When you have suffered a loss because of an injury in Georgia, you often need money, and you needed it yesterday. So, you want to know: how long will it take to get the money you need? No one can predict exactly how long your case will take, but hopefully, knowing how the civil lawsuit process works and how long your case could take will help you through the process with less worry.
Steps in the Process
Any time you are injured, the biggest priority is to seek treatment and recover. Once you are on the road to recovery, your attention can turn to seeking compensation for the losses you have suffered.
Demand for Compensation and Settlement Discussions
Once you are done with all your treatment, the next step in the process is to gather your medical bills, medical records, proof of lost wages, and any other documents that show the losses you have suffered because of your injuries. Next, with those documents in hand, we can calculate determine a fair amount to demand for your injuries.
There are three ways the responsible party can respond to the demand letter:
- accept the amount demanded and settle your claim;
- offer a different settlement amount; or,
- not offer anything in response to the demand.
If the other party accepts the amount demanded and agrees to settle, or you agree to accept the amount they offer in response to your demand, your case is done when they pay the settlement. If the other party agrees to a reasonable settlement right away, your case could be done in just a few months. It is common for both sides to engage in back and forth settlement negotiations after an initial demand is sent. But, if the other party either makes too low of a settlement offer or no offer at all, we will go to the next step, which is filing a lawsuit in court.
File Suit (Settlement Still Possible)
If no settlement is reached after a demand for compensation is made, then the next step is to file a lawsuit in court. A formal lawsuit can take just a few months to resolve, if a settlement agreement is made during the pretrial process, or can take as much as a few years, if the lawsuit goes to a jury trial. (Rarely does a case take several years, and the ones that do are usually very complicated, but it is important to know that a case can take a long time to finish.)
Once a formal lawsuit is filed, a process called “discovery” starts. Discovery is a way for each side in the lawsuit to find out what information the other side has, both information that helps and hurts their case. This information is found out in several different ways. Each side can:
- send written questions for the other side to answer (known as interrogatories);
- can ask questions of witnesses in person and under oath (known as a deposition); or,
- can send requests for documents, videos, or any other type of physical or electronic evidence that the other party (or, even someone who isn’t a party) may have that is related to the lawsuit.
As all of this information is gathered up, either side may decide that it would be better to settle than to go to trial. If that happens, a settlement can still be agreed on, and the lawsuit can be dismissed by the court.
If neither side agrees to settle after discovery is finished, then the case will go to trial before a jury. Both sides will present their witnesses and evidence to the jury, and the jury will decide who they believe. If the jury finds for you (the plaintiff), then they will decide how much money you are owed for the injury you suffered.
A trial can take just a few days, if there are only a few witnesses testifying, and their testimony is simple. Or, it can take several weeks, if there are lots of witnesses or complicated testimony. Once the jury hears all of the evidence, they will decide who they believe and issue their verdict.
After a verdict is reached, the trial is complete. But, whoever loses the trial can file an appeal if they think there is grounds for overturning the result. (An appeal is asking a higher court to look at the case and make sure the law was followed.) Just like the process to get to trial can take either several months or several years, the appeals process can take a long time to finish. Once the judgment is final because no appeal was filed, or all appeals are finished, then any money that the judgment orders to be paid can be collected.
Questions About Filing a Personal Injury Claim?
While many cases frequently resolve by voluntary settlement, the only way to force the party responsible for your injuries to pay you what you deserve is to take them to court and get a judgment. We have the knowledge and experience to ensure that you receive maximum compensation for your case, whether it ends in an early settlement before a lawsuit is filed or if we have to take your case the distance and get a jury verdict. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.