One of the most common questions I am asked during an initial client consultation is: how long will my personal injury case take? Unfortunately, there is no one answer to this question, as it largely depends on the facts of your individual case, including factors which you and your lawyer cannot control. While the duration of each individual case varies, it is not uncommon for the process to take between one and two years to resolve. If your case goes to court, the process could take several years to resolve, through either settlement or trial. It is important to note, however, the majority of personal injury cases resolve before proceeding to trial. Some of the factors that contribute to the length of your case are discussed below.
Typically, a personal injury claim cannot be resolved until the long-term effects of your injuries are known or can be anticipated by a healthcare professional. Therefore, prior to resolving your case, your injuries must have either healed, or reached a plateau, where any improvement is unlikely. Although this lengthens the duration of your case, it is in your best interest, as it ensures that you receive fair compensation which takes into consideration the full extent of your injuries. The severity of impairment on your pre-injury life is also important to consider as it contributes to the length of your case, such as whether or not you were able to return to work, your activities of daily life, housekeeping tasks, and social and recreational activities. Other case-specific factors could include:
Based on the facts of your case, and the nature of your injuries, your lawyer will attempt to resolve your personal injury claim directly with the insurance company. If a fair resolution can be reached at this stage, it is not uncommon for your personal injury claim to conclude between one to two years, without commencing a formal lawsuit. If the insurance company is not willing to present a reasonable offer, your lawyer will commence a formal lawsuit against the at-fault party through a Statement of Claim, which is a document outlining the relief sought and the material facts relied on to substantiate the claim. Generally, if you intend on issuing a Statement of Claim, this must be done within two years of your injury. Your personal injury case will then proceed to an Examination for Discovery, Mediation, Pre-Trial and then finally, Trial. The litigation process can become lengthy, however, it is important to note that most personal injury cases resolve without proceeding to trial and well before the trial date.
Your personal injury claim will be largely substantiated by medical documents, such as your family physician’s records, hospital records, physiotherapy and chiropractic records, as well as any specialists you may have consulted with, which can take several months to obtain. Depending on your injury, you may also need to consult with medical experts in order to determine your future care needs, level of impairment, and prognosis. In addition to your medical records, your lawyer will also have to obtain any income loss documents, such as your income tax returns and employment files, as well as proof of any out-of-pocket expenses you may have incurred as a result of your injury.
The number of parties involved is also a factor that may contribute to the length of your personal injury case, as each party will need to go through the same litigation process.
There are various factors which will contribute to the complexity of your case, such as:
Ongoing and supplementary claims arising from the same incident will also contribute to the complexity and length of your personal injury case, such as a claim for Accident Benefits, Long Term Disability, or an employment-related lawsuit.
These are just a few of the factors which contribute to the length of your personal injury case. However, it is important to reiterate that the vast majority of personal injury cases resolve without proceeding to trial, and can resolve at any point, depending on the facts of your case, the complexity of your claim, and the severity of your injuries. Your lawyer will work with you and all involved parties to resolve your claim as efficiently as possible while ensuring the compensation you receive takes into consideration the full extent of your injuries and impairments.