One of the most common questions personal injury victims have after a car crash, slip and fall, dog bite, or other personal injury is “Can My Case be Settled Without a Lawsuit”. The second question is: “When Should I file a Lawsuit?” If you’ve had a serious accident, your life has probably changed in ways you never expected, and you may be left struggling to recover physically and emotionally. Coping with insurance claims and mounting costs can make the ordeal even more challenging.
Navigating all of this can feel overwhelmingly complicated, especially if your injuries are severe enough to require ongoing medical care and prevent you from working.
Deciding when to file a lawsuit can be a tricky decision. On one hand, your lawyer wants to complete a full investigation of your case before officially starting the lawsuit in court. On the other, the Court system is notoriously slow. In California, most lawsuits take 1 to 2 years to complete. So, you don’t want to waste 1 to 2 years before filing the lawsuit if the lawsuit is going to take 1 to 2 years to complete anyway!
Here are a list of factors that your lawyers should consider when deciding whether or not, and when to file a lawsuit in Court.
Your Insurance Claim Was Denied or Inadequate
Filing a lawsuit may be necessary to recover losses if your claim was denied or you were offered less compensation than the true costs of your injuries and damages. A good lawyer should be able to tell from the insurance company’s initial response to a settlement demand letter whether or not pre-litigation settlement is possible.
You Suffered Severe or Permanent Injuries
Insurance companies don’t like writing large checks. A good rule of thumb is: the more severe your injuries, the less likely it is settle your case without a lawsuit. Insurance companies want to complete their due diligence on larger cases. They want to interview the victim under oath, called a deposition. They want to subpoena all the victim’s medical records and employment records. They want their lawyer to review the file and consult with their own medical experts. A good lawyer or law firm know that larger files simply need to be litigated.
The Insurance Coverage is Inadequate
If the defendant has low insurance coverage, the insurance company may simple “give up” and “tender” their entire policy pre-litigation. When that happens, of course, a lawsuit isn’t required.
Strict Filing Deadlines Apply
Another consideration are a case’s legal deadlines. Investigating a case pre-litigation, ordering medical records, and other pre-lawsuit tasks can take months. If your case’s deadline is approaching, you may be forced to file your lawsuit sooner than your lawyer might otherwise have chosen, depending on the deadlines.
Important Evidence Could be Lost
Evidence from the accident may disappear over time, like debris that is cleaned up or damage that is surreptitiously fixed. Although you have a duty to mitigate damages, it is best to move forward with a personal injury claim before evidence is compromised.
Experienced lawyers will be able to discuss all these considerations with their clients and help the victim understand whether, and when, a lawsuit should be filed.