Why Do Some Personal Injury Lawsuits Take Longer Than Others?
Posted on Oct 22, 2018 in Personal Injury
If our court system worked as it does on TV legal dramas, personal injury lawsuits would go from beginning to end in less than an hour. Unfortunately, courts in Louisiana – and everywhere else in the country – don’t run on a prime-time schedule. Even “simple” personal injury cases can take many months and sometimes several years before an injury victim sees money in their pocket from a settlement or judgment.
For those struggling in the aftermath of a severe injury, such long delays are incredibly frustrating and can be hard to understand. Delays are also frustrating for a New Orleans personal injury attorney who wants to get compensation for his or her client as quickly as possible. But there are many reasons that even straightforward lawsuits can take a long, long time to resolve, despite the best efforts of the injury victim’s attorney. Two of the most common are:
In every personal injury lawsuit, the lawyers need to understand all the facts about the accident and injuries involved, obtain the testimony of all relevant witnesses, and gather all the evidence to put their clients in the best position to negotiate a favorable settlement or win at trial. This includes knowing any “bad” facts that could hurt the case so as not to be taken by surprise or blindsided at trial.
“Discovery” is the name for the process of gathering all of this information during a personal injury lawsuit. It usually involves multiple steps that can consume months before it concludes. Disputes over how discovery is being conducted can extend the time even more.
After a personal injury suit is filed, the attorneys for each side exchange requests for potentially relevant evidence and information. This includes written questions called “interrogatories,” as well as requests for documents, such as medical records, employment records, or anything that may be relevant to either the accident or claimed injuries. Especially in accidents or incidents that involve multiple parties, complicated facts, or result in serious injuries, gathering and reviewing all of this information – which can include tens or hundreds of thousands of documents, can take a very long time.
Following written discovery, the lawyers will question the parties, fact witnesses, treating physicians, and expert witnesses under oath in depositions. Depositions can take several hours and can sometimes extend over multiple days. Coordinating the schedules of all of the lawyers and witnesses, especially for out-of-town depositions, can be challenging and draw out this part of discovery. For cases involving expert witnesses, those individuals also need time to prepare reports before they can be deposed, further lengthening the calendar.
While discovery can undoubtedly take a long time, it is an indispensable part of any personal injury lawsuit and can be the key to a successful outcome.
Most often the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit will be represented by their insurance company. The insurer’s goal is to pay you nothing if possible, and as little as they can get away with if necessary. That’s why the insurer will try to resolve claims directly with the injury victim soon after the accident, pressuring them to accept a lowball settlement offer substantially lower than what you deserve or what you could get at trial. That is why injury victims should never negotiate with an insurance company.
But if the insurance company knows that it is facing a determined personal injury lawyer on the other side and knows they have a fight on their hands, they will make every effort to drag the case on for as long as they can. As it denies or tries to minimize its risk, the insurer may file motions challenging the legal merits of the case, delay discovery as much as possible, or engage in other tactics designed to frustrate the progress of the case.
On top of all of this, crowded court dockets can cause further delays and scheduling difficulties, even though the vast majority of personal injury cases settle before trial. While an aggressive personal injury attorney will do everything they can to move the case forward as quickly as possible, it still may take much longer than one would expect.
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With fierce advocacy and unwavering dedication, the New Orleans personal injury attorneys at Bloom Legal will fight to get you what you deserve when you have been injured because of another’s negligence or reckless conduct. Contact us today through our contact form to arrange for your free consultation to discuss the details of your claim.