Timeline for a California Personal Injury Lawsuit

Each year, millions of Americans are hurt in accidents. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), accidents account for 39.5 million trips to the doctor’s office each year, and an additional 24.5 million visits to the emergency room.

Although accidents are fairly common, when it happens to you, it can be difficult to know what to do next. You may be aware that you can file a legal claim against the at-fault party, but don’t know where to start. A skilled personal injury lawyer can help, starting with a free consultation where you can learn about your legal rights and options for moving forward.

Below, we have outlined the stages of a typical personal injury claim. Learning this general case timeline can help you know what to expect if you are hurt in a car accident, slip and fall, dog bite, bus crash, or any other type of accident.

What Happens After You Are Hurt in an Accident?

Under California law, an injury victim has the right to seek compensation if they are hurt in an accident that was caused by another person’s negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct. A personal injury lawsuit timeline starts directly after the accident when you are trying to decide what to do next.

Seek Medical Treatment

The first, and most important, thing that you should do after being hurt in any type of accident is to seek medical treatment. Even if you think that your injuries are relatively minor, it is critical to get medical attention. Doing so will ensure that you get prompt diagnosis and treatment, and it also establishes a link between your injuries and the accident.

Choose a Personal Injury Lawyer

After an accident, you may be overwhelmed by pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and financial strain caused by lost wages and mounting medical bills. At this stage of the claim timeline, it is important to reach out to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. There are strict deadlines for filing a personal injury lawsuit (known as the statute of limitations), so talking to a lawyer early can ensure that your case is filed in a timely manner.

Most personal injury law firms offer free initial consultations, so you can meet with a lawyer without any risk or obligation. Talk to family and friends to see if they have recommendations for a personal injury lawyer, and be sure to check online reviews as well. 


Once you have hired a lawyer, the next step is for them to review your medical records and investigate the facts of the accident, hiring an investigator if necessary.  At the same time, your attorney will research the law to build a strong personal injury case. This stage of the claim process could take several weeks, or as long as a few months, depending on the facts of your case.

Filing a Lawsuit

Next, your lawyer may advise you that it is necessary to file a formal lawsuit. This usually happens when the insurance company attempts to deny or minimize your claim. If you need to file a lawsuit, it may extend the case timeline significantly, particularly if the case goes to trial.

Your attorney will draft a complaint, which is a legal document that lays out the claim against the at-fault party. The complaint will be filed with the appropriate court, and then served on the other party (defendant). From there, the defendant will have a set period of time to file an answer to your complaint.


After a lawsuit is filed, the formal discovery process begins. Discovery is a time when each side exchanges information that is relevant to the lawsuit. It may include:

  • Interrogatories (written questions)
  • Requests for production (asking the other side to produce documents/evidence)
  • Requests for admission (asking the other party to admit or deny facts)
  • Depositions (oral testimony, taken under oath and recorded)

Discovery can be a lengthy process. While there are specific court rules on how long each party has to respond to discovery requests, scheduling depositions, and medical examinations can take time. During the discovery process, your lawyer will be securing evidence for your case

Pre-Trial Negotiation and Mediation

Throughout the months of discovery and other pre-trial proceedings (such as filing motions with the court), your personal injury lawyer will likely continue negotiations with the insurer. This may take place informally or through a formal court process known as mediation. In mediation, a neutral third party (often a retired judge or lawyer) hears the evidence and arguments in the case and makes a recommendation to try to help the parties achieve a settlement.

During mediation, the plaintiff usually starts by making a demand and the defendant will typically respond with a counter-offer. This begins the negotiation process, where each side goes back and forth, attempting to reach a settlement. While most personal injury lawsuits are resolved through settlement, if the insurance company refuses to offer fair compensation for your injuries, it may be necessary to proceed to trial.


While negotiations and/or mediation often result in a settlement, in some cases, it may be necessary to take the case to trial. At trial, each party will have an opportunity to make arguments, present evidence, and question witnesses. After all, evidence has been heard, the judge or jury will make a decision as to liability and damages. A personal injury trial may last days, weeks, or even longer depending on the facts. 

What percentage of personal injury cases go to trial?

According to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 96 to 97% percent of all personal injury lawsuits are settled outside of court. In other words, just 3 to 4% of personal injury cases go to trial.

Although most personal injury cases are settled, each case is unique. Your lawyer may advise you that the best way to achieve a good outcome for your case is to take it to trial.

What is the average payout for a personal injury claim?

There is no such thing as an average settlement or verdict at trial for a personal injury claim because each case is unique. The value of a personal injury claim is based on a number of factors, including the severity of the injuries, whether liability is disputed, and the insurance coverage available. For this reason, two people who suffered similar injuries may settle their cases for different amounts. A bodily injury claim and an online casino may be linked if the plaintiff alleges that the gambling addiction that developed as a result of participating in the online casino caused him bodily or mental harm. This topic is open on the Pin up online casino site. As well as big wins and top games await the clients of the online gambling club with a guaranteed withdrawal Pin up To play in paid mode, you need to replenish your gaming account, and the winnings are really cosmic. Don’t miss the opportunity to get a no deposit bonus with a promo code from Pin up and take part in an exciting tournament. And this is not all promotions with nice prizes that are available to casino players.

What is a fair settlement offer?

Most personal injury cases settle out of court, anywhere from a few weeks or months after an accident to the morning that trial is set to begin. It can be difficult to know what a “good” settlement offer is if you have been hurt in an accident. One saying is that a fair settlement occurs when both parties walk away compromising – the plaintiff (injury victim) because they didn’t get as much as they wanted, and the defendant because they paid more than they wanted to pay.

Personal injury lawsuits are unique, and so a fair settlement offer in one claim may be a bad settlement in another. Your lawyer can advise you as to whether a particular settlement offer is reasonable based on their experience, knowledge of the law, and understanding of the facts of the case. It is then your decision whether to take the settlement or continue towards trial.

Hurt in an Accident? We’re Here for You.

After being injured in an accident, you may have a lot of questions – such as exactly how long it will take for you to resolve your claim. While each case is different, a personal injury lawsuit timeline may range from a few months to a year or longer. Your attorney can answer specific questions about your claim, and give you an idea of how long it will take to get a settlement or take your case to trial.

Based in Walnut Creek, the Appel Law Firm LLP represents injury victims throughout the Bay Area. We offer free consultations for all prospective clients, and never charge a fee for personal injury claims unless we recover money for you. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a California personal injury lawyer, call us today at 1-888-511-6905 or fill out our online contact form.

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