How Long Does It Take for a Personal Injury Case to Settle?

You were injured. Your medical bills are piling up. You would like a nice, hefty check from the insurer, so why is it taking so long? When clients come to me with personal injury cases, one of the first questions they ask is “How long does it take for a personal injury case to settle?” The answer to that question will depend on the specifics of your case, how stubborn the insurance company is, and how hard you want to fight.

Beware the Early Offer

This may seem obvious, but it is important to always keep in mind that the insurance company’s goal is to pay you as little as possible. They have got a well-worn playbook on how to make this happen. Their first tactic is usually to throw a low-ball offer your way.

The insurance company is counting on the fact that you want to get paid quickly and that you do not know how much your case is actually worth. It is unfortunate how many people are all too eager to sign away their rights to get a quick check.

In most cases, it is not in your best interest to take the low-ball offer. One exception could be if you are in dire financial straits and can not hold out for a bigger paycheck. Regardless of your circumstances, I strongly recommend that you at least meet with an attorney to determine your options before accepting an initial payment. If you do accept an insurance company’s first offer, you may receive payment in a matter of weeks for your injury.

If you decide to seek more compensation, the process will take longer.

Maximum Medical Improvement

One of the reasons a good personal injury settlement can take so long is because your legal team needs to know the full extent of your medical expenses and long-term injuries in order to calculate a fair settlement amount to demand from the insurance company.

That means that you need to go through your full treatment and reach a point called “maximum medical improvement.” Maximum medical improvement is when you have recovered as much as possible from your accident and all medical services have been provided. As anyone who has gone through surgery or been injured knows, this process can take weeks or even months.

It is important to be patient so that your legal team will be able to calculate your full medical costs. If your doctors determine that you will never fully recover from the accident, this will dramatically increase the amount your legal team can demand from the insurance company.

Gathering Records

After you have reached maximum medical improvement, your legal team will need to come up with a dollar amount based on your expenses and injuries to ask for from the insurance company. This number does not come out of thin air. Instead, your legal team will need to gather all of your medical bills and treatment notes to use as a basis for their request.

Even with a team of paralegals hard at work requesting medical files from your doctor and the hospital where you received treatment, this process can take several more weeks.

The Wait

Once your legal team has sent their demand, the insurance company may drag out the process a little longer in order to assess your case and determine if they will pay up, counter the offer, or deny the request. Assume roughly 30 days for this process.

In a best-case scenario, the process will end here, with the insurance company accepting the demand amount. You may still need to wait a few weeks for the check to arrive, but at this point, you are on the home stretch.

Not every personal injury case is so cut and dry, however, and it may take even longer to receive your payout.


It is not uncommon for an insurance company to dispute the amount of damages requested by your legal team. They may try to offer less money or pick apart your case. It will be up to you and your legal team to determine if you want to counter their counter, or if you want to head to trial.

Going to trial could add significant time to the process, and it could end with no payment at all if you lose your case. However, if you have a strong case and good evidence, a trial could earn you an even bigger paycheck.

Going to Trial

Going to trial on a personal injury case is rare, but it does happen. Insurance companies hate going to trial – it costs them a lot of money – but they will do it, especially if you are asking for a very big payout. In many cases, just the threat of going to trial will be enough to make insurance companies up their offer just to stay out of court.

If you do take the case to court, it could be years from the time of your injury to the date when you receive your money. That is because both sides – your legal team and the insurance company – have the right of due process, meaning that they can take a certain amount of time to collect evidence for their case.

You may also need to sit down for a deposition, and your legal team could depose other people like witnesses to your accident or employees at the location where the accident happens. A judge will also have to fit your case on the court’s docket, which may push the trial back weeks or months.

Finally, in this stage, the defense will likely try to stall as long as possible. They know that you are probably juggling high medical bills and that certain attorneys will feel financial pressure if they do not settle cases. They will make the process as painful as possible to try to force you back to the negotiation table.

If you go to trial, know that it could take another year or longer before everything wraps up. Stay strong. Figure out a way to stay financially afloat, and work with an attorney who is willing to stick with you for as long as it takes.

If you were injured and live in San Diego, contact me at Saba Law to schedule a consultation.

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