After a car accident, you may be in desperate need of financial security, and wondering how long it will take to receive compensation. Unfortunately, how long it will take is unique to each case. However, our St. Louis car accident attorneys outline the timeline you can expect.
The first six months typically involve recovering from the collision, and your attorney will begin their investigation.
Waiting to settle a case until you recover or reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) is critical. It is the only way to fully understand the extent of your injuries, their impact on your life, and the treatment you will require in the future.
Once you hire a car accident lawyer, they will immediately begin their initial investigation to collect evidence and determine which parties are liable. That may involve visiting the scene of the accident, taking photos, interviewing witnesses, obtaining copies of the police report, nearby surveillance footage, medical records, pay stubs, tax returns, any receipts for accident-related expenses, subpoenaing cell phone records if necessary, hiring experts, and more. The length of their investigation will often depend on the complexity of your case.
Once you recover or reach MMI, your attorney will carefully draft a demand letter to send to the at-fault party’s insurance company. The demand letter will have the facts of the accident and the amount of compensation you are requesting to resolve your claim. The insurer will typically respond with a counter-offer, and negotiations will go back and forth. Most cases end with a settlement, but if not, you and your attorney may decide to file a personal injury lawsuit.
In Missouri, you typically have five years from the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit under the state’s statute of limitations.
Filing a Lawsuit
Once your attorney files the appropriate paperwork, the defendant (at-fault party) has 30 days to respond after they are served. Sometimes, filing suit is enough to bring about a favorable settlement.
The discovery portion of the lawsuit will be next and is often a lengthy process. It commonly involves:
Both parties send lists of written questions to the other, clarifying the facts of the case.
Attorneys for both sides depose all relevant witnesses, which often takes around three months.
An Independent Medical Examination
The defense may request you undergo an independent medical examination by a doctor of their choosing.
Your case may have settled by this point since both parties often know how a jury will decide the case once the discovery phase has ended. If not, both sides will typically hire expert witnesses to testify at trial and who will also be deposed.
The remaining time involves further negotiations and, lastly, trial.
In Missouri, the parties must attend court-ordered mediation within ten months after the case was filed for complex cases and six months after the case is filed for other circuit cases unless otherwise specified by the court. A mediator helps the parties communicate and reach a settlement.
If mediation fails, your case will proceed to trial, which can take a few days to multiple months.
If you settle or are awarded compensation, it is typically sent to your attorney within 30 days of the case’s resolution. However, if you receive a favorable verdict, the defendant has a chance to appeal the decision, which can further delay receiving your compensation.