Speak with an Attorney 855-508-9565

Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline

Many people hire a lawyer with no prior experience as to how the legal system works. It is highly complex, and the timeline of a personal injury lawsuit from start to finish can be long and emotionally challenging.

At Gillin, Jacobson, Ellis & Larsen (GJEL Accident Attorneys) we communicate every step of the way with our clients to help them understand each step of the personal injury case process. Each lawsuit takes a different path, and those paths are not always predictable.

In the flowcharts below, we address some of the more common things you can expect when filing personal injury lawsuit.

Personal Injury Accident Lawsuit Flowchart

View Full Size Flowchart

Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline Chart

View Full Size Timeline


What Are The Steps in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

While we can’t tell you everything that might happen in any particular case, these steps provide an overview of what you may generally expect:

  1. Medical Recovery & Attorney Research – First and foremost, after any accident, you should always seek out the proper medical treatment. Even if you don’t feel injured you should seek medical help as injuries may not present themselves right away. If you cannot afford the medical treatment you should seek out the advice of an attorney.As the victim, you must decide whether or not to hire a law firm and which firm you should hire. If you decide to hire an attorney and file a lawsuit you should note that the statute of limitations is within two years from when the accident occurred. If you decide to retain an attorney, the first step is the investigation process.
  2. The Initial Investigation Process – In this stage the law firm will conduct their own accident investigation. During this time the firm will collect the police reports, review the treatments, and interview witnesses from the accident.
  3. Settlement Negotiations Begin – In most cases the insurance companies will try to settle the case directly with the insured before attorneys get involved. Once the negotiations start, they will proceed through trial.
  4. Preparation of The Lawsuit – If the victim does not feel like the settlement offer is appropriate the firm will conduct final research on your case and prepare to file the lawsuit with the court.
  5. Defendants are Served – Once a lawsuit is filed, the next step is to have the appropriate documents served on the defendant.
    • The courts typically require papers get served on the defendants somewhere between 30 to 60 days from the date when the lawsuit is filed.
    • In the average case, the defendant(s) are indeed served papers within 30 days.
  6. Defendants Respond – Once the defendant(s) are served, they have 30 additional days from the date of service within which to file their responsive papers.  It is very common for defendants to ask for an additional 15 days grace period to do so.
  7. Written Questions –  Written questions between parties (called interrogatories) are often exchanged approximately 60 days after the lawsuit has been filed. Typically, within 35 days from when questions are mailed, the parties must answer them. The parties will get assistance from their attorneys when answering the questions.
  8. Defense Medical Examination – It is very common for insurance companies to want their own medical examination. If this happens your attorney should be present.
  9. Oral Depositions – Oral depositions often take place within 6 months of lawsuit filing.  A deposition is a more informal proceeding than presenting actual testimony in court.  It involves sitting in a lawyer’s office with a court reporter present and answering questions asked by the other party’s attorney.A court reporter is present during a deposition and these statements can be used at trial. This requires a lot of preparation and you should follow your attorneys advice closely.
  10. Hiring & Investigation by Expert Witnesses – If the case has not settled and is proceeding towards trial, both sides will be hired by both sides to present their arguments.
  11. Disclosing Expert Witnesses – Each side must disclose who their expert witnesses are as well as the subject of their testimony.
  12. Depositions of Expert Witnesses – The attorneys will make sure each side will have the opportunity to conduct additional depositions from the expert witnesses.
  13. Mediation Begins – If negotiations are still unsuccessful, the court typically orders a settlement conference conducted by a retired judge – a skilled, neutral third party. The mediator reviews the case and the parties continue negotiations. Mediation usually lasts one day and occurs between nine and eighteen months into the process. Complex cases may require two days of mediation.
  14. Trial Begins – Trials usually take between four days and two weeks. Simple non-jury trials can take as little as one day, but complex cases can take as long as two months. Jury deliberations can take a few hours to several days.
  15. Disbursement of Recovery Funds – Any financial recoveries are typically disbursed to the victim within 30 days of a jury verdict or successful mediation.

How Long Does The Average Personal Injury Case Take?

Cases that go to trial can last over a year. Outside of this timeline, many cases are settled long before a lawsuit is filed. The greater the reputation of the law firm you hire, the greater the likelihood the defendant is going to want to settle the case without litigation.  Insurance companies, for example, are generally not fond of spending large sums hiring lawyers to defend a case, only to lose it at trial and be forced to pay the same amount or more than they would have paid in a pre-lawsuit settlement. This can greatly affect the personal injury settlement timeline.

Auto Accident Settlement Timeline

In cases where there is not a serious injury, an auto accident settlement can come quickly if you negotiate with the insurance company directly. However, if you are seriously injured the timeline above is the most accurate representation of how long the settlement process will take.

How Long Does it Take For A Personal Injury Claim To Come Through?

While there are many factors that affect this answer, many clients will see their settlement come through in about a year.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Settlement After A Demand Letter Is Sent Out?

Typically an insurance company will take two to six weeks to complete the process once a demand letter is sent out.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Settlement?

Once the insurance company agrees to pay for the damages from your case the checks can come quickly. In California, checks must come within 30 days from the date the settlement was reached.

The GJEL Difference

When you, as our client, are deposed, a GJEL attorney is present to make sure the questions are proper, and to instruct you not to answer if they are improper. We prepare you in advance of the deposition of the likely inquiries.  Just as the attorney from the other side will take your deposition, GJEL lawyers will take the deposition of the defendant(s).


GJEL Accident Attorneys is a San Francisco Bay area law firm representing plaintiffs in catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases.  Since 1972, GJEL has recovered more than $950 million for its clients, a 99 percent rate of return. The firm represented the family of a construction worker killed in a pipeline accident who received the largest ever wrongful-death recovery in Contra Costa County — a $10.65 million judgment. For more information, visit www.gjel.com or email lawfirm@gjel.com.

The content of this website, and this article are intended to convey general information only.  The reader should not rely upon anything here as legal advice applicable to a particular case or circumstance.  Should you have any questions as to your individual situation, please make an inquiry to GJEL Accident Attorneys.