How Long Does a Virginia Car Accident Case Take?

Did you recently get injured in a traffic crash in Virginia? If so, you may wonder whether you should invest your time in pursuing a car accident claim. The length of time may determine whether you go ahead with the case.

If you do move forward with a car accident insurance claim and/or personal injury lawsuit, the time commitment may affect the strategy that you and your lawyer pursue. In other words, how long a case takes may be as important to you as the amount of compensation that you possibly recover for your vehicle repair or replacement, medical expenses, lost income, pain, suffering and other damages.

At the outset, a lawyer may find it hard to estimate how long your Virginia car accident case will take to complete. Many factors contribute to the amount of time a case demands. Those factors, which we discuss in more detail below, differ from case to case. They include how long it takes to:

  • Recover from your injuries
  • Gather and analyze your medical records
  • Determine the number of parties involved
  • Determine the cause of your crash
  • Reach a settlement or secure at verdict at trial
  • Resolve post-trial matters, including appeals
  • Collect and disburse the recovery, including funds owed to you.

As you can see, the factors below may lead one case to take several months – maybe years – to resolve (likely through trial). Another case may end in a matter of months through a settlement. The bottom line: You won’t know unless you allow an experienced Virginia car accident lawyer to thoroughly review your case.

Recovery Time

First, the nature and extent of your physical injuries will affect the length of your Virginia car accident case. In short, how long will it take your injuries to “mature?”

For example, many car accident victims suffer from soft tissue damage or whiplash. Those injuries generally heal within a few months after the accident. However, every injury is different. Some people with soft tissue injuries may experience chronic pain and other symptoms for years after the crash.

Unfortunately, many drivers and passengers in car accidents suffer catastrophic, or life-changing, injuries. Brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, internal organ injuries and burns can lead to long-term or permanent disability.

However, no matter what type of injuries a person sustains, one thing remains true for all personal injury cases: An attorney will have to wait until his or her client reaches one of two points in recovery before the lawyer can take action:

  • Full recovery or release from a doctor’s care
  • Reaching “maximum medical improvement (MMI).”

MMI means that a person’s injuries will not likely improve, and the person’s symptoms are permanent. Once you have been released by your doctor or reached MMI, the first stage of your case is over.

Medical Records

In the next stage of your case, you (or your lawyer) must collect medical records that document your injuries and the cost of your medical care. Because hospitals and clinics are busy places, you may need to make several phone calls or send a series of letters and/or e-mails before you get the information you need or get a clarification of items in the medical records. So, if the doctor’s office cooperates with information requests, it will make your case move ahead much smoother.

Number of Parties

If your car accident involved just one other driver – not multiple parties – your case should take considerably less time to resolve. For instance, in a typical car accident case, the other party is obvious – the other driver. However, in a truck accident, your case could involve multiple parties such as the truck driver, trucking company, warehouse owner, shipping broker or truck manufacturer.

Cause of the Accident

In some cases, the cause of the crash is clear. For instance, a driver ran a red light or failed to yield to oncoming traffic. However, in many other cases, the cause is up for debate. Did the car accident happen because one driver’s tail lights were out, or did it happen because the other driver was following too closely? An investigation should go where the evidence leads and cover all possible factors in a crash. The cause of the crash will point to who should be held liable.

Settlement or Trial?

Most car accident claims settle before trial. A pre-trial settlement saves time and allows a person to move ahead with their life much faster. If a case must go to trial, a case will take longer to resolve. The amount of additional time will depend on how long each stage of the trial takes, including:

  • Arguing pretrial motions
  • Choosing a jury
  • Giving opening statements
  • Presenting evidence through exhibits and testimony
  • Making closing arguments
  • Instructing the jury and getting a verdict.

A car accident case involves two main issues: Liability and damages. In some cases, the parties may agree on liability and go to trial to decide only damages. In other cases, the parties will ask a jury to determine both issues. So, if the parties agree on those issues, it will cut down on the time a case involves.

Post-Trial Matters

Even though a jury hands down a verdict, a case may still be open. One of the sides could file post-trial motions. In some cases, the losing party may file an appeal, which could greatly extend a case. For this reason, many cases settle after the jury returns a verdict.

Collection and Disbursement of Funds

The final stage of a personal injury claim involves collecting funds from the liable party or parties. This stage could involve another round of negotiation and litigation. If a liable party lacks insurance, your lawyer may need to take steps to collect funds through wage garnishments, liens and levies. In some situations, your lawyer must resolve health care and workers’ compensation liens before he can disburse the funds owed to you.

Get Help from an Experienced Virginia Car Accident Lawyer Today

As you can see, the length of a Virginia personal injury case can vary depending on many factors. With that said, the legal team at Marks & Harrison will use the full extent of our resources and will work as quickly and as diligently as possible to resolve your case and pursue all compensation you are due. Contact us today to learn more in a free consultation through our office in Richmond or one of our eight other offices located throughout Virginia.

Lee J. Bujakowski is a Tulane University School of Law graduate who joined Marks & Harrison in 2013. Lee works in our Hopewell office and focuses on protecting the rights of injury victims and their families. He is licensed to practice in Virginia's state courts as well as the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia. In addition to his law practice, Lee is highly active in the community, including serving as counsel for the Hopewell Recreation and Parks Foundation and Hopewell Manufacturers Association. He is also a member of the Hopewell Jaycees.