How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take in Massachusetts?
One of the first questions injured clients ask us is how long does a personal injury lawsuit take in Massachusetts? Hopefully, their case will settle within a year or so if they have recovered or reached maximum medical improvement and liability is clear. Also the majority of injury claims do settle prior to trial. However, a Burns and Jain personal injury attorney is prepared and committed to handle any claim that goes to litigation.
Statute of Limitations
In Massachusetts, you generally have 3-years from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit. Few attorneys will wait that long to file unless a client has only recently retained them and the time for filing is about to expire.
There are some exceptions to the 3-year rule. Where an injury is latent, such as in a medical negligence case where the defect in a medical device is not detected until the claimant begins to suffer symptoms, then the time can be extended to when the defect could reasonably have been detected.
If the claimant is a minor, the 3-years does not begin to run, or toll, until the minor turns 18-years of age. Some cases of incapacitation of a claimant can also extend the period.
In a hit-and-run accident, the law requires a claimant to file a suit within 6-months after learning the identity of the driver and so long as it is filed within the 3-year time period.
For an injury suit against a Massachusetts sheriff, you have 4-years to file a lawsuit. But for cases against the MBTA in Boston, you must notify the department in writing by certified mail of your claim within 2-years.
A General Timeline for a Lawsuit
The first 6-months to one year in an injury claim are dedicated to the following:
- Obtaining the traffic accident report and photographs if any that police took
- Having our client receive the appropriate care and treatment for injuries
- Retaining an accident reconstruction expert in a serious or fatal accident if liability is disputed
- Gathering witness statements, surveillance footage of the accident, and examining the vehicle for possible defects if braking, steering, car seat, air bag, tire issues or other mechanical systems are involved
- Obtaining all medical bills and records
- Requesting that the defendant’s insured disclose its insured’s policy limits
- Requesting a medical report from your medical provider or specialist regarding your diagnosis, limitations, and prognosis
After these documents are obtained and your injuries have stabilized or you have reached maximum medical improvement, your personal injury attorney will present a demand for settlement. If for some reason, the defense has indicated that it has no interest in settling for anywhere near what your attorney feels is reasonable or for any amount whatsoever, then your personal injury attorney will file the complaint to begin the litigation process.
Over the next 12-18 months and possibly for longer depending on the complexity of the case, the litigation process will take over. The process consists of:
- Serving the summons and complaint on the defendant who has 30-days to file an answer though the defense may ask for an extension that may not be more than 15-days
- Preparing and submitting interrogatories and request for documents to the defendant who has 35-days to respond but who again usually asks for an extension
- Responding to interrogatories and a documents request from the defendant’s attorney
- Preparing for your deposition where you are asked about your background, the facts of the accident, your injuries, medical care, prior claims and injuries, how your injuries have affected your life, employment and wage loss claims
- Submitting to a medical examination by a physician chosen by the defense
- Depositions of any experts retained by your personal injury attorney and by the defense
After discovery has been completed or even before in some cases, your attorney may request mediation to attempt a settlement. A mediation is supervised by an uninterested third party, usually a retired judge or experienced injury attorney chosen by the parties, who meets with the parties and discusses the pros and cons of their arguments and demands. The parties are not bound by any recommendations for settlement made by the mediator.
When the discovery period is over, a trial date is given that may be up to 6-months from the date when you are notified. If you go to trial, you can expect it to last from one week to a month or more if there numerous witnesses and substantial damages. If you get a monetary verdict, your award will usually be disbursed within 30-days of the verdict.
Retain the Law Office of Burns and Jain
Any injured person wants the most compensation she can obtain for her injuries. Many cases can be settled relatively early if you only want the minimum, but you should retain an experienced personal injury attorney from Burns and Jain if you want your claim thoroughly investigated and handled in the appropriate manner so as to obtain the most compensation. Call us at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim.