury suit, it is critical for the claimant to know the course his or her recovery will take and how his or her health will be impacted before approaching settlement of the claim. After all, a claimant facing a permanent disability needs to know the prognosis to arrive at an appropriate settlement demand and avoid a situation in which a settlement is accepted in the first few weeks of a case, even before a doctor’s visit, and later complications and injuries are discovered. Some injuries are complex and significant enough to require months for accurate prognosis and treatment, and may require consultation with multiple doctors. No claimant wants to be in the situation of accepting a settlement that leaves them insufficiently compensated to treat their injuries.
Negotiation and the Statute of Limitations
In most cases, the negotiation of a personal injury claim is not initiated until after the claimant has been released from treatment. In Nevada, there is a two (2) year Statute of Limitations on personal injury claims, meaning a claimant has two (2) years from the date of an accident in which to file a lawsuit. Accordingly, if you are unable to negotiate a resolution, you must file a lawsuit prior to the expiration of the two (2) year Statute of Limitations in order to preserve your claim.
Unfortunately, once a lawsuit is filed, you may be looking at years until resolution occurs. In fact, depending on the complexity of the liability and damages, it may be up to two (2) to three (3) years before your case makes it to trial, with an appeal of any verdict adding another (2) two to three (3) years to the wait.