If you’ve recently been injured in an accident and are considering taking legal action, understanding the Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline is crucial. You may be curious about what to expect, how long the process will take, and what each stage entails.

In this article, we will simplify the somewhat complex nature of a personal injury lawsuit. We will guide you through each step of the Timeline for a Personal Injury Lawsuit, helping you gain a clear understanding of the sequence of events that may unfold.

From the moment you decide to file a lawsuit, to the settlement or verdict, our aim is to provide you with a comprehensive view of this journey. We know how overwhelming this process can feel, especially when dealing with the stress and pain of an injury, and we’re here to help ease some of that uncertainty.

Learn the steps in a personal injury lawsuit and how long the average case takes below:

The Steps Involved When Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Below, we address some of what you can expect when filing a personal injury lawsuit. Take a look at the flow chart below to see the process of how things can go starting from right after an accident.


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Personal Injury Lawsuits are complex legal proceedings that involve many different parties. Personal injury cases can take years to settle or go to trial.

The Timeline of Cases That Go To Trial

A personal injury case can take 2+ years to settle depending on the complexities of the case. Below is a timeline that shows you what happens during the course of a personal injury lawsuit.


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The 15 Steps in a Personal Injury Case

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

Medical recovery and attorney research – After any accident, you should seek out the proper medical care. Even if you don’t feel injured you should seek out medical help as injuries may come later. If you cannot afford medical treatment you should seek the advice of an attorney and see if there is a legal claim against the party responsible for your injury.

As the victim, you must determine whether or not to hire an attorney and which attorney you should hire. If the accident happened more than 2 years ago, then you will need to contact a personal injury attorney immediately. Most personal injury attorneys focus on serious injury cases and work to get you the maximum compensation due to the negligence of others.

You should also note that the statute of limitation is within 2 years from when the accident happened. This is a critical timeline constraint. If you decide to sue, the first step is to investigate the incident.

2. The Initial Investigation Process

The initial investigation process forms the foundation of any personal injury lawsuit, commencing as soon as the law firm receives the all-important police report. The police report often serves as a cornerstone document, providing the initial facts and circumstances surrounding the accident. It includes critical details like the parties involved, potential witnesses, and initial observations about who might be at fault.

Following the review of the police report, the law firm begins a meticulous analysis of the victim’s treatment records. These records hold a wealth of information, ranging from the nature and extent of the injuries sustained to the treatments administered. This analysis helps the law firm to gauge the scope of the bodily injury suffered, helping them understand the medical landscape of the case.

Accompanying the treatment records are witness statements, which offer valuable third-party perspectives on the accident. Witness statements can corroborate the victim’s account of the incident, provide additional details, or even uncover new information that wasn’t initially apparent. A careful review of these statements can strengthen the law firm’s understanding of the accident’s circumstances.

However, in the course of reviewing these materials, there may arise instances of discrepancies or ambiguities. These could pertain to the details of the accident, the nature of the injuries, or the treatment provided. In such cases, the law firm takes proactive measures to clarify these inconsistencies. They may reach out to the treating physicians and/or hospitals to obtain additional information or a deeper understanding of the medical treatments and prognosis.

Furthermore, the law firm might also engage in additional investigative measures such as visiting the accident site, seeking expert opinions, or analyzing any available video footage, if necessary. The goal here is to build the most robust case possible, backed by a thorough investigation and comprehensive evidence.

Remember, the initial investigation process sets the tone for the lawsuit journey ahead, and its importance cannot be understated. It is here that the facts are laid bare, forming the basis upon which the merits of the personal injury case will be examined and ultimately determined.

3. Settlement Negotiations Begin

In the landscape of personal injury cases, settlement negotiations represent a critical juncture, often shaping the trajectory of the case. Typically, these negotiations begin with the insurance company attempting to settle the claim directly with the insured party. This initial stage can be a challenging process as insurance companies, by nature, aim to minimize their payouts. They may offer a settlement amount that does not adequately cover the full extent of damages suffered by the victim.

Once an attorney gets involved, the dynamics of the negotiations often change. Equipped with comprehensive knowledge of the law and the specifics of the case, the attorney becomes an invaluable advocate for the insured party. Their role is to ensure that the insurance company’s settlement offer adequately compensates for the medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering endured by the victim.

The negotiation process might proceed through one of two primary channels: mediation or arbitration. Mediation is a less formal process, where a neutral third-party mediator helps the parties communicate and reach a mutually acceptable settlement. On the other hand, arbitration is more formal, akin to a court process but less public. In arbitration, an arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators make a binding decision based on the evidence presented.

Despite these avenues for resolution, there might be instances when the parties cannot reach a settlement. This inability could arise due to disagreements over liability, the extent of injuries, or the amount of compensation. In such cases, the matter escalates to the court system, proceeding to a 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 within a certain timeframe.

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 are sent to the other party about what happened during the time period covered by the lawsuit. These questions are called interrogatories. The answers are usually given within 35 days of receiving the question.

The answers are then reviewed by the lawyers to see if there is any need to file an amended complaint. If the answers are not satisfactory, the lawyers may ask the judge to allow them to file an amended complaint with the answers included.

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 4 days and 2 weeks. Simple non-juried trials can take as little time as 1 day, but complex cases may take as long as 2 months. Jury deliberations can last anywhere from a few hours to several weeks.

15. Disbursement of Recovery Funds

Any financial recoveries are typically disbursed to the victim within 30 days of a jury verdict or successful mediation.

GJEL has recovered over $950 Million + in Verdicts & Settlements Paid out to our clients.

How Long Does The Average Personal Injury Case Take?

From consultation to conclusion, personal injury cases that go to trial can last two years or more. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating through the legal process after an accident can be complex and confusing, especially when dealing with the aftermath of serious injuries or bodily harm. Many questions often arise relating to the process and the timeline of accident lawsuits. In this FAQ section, we’ll address some common queries about various aspects such as the ‘notice of claim’, the impact of the severity ‘of injury’, and the ‘case of’ more severe ‘bodily injury’.

With a focus on the specific timelines for different stages in accident lawsuit proceedings, we aim to provide clarity and guidance, making this overwhelming process a little easier to understand. Our goal is to help you navigate the intricate legal waters of personal injury law with more confidence and knowledge.

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

While there are many factors that affect this timeline, many clients will see their settlement come through in about a year. Experienced personal injury law firms are likely to conclude proceedings faster.

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.

Thinking of hiring an attorney? Here is our Advice

Don’t Hide Anything from Your Personal Injury Lawyers

One of the most common ways insurance companies attempt to diminish or dismiss cases is by discrediting testimonies and evidence, and by claiming that injuries are partially or totally due to pre-existing medical conditions.

Your personal injury law firm can help mitigate against these accusations, but only if they know everything in advance. Your attorneys are on your team, but they can only fight for you successfully if they have all available information. You should also notify your lawyers if you have large debts so they can prepare to answer any questions eloquently and to your benefit.

What Set’s GJEL Apart From The Rest

When you, as our client, are deposed, a GJEL personal injury 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).

  • Sometime during the first six months of the case it is quite common for the defense to have an injured party examined by a doctor hired by the defense.  At GJEL, we always accompany the injured party to that doctor’s visit.
    • Also during this period of time, the medical records of the injured party are subpoenaed by the other side.
  • At some point in the proceedings, the parties begin to hire expert witnesses, both with respect to medical issues and often as to issues involving fault.  Ultimately those expert witnesses will have their depositions taken by the attorneys for the opposing side.
  • Later in the process, as the case gets closer to trial, the attorneys for each side are required to disclose the names of their expert witnesses and to indicate the subject matter of their testimony.
  • Somewhere along the way, settlement discussions will begin either informally or formally.  At some point, the court will typically order the case to mediation.  Mediation is essentially a settlement conference conducted by either a retired judge or a skilled, neutral third party, in order to see if the case can be resolved.
  • If the mediation is not successful, the case then proceeds to trial.  Trials take anywhere from four days to three weeks, depending on the complexity of the matter.  If the trial is a jury trial, the jury will reach a decision usually after deliberating anywhere between several hours and several days.
  • If the mediation is successful, the mediator will write up the terms of the mediation and have everyone sign it.  Then paperwork is exchanged and the injured party usually has his or her funds within 30 days of the date of the mediation.

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.

This personal injury timeline was last updated by Andy Gillin on 6/1/2023.