One of the questions we get the most here at Spada Law Group from clients is “how long will it take to get my case settled?" Boy, that is a loaded question but a very good one to ask. And depending on when in the process a client asks this question, my answer is almost always “it depends.” Not the most satisfying answer, I understand, but it is absolutely the most truthful.
Okay, so what does it depend on? Now, that’s a question that can be answered with some specificity. But again, the answer depends on the complexity of the case, with respect to proving who was at fault for the accident, how serious your injuries were and how involved your medical treatment was.
What can I expect?
Let’s start with the game clock for a fairly simple car accident case here in Massachusetts. As a general rule (because every rule has exceptions) you have three years from the date of your car accident to either settle your case or file a lawsuit in court to begin the litigation process. If you fail to do either, prior to this three-year deadline, (which is called the statute of limitations) you lose your legal right to ever pursue the person who was at fault for the accident and caused your injuries and damages. Two notable exceptions to this rule are if you are under 18 years of age at the time of the accident or under a disability of mental illness. Under Massachusetts law, the statute of limitations for car accident cases begins to run upon a minor’s 18th birthday. For disability, such as mental incompetence, the limitation period runs from the date of removal of the disability.
No two car accident cases are the same. Some are straightforward, such as a rear-end crash while stopped at a red light, while others may involve a multi-car pileup on an interstate highway with many witnesses and conflicting statements as to who was at fault. To be successful, a client must be able to prove that he or she was 50% or less at fault for the collision. If you are found to be over 50% at fault in Massachusetts, you cannot recover damages from the other car’s owner or insurance company. Sometimes, in order to gather the necessary evidence to prove who was at fault, much work needs to be done, which can and will slow the entire process. We have handled cases where we had to interview many witnesses, consult with an accident reconstruction expert and work with local and state law enforcement authorities before we could even get an adequate assessment as to who was at fault and whether we could prove the client’s case. Cases like this can take many months or even a year or more before they are ready for either settlement discussions or brought to court. On the other end of the spectrum, we have handled the clear-cut cases where it is quite easy to figure out who was at fault. For example; a client is rear-ended while stopped at a red light or the other driver is arrested for DUI, etc. In these cases, evaluating and presenting our client’s damages evidence is where the bulk of our work is focused.
Other Things to Consider
The other factor that often dictates how long it takes to get a client’s case settled is how badly they were injured and what type of medical treatment they required. In order to fully and accurately evaluate our client’s case, we try to wait until the client has reached a Maximum Medical Improvement, prior to settling the case. Maximum Medical Improvement is the point at which the client has either made a full recovery or has reached a point where they will recover no further. The more serious the injury, the longer it usually takes to reach Maximum Medical Improvement. Sometimes, a client will not reach this point within the 3-year statute of limitations, and we must file a lawsuit in order to protect our client’s right to continue to pursue their case. In those cases, we will use medical experts to provide evidence on the need for future care. This allows either the insurance company for the at-fault driver, or the jury in the case of a trial, to assess our client’s full damages claim.
So, you see, my initial answer to the question “how long will it take to get my case settled?” holds true; it really does depend. If your case is a rear-ender and you are not badly hurt, you have a few months of physical therapy and you heal completely, your case may take 4 to 6 months to settle. If you are involved in a major accident with conflicting and confusing versions as to who was at fault and your injuries are severe and your medical treatment is prolonged, the case could take several years to come to a resolution.
If you have questions and want to speak to someone about the process involved in bringing a car accident claim, give us a call. We’d be happy to walk you through the process and help you make the right decision regarding your injury claim.
With offices in Chelsea and Salem, MA, Spada Law Group provides Boston quality legal representation without the commute into the city with free on-premises or validated parking. We are here to answer any questions you may have. Call Spada Law Group today at 617-889-5000 to discuss your situation. The consultation is free and there is absolutely no obligation to hire us. We are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.