Ask a Personal Injury and Employment Law Attorney: How Long Does a Lawsuit Take?
How long does a lawsuit take? It all depends. Broadly speaking, a lawsuit could take anywhere from weeks to years. Many factors will determine how fast or how slow a case can be. It might be impossible to predict at the start how long a case might take, but as the case progresses it often becomes much clearer to Gold Star’s employment law attorneys and personal injury lawyers.
A case begins when you suffer an injury or harm –whether physical, financial, to your reputation, to your property, or to something else. Being injured in an accident, losing your job, or having anything else bad happen to you because of someone else’s wrongful action could lead to a lawsuit.
Suppose you get into a car accident. At that moment, before the police and ambulance arrive, even before you get out of your car, you may have a potential suit. Some people choose to contact a car accident attorney right away. Others choose to wait months or even years to get legal help. How long you choose to wait before contacting an attorney is a personal decision and depends on the severity if your injury, how quickly you get back on your feet, whether the person who injured you steps up and helps you on their own, and other factors. In some cases, it is fine to wait, but it is never a bad idea to contact an attorney right away to be sure. There’s a chance that if you wait something could happen that limits your rights or recovery if you pursue a lawsuit later, or if you wait too long you could miss your opportunity to sue altogether.
Once you have a lawyer, that lawyer may begin by conducting an investigation and gathering relevant documents. The investigation stage can, depending on the complexity of the case and other obstacles, take weeks or months. For example, imagine you experience a slip and fall accident and break your ankle. A person with that kind of injury might be treated by a hospital emergency room, an orthopedic specialist, a surgeon, physical therapists, and other practitioners. A personal injury lawyer working on this kind of case would need to request medical records from all of them. If you missed work or lost your job because of the injury the personal injury lawyer would need employment records. There could be security camera footage, incident reports, maintenance records, and dozens of other sources of information. This investigation stage can be time consuming and labor intensive.
After the investigation stage it may be appropriate to file a lawsuit with the court. Civil litigation has many requirements that must be fulfilled as the matter moves toward trial. The court will often set a timeline for when these requirements must be fulfilled. This timeline will establish clear boundaries for when, for example, depositions can occur, certain motions can be filed, when the parties should meet to discuss settlement, and when trial will occur. The timeline from the day the case is filed to the date set for trial can be anywhere between a few months to more than a year, depending on the needs of the case and the availability of the court. This period is often referred to as the discovery phase. The parties are expected to take the opportunity to continue their investigation, exchange evidence, hold depositions, and ask questions of each other about the facts of the case. Even though the court sets a timeline extending for many months, it is not uncommon for the parties to ask the court for even more time.
Sometimes the parties can reach a settlement before trial. If the parties do reach a settlement, that usually resolves the case and very little ongoing litigation is needed. If the parties cannot settle the case between themselves then the case is usually decided by the Court. This can be done by a judge on a motion by a party, at a trial where a judge makes a decision, or at a jury trial. Trials themselves can be anywhere from a day to several weeks, and it can take a long time to get a result when a trial is over. Even after a result from a trial, there’s a chance that either side will appeal the decision (which means attempt to get all or part of a decision reversed or dismissed by a higher level), which can also take a very long time.
If you would like more information on this topic, contact one of the employment law attorneys or personal injury lawyers at Gold Star Law.