People frequently ask if they should settle their case with the insurance company, or if they should go to court. Well, there isn’t one answer that applies to every case. When you have a skilled and experienced Georgia attorney, they will look at the details of your car accident and determine if what the insurance company is offering what you are owed, or if they should fight them in court for more.
Many clients ask the question, “How long will my case take?” This is an excellent question, but not always an easy question to answer. Generally, the length of your case is related to the seriousness of your injuries. So, in other words, the more serious your injuries, the longer your case will take to get resolved. You do not want to settle your claim before you have completed treatment for your injuries. I wish that I could tell you with some level of certainty how long it takes to get a claim resolved, but the real answer is “it depends.”
Sometimes, cases get resolved quickly. For instance, someone has minimal soft tissue injury damage, and after a few weeks or months of chiropractic care or physical therapy, the symptoms are resolved. The chiropractor or physical therapist will send me his/her records of your treatment, and we will make a demand on the insurance company. If the at-fault driver’s insurance company is reasonable and willing to make a fair offer to settle the case, it can be resolved within a few months.
The insurance company is only going to pay one time to settle your case. So, it is vital to know the full cost of your medical expenses, pain & suffering, future medical expenses, lost time from work, etc. before settling your case. Generally, cases which constitute only soft-tissue injury are shorter in duration. However, if the insurance company is unwilling to make a reasonable offer, sometimes we have to file the case in court. This is known as a lawsuit. A lawsuit can cause the case to drag on for a while. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will provide their insured with an attorney to defend the case.
If the insurance company does not settle the case by making a fair offer for your soft-tissue injury case, your case may have to be litigated in the Small Claims Court or Magistrate Court. Usually, your trial in Magistrate Court can be scheduled within a few months. However, the difference in scheduling cases in Magistrate Court is that the various counties throughout Georgia are different, concerning how long it can take to get a court date. You may want to contact the Magistrate Court in the county where your case is being held and ask how long it takes in that particular court for the case to come up before a judge. You can sue for up to $15,000 in Magistrate Court. If you are seeking to recover more than that, you will have to file in State or Superior Court. So, if your medical expenses, pain and suffering, further medical care, and lost time from work exceed $15,000 in value, you will want to sue in State or Superior Court.
In-State or Superior Court, there is a six-month discovery process. During those six months, the attorneys from the insurance company defending the case against you can obtain information about the incident. During this “discovery period,” lawyers can find out information about the case before the case is presented to a judge or jury. This can include getting your medical records or taking your deposition to determine the extent of your injuries. This six-month discovery period lengthens the period it takes to resolve the case. So, I advise clients that if the insurance company is being reasonable with their offer to try to resolve the claim, it sometimes makes sense to resolve or settle the case before litigation. The additional expense and time involved in a long, protracted case where the injury is relatively minor may not make it worth it to you in the long run. Some courts require mediation after the discovery process is completed. Sometimes, a good mediator can help you with getting your case resolved. However, this process can add to the time required to get a court date on your case.
Finally, after the discovery process is completed, your case can be put on a trial calendar with the State or Superior Court. It’s required to try to mediate your case in some courts before you see a judge. Sometimes cases can be continued, especially if the defense attorney has a lot of cases that force him or her to be indifferent counties for the other cases. This is known as a scheduling conflict. The judge may have to decide when your lawsuit will be heard. The defense attorney may have to be in a different county for another trial. This can cause long delays for your case to go to court. Recently, I had an incident that took almost five years to go to court.
In examples of serious injuries, the cases are generally much more time-consuming. The primary reason for this is that the client has a long period in which they are undergoing medical treatment. In most cases, we do not try to resolve or settle a case until the client’s medical treatment is complete, or the client has reached maximum medical improvement.
Of course, the medical treatment for a client can go on for several months, or even years. But one thing that we have to be very careful of in Georgia is the two-year statute of limitations in filing a lawsuit. There are some exceptions to this rule, so you should be careful and contact an attorney if you have any questions concerning the statute of limitations for your case.
Sometimes, we have clients who are continuing to receive medical treatment, even beyond two years after their accident date. In that situation, we are sure to file a lawsuit within two years of the accident to comply with the statute of limitations in Georgia.
We encourage clients to continue to seek medical treatment, if necessary, beyond two years after the accident. This can demonstrate to a judge or jury the long-term extent of an injury. In some cases, the pain and suffering from an auto injury can last a lifetime, but my job as your attorney is to help you recover your case’s maximum amount.