How Long Does a Personal Injury Claim Take to Resolve in Los Angeles, California?

How Long Does a Personal Injury Claim Take to Resolve in California?

If you’ve suffered an injury in a car, truck, motorcycle or bicycle accident in Los Angeles, California, you may be considering filing a personal injury claim. One of the first questions we often get is: how long does it take to settle my case and get compensated? This question requires us to look at the process from start to finish since some cases settle in pre-litigation while others have to go to trial. So let’s break down the typical timeline of a personal injury claim in California.

The Pre-Litigation Phase of a Personal Injury Case in Los Angeles

The pre-litigation stage usually involves three main phases: 

  1. Making the Initial Claim With the Insurance Company – This is fairly simple and usually takes anywhere from a week to a month. The insurance company will immediately open a file, assign an adjuster, and begin its investigation into the accident. They will require details about the incident, injuries, and damages being sought. This process is fairly quick, but gathering all the information could take a couple of months.
  2. Medical Treatment for Your Injuries –  In most personal injury claims in California, the person who has been injured will often seek medical treatment. Medical treatment can take several weeks to months. In some cases where the injuries are severe, it could take over a year, so the length really depends on the type and severity of injuries sustained. For example, minor soft tissue injuries may resolve within weeks, but severe injuries like broken bones or traumatic brain injuries can require months or even over a year of treatment and therapy.
  3. Negotiation with the Insurance Company – Once all the initial information is gathered and the medical treatment has been finalized or stabilized, then the negotiation with the insurance adjuster starts. This back-and-forth with the insurance adjuster may take several months. The insurer makes offers and counteroffers in hopes of settling. Most car accident cases in Los Angeles, California, settle in this stage because it is more efficient and cost effective for all parties. But if negotiations reach an impasse, then the next step is filing a lawsuit in court. It is important to remember that the lawsuit must be filed within the California statute of limitations, which is 2 years from the date of injury in most personal injury accidents. 

The Litigation Phase of a Personal Injury Case in Los Angeles

There are two instances where an attorney must file a lawsuit: (1) if the case does not settle in the pre-litigation phase, or (2) if the case is still in negotiation and the statute of limitations is coming up, then the attorney does not have a choice but to file a lawsuit in order to keep the claim alive. During the litigation stage, there are 4 main phases:

  1. Filing the Initial Complaint to Start the Lawsuit –  A personal injury lawsuit is filed by preparing and submitting a civil complaint. The complaint outlines details of how the accident occurred, the compensation which you are seeking, and a request for a jury trial. It usually takes a few weeks to gather facts, draft the complaint, and file it with the court.
  2. Discovery – Discovery is the formal process of exchanging information between the parties and it is the most time-consuming and often expensive part of any litigation. Discovery usually can take months to over a year. Discovery includes depositions, interrogatories, requests for documents, and subpoenas to third parties. Discovery aims to uncover all the evidence to support your underlying claim for compensation.
  3. Law and Motion Practice – While this is not really a separate phase in the litigation, motions are usually filed throughout the case with the court in order to resolve various issues which the attorneys cannot amicably resolve. These issues may relate to production of documents, admitting or excluding certain evidence into the case, or getting a ruling on legal issues or procedural matters. The back-and-forth arguments over motions can span several months.
  4. Trial – If a resolution still isn’t reached during the course of litigation, the case proceeds to a civil trial before a judge or jury. The trial itself may take weeks or months, depending on the case’s complexity. Scheduling is also subject to the court’s calendar.

While the precise timeline varies from case to case, most personal injury claims in California resolve within 6 months to 2 years. Straightforward cases with minor injuries can potentially settle in just a few months. Highly complex cases involving catastrophic injuries, multiple parties, and disputed evidence tend to take much longer. Patience and realistic expectations are also important when pursuing fair compensation through a personal injury claim.

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