If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, a slip and fall, or other type of personal injury incident, you are probably wondering how long it will take to resolve your case. Although the vast majority of California personal injury cases settle long before they go to trial, the settlement process may still be lengthy at times.
There are a variety of factors that impact how long it takes to settle a personal injury claim in California. However, when you hire an experienced California personal injury attorney, the settlement process will move forward as expeditiously as possible so that you may recover the money you deserve and move forward with your life. Although some claims may be settled in just a few months, others may take much longer.
To understand the settlement process, one must first understand the facets of a California negligence claim. Personal injury claims are a type of negligence claim. There are three primary parts to a negligence claim, each of which must be supported by evidence.
First, it must be showed that the at-fault party had a duty to the victim. The duty may be to ensure a property is safe and free from hazards or to drive a vehicle in a reasonable manner, for example.
Next, the injured victim must show that the at-fault party breached their duty. Examples of a breach include failing to follow traffic laws or failing to warn a visitor of a dangerous condition on a property.
Finally, the injured victim must prove that the at-fault party’s negligence was the direct cause of the victim’s damages. Damages may include:
- Medical expenses
- The cost of future medical care
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
Other types of damages may also be available, depending on the individual circumstances of the claim.
Each of these three elements must be proven for a party to be assigned fault after an accident.
California follows a comparative negligence model. With comparative negligence, a claimant’s damages award will be reduced if the claimant’s own negligence contributed to the accident. The damages award will be reduced in an amount that is proportionate to the claimant’s negligence.
For example, perhaps an at-fault driver rear-ended the accident victim, but the accident victim’s tail lights were not working. In this situation, the accident victim may be found to be 15 percent liable for the accident. Therefore, if the victim was awarded $100,000 in damages, it would be reduced by $15,000.
The Number of Parties
If a personal injury claim only involves a couple of parties—such as an accident victim and an at-fault driver—the claim will likely settle much more quickly than a claim that involves several parties. This is because each party’s liability and damages must be carefully examined before a settlement may be finalized.
The Evidence Needed
In some injury claims, a claimant may only visit two or three medical offices before completing treatment for injuries caused by an accident. In general, it should not take more than a few months to request these medical records and analyze them.
However, if an injured victim has a complex medical history, or if extended medical treatment is necessary, it may take much longer to analyze the victim’s injuries and determine a proper damages award. It is important not to settle a claim until all relevant information has been gathered—settling too soon may significantly reduce a claimant’s damages award.
The Attitudes of the Parties
In some cases, it takes many months (or longer) to settle a claim because one party simply will not budge on a settlement agreement. For example, perhaps an insurance company refuses to pay a reasonable amount of damages to an injured victim. The victim’s attorney is then forced to file a lawsuit to pursue legal action against the insurance company.
However, the insurance company may still refuse to settle for quite some time. It is not unusual for “courthouse steps” settlements to occur literally moments before a trial is scheduled to begin.
California Personal Injury Attorneys Can Help Facilitate Settlements
At Kuvara Law Firm, our San Rafael, California personal injury attorneys are skilled negotiators and have obtained favorable settlements for many of our clients. We ensure that our clients’ current and future needs are addressed in their settlement agreements. To schedule a free consultation with our legal team, call 800-446-5879.