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Case Types We Handle
Personal Injuries
Car Accidents
Truck Accidents
Motorcycle Accidents
Bicycle Accidents
Nursing Home Abuse
Wrongful Death
Slip and Fall Accidents
Daycare Injury & Abuse
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Case Types We Handle
Personal Injuries
Car Accidents
Truck Accidents
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Wrongful Death
Slip and Fall Accidents
Daycare Injury & Abuse
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An Overview of the Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline [2024 Guide]

Written By:
Tor Hoerman
Tor Hoerman

Attorney Tor Hoerman, admitted to the Illinois State Bar Association since 1995 and The Missouri Bar since 2009, specializes nationally in mass tort litigations. Locally, Tor specializes in auto accidents and a wide variety of personal injury incidents occuring in Illinois and Missouri.

This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy and clarity by the team of writers and attorneys at TorHoerman Law and is as accurate as possible. This content should not be taken as legal advice from an attorney. If you would like to learn more about our owner and experienced injury lawyer, Tor Hoerman, you can do so here.

TorHoerman Law does everything possible to make sure the information in this article is up to date and accurate. If you need specific legal advice about your case, contact us. This article should not be taken as advice from an attorney.

Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline: Step-By-Step

On this page, we’ll discuss the Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline, the steps and processes of a personal injury claim, how a personal injury lawyer can help you, and much more.

What Is the Process of a Personal Injury Case?

In the aftermath of an injury, the road to compensation often involves navigating a complex legal landscape.

An Overview of the Personal Injury Lawsuit Timeline

Below, our personal injury lawyers have provided a guide to help you understand the personal injury lawsuit timeline, discussing the various stages and actions involved in seeking compensation after an injury.

A personal injury case takes several steps, which logically follows a timeline.

From the initial documentation of the incident to the potential resolution through settlement or trial, understanding this process can help claimants navigate their journey effectively.

If you or your loved one has been injured through no fault of their own, contact TorHoerman Law for a free consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for a lawsuit instantly.

Table of Contents

Phase 1: Accident and Injury Documentation

The initial phase of a personal injury lawsuit lays the groundwork for the entire legal process.

Properly documenting the accident and resulting injuries is essential to substantiate the claim and establish the basis for seeking compensation.

This phase can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on factors like access to healthcare facilities and the severity of your injuries.

Seeking Medical Attention

The first step after an accident is to prioritize medical care.

Seeking prompt medical treatment not only ensures your health and well-being but also creates crucial documentation linking your injuries directly to the incident.

Keep detailed records of all medical visits, treatments, prescriptions, and any recommendations from healthcare professionals.

Preserving Evidence

Preservation of evidence is vital in establishing liability.

Take photographs of the accident scene, including any visible injuries and property damage.

Gather contact information from witnesses who observed the incident and can provide relevant accounts.

In addition, you should try to collect any available video footage, accident reports, or other documentation related to the event.

Documenting Injuries

Record all injuries resulting from the accident.

This includes not only visible injuries but also internal or latent injuries that may manifest later.

Maintain detailed notes about pain levels, limitations in daily activities, and any emotional distress caused by the incident.

You should also keep medical records and diagnostic results.

Consistent and thorough documentation strengthens your case by providing tangible evidence of the impact of the accident on your life.

Keeping a Record of Expenses

Maintain records of all expenses incurred as a result of the accident and injuries.

This includes medical bills, prescription costs, transportation expenses for medical appointments, and any other out-of-pocket expenditures related to your recovery.

These financial records substantiate the damages claimed in the lawsuit.

Consulting With an Attorney

Early consultation with a personal injury attorney is good practice to understand your rights and legal options.

Most personal injury attorneys can provide guidance on the documentation needed to support your personal injury or insurance claim.

An experienced personal injury lawyer can also advise on potential legal strategies and the next steps in pursuing compensation.

Phase 2: Filing of the Lawsuit

After the thorough documentation of the accident and injuries, the next critical phase in the personal injury lawsuit timeline is the filing of the lawsuit.

This step formally initiates the legal process and sets the stage for addressing liability and seeking compensation for damages incurred.

Working closely with a personal injury attorney, the claimant prepares and submits a complaint to the appropriate court.

The complaint outlines the details of the incident, including the parties involved, the nature of the injuries sustained, and the legal basis for holding the defendant responsible.

This document also specifies the compensation sought for various damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related losses.

The complainant files the lawsuit, the defendant is served with the complaint, officially notifying them of the legal action.

The defendant then has a specified period to respond to the allegations outlined in the complaint.

This response typically involves either admitting or denying the claims and may include counterclaims or affirmative defenses.

Filing the lawsuit starts the timelines for subsequent phases such as discovery and sets the stage for legal proceedings aimed at resolving the dispute.

Throughout this phase, effective communication and strategic planning with legal counsel are crucial to advancing the claim and positioning the case for potential settlement or trial.

In general, this phase lasts for a few months, depending on certain factors.

Defendants typically have 20 to 30 days to respond, and motions to dismiss can also add additional time to this phase.

Phase 3: Discovery Phase

The discovery phase is a critical stage in the personal injury lawsuit timeline where both parties engage in gathering evidence, exchanging information, and preparing for trial or settlement negotiations.

This phase aims to uncover facts, assess the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case, and facilitate informed decision-making as the lawsuit progresses.

For most personal injury lawsuits, this phase typically lasts for a few months to a year.

Discovery is usually one of the longest steps.

This phase typically includes several key components including:

  • Interrogatories
  • Requests for production of documents
  • Depositions
  • Requests for admissions
  • Independent medical examinations (IMEs)
  • Expert witness discovery
  • Settlement discussions


Each party submits written questions to the opposing party, seeking specific information related to the case.

Interrogatories help clarify facts, identify witnesses, and gather details about the opposing party’s position.

Requests for Production of Documents

Parties request relevant documents from each other, such as medical records, accident reports, employment records, and any other documentation pertinent to the case.

This process ensures transparency and enables both sides to evaluate the evidence.


Depositions involve sworn testimony given by parties, witnesses, and experts involved in the case.

Attorneys ask questions to gather information and assess credibility.

Depositions help clarify facts, anticipate testimony at trial, and identify potential strengths and weaknesses in the case.

Requests for Admissions

Each party may request the other to admit or deny specific statements or facts relevant to the case.

Requests for admissions streamline the litigation process by narrowing down contested issues.

Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs)

In some cases, the defendant may request the claimant to undergo an independent medical examination by a physician of their choosing.

IMEs aim to evaluate the extent and causation of injuries claimed by the plaintiff.

Expert Witness Discovery

Parties disclose information about expert witnesses they intend to call at trial.

This includes providing the qualifications, opinions, and expected testimony of these witnesses.

Settlement Discussions

Throughout the discovery phase, the defendant and their insurance company may engage in settlement discussions facilitated by the information uncovered during discovery.

Discovery helps parties assess the strength of their case and negotiate from a position of knowledge.

Phase 4: Mediation and Negotiation

After the discovery phase, parties in a personal injury lawsuit often engage in mediation and negotiation as an attempt to reach a settlement without proceeding to trial.

This phase emphasizes open communication and compromise, and the goal is to resolve the dispute amicably.

Most personal injury cases are settled outside of court, and only around 4-5% actually go to trial.

In some cases, mediation can last for as short as a single session.

Most personal injury cases settle within a few days to a few weeks.

Mediation includes:

  • Selection of a Mediator: Parties typically select a neutral third-party mediator who is trained in dispute resolution techniques. The mediator does not have decision-making authority but assists in guiding the negotiation process and facilitating communication between the parties.
  • Mediation Session: The mediation process begins with an initial session where both parties, along with their attorneys, meet with the mediator. Each party has the opportunity to present their side of the case, discuss key issues, and express their desired outcomes.
  • Open Discussions and Offers: Throughout the mediation session, parties engage in open discussions aimed at exploring potential resolutions. Offers and counteroffers may be exchanged, and the mediator helps identify common ground and areas of compromise.
  • Drafting the Settlement Agreement: If an agreement is reached, both parties document the terms of the settlement in a formal settlement agreement. This document outlines the agreed-upon terms, including the amount of compensation, release of liability, and any other relevant provisions.
  • Post-Mediation Follow-Up: After mediation, parties may engage in follow-up discussions to finalize the fair settlement agreement and address any outstanding issues. Once the settlement agreement is signed, the case is resolved and further litigation won’t happen.

Phase 5: Trial and Verdict

The trial phase is the culmination of a personal injury lawsuit where the dispute is presented before a judge or jury for a decision on liability and damages.

This phase involves formal court proceedings, presentation of evidence, witness testimony, legal arguments, and ultimately, the rendering of a verdict.

This stage can span from several days to several weeks or even months.

Some things to expect during the personal injury trial include:

  • Jury Selection (if applicable): In cases where a jury will decide the outcome, the trial begins with jury selection. Attorneys from both sides participate in selecting jurors through a process called voir dire, where potential jurors are questioned to assess their suitability for impartial decision-making. Otherwise, only the judge will preside over the court proceedings.
  • Presentation of Evidence: The trial proceeds with the presentation of evidence by each party. This includes witness testimony, expert opinions, documents, photographs, and other exhibits that support the claims and defenses presented. Personal injury lawyers use direct examination and cross-examination to elicit testimony from witnesses and challenge opposing evidence.
  • Legal Arguments: After the presentation of evidence, attorneys deliver closing arguments summarizing their case, highlighting key points, and persuasively advocating for their client’s position. Closing arguments aim to clarify complex issues, emphasize favorable evidence, and influence the judge or jury’s decision.
  • Verdict: After deliberations, the judge or jury renders a verdict determining the outcome of the case. The verdict may include findings on liability (whether the defendant is responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries) and damages (the amount of compensation to be awarded if liability is established based on personal injury law).
  • Post-Trial Motions and Appeals: Following the verdict, the plaintiff or the at-fault party may file post-trial motions or appeals challenging the outcome based on legal grounds. This phase extends the litigation process if either party seeks to contest the verdict or specific legal issues.

Timeline Differences: Single-Incident Personal Injury Cases vs Mass Tort Lawsuits

The timelines for resolving personal injury cases can vary significantly depending on the nature of the case.

Single-incident personal injury cases, such as a car accident or slip and fall, typically involve individual plaintiffs seeking compensation for injuries sustained in isolated incidents.

Mass tort lawsuits involve multiple plaintiffs who have suffered similar injuries caused by a common product, practice, or event, often resulting in longer and more complex legal proceedings.

In single-incident personal injury cases, the timeline for resolution is generally more straightforward and can be completed within a relatively shorter period compared to mass tort lawsuits.

The phases that affect the longevity of a typical personal injury case include evidence collection, negotiation, and the trial itself.

Mass tort lawsuits often present unique challenges that can extend the timeline for resolution.

Mass torts involve numerous plaintiffs who have suffered similar injuries from a common source, such as defective products, environmental pollution, or pharmaceutical drugs.

Because of these factors, some mass tort lawsuits can last for years.

Key factors contributing to longer timelines in mass tort lawsuits include:

  • Complexity of Liability: Proving liability in mass tort cases can be complex due to the involvement of multiple parties, intricate legal issues, and varying degrees of causation. Establishing a causal link between the defendant’s actions and the plaintiffs’ injuries may require extensive expert testimony and scientific evidence.
  • Number of Parties Involved: Mass tort lawsuits may involve a large number of plaintiffs, each with individual claims and circumstances. Coordinating and managing the legal representation of numerous plaintiffs can significantly lengthen the litigation process.
  • Negotiation of Settlements: Negotiating settlements in mass tort cases involves addressing the interests and concerns of multiple plaintiffs and defendants. Settlement agreements must account for the varying degrees of harm suffered by each plaintiff and may require extensive negotiations to reach equitable resolutions.
  • Court Coordination and Case Management: Courts often implement special procedures for managing mass tort cases, such as multidistrict litigation (MDL) or class actions, to efficiently handle large volumes of claims. Coordinating discovery, pre-trial motions, and trial scheduling can add complexity and extend the overall timeline of mass tort litigation.

Factors Influencing the Duration of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

The timeline for resolving a personal injury lawsuit can be influenced by a multitude of factors.

Understanding these considerations is crucial for managing expectations and navigating the legal process effectively.

Case Complexity

The complexity of the case plays a significant role in determining how long it will take to reach a resolution.

Cases involving intricate legal issues, multiple defendants, or complex factual circumstances may require more time for thorough investigation, evidence gathering, and legal analysis.

Jurisdictional Legal Procedures

Legal procedures and court rules can vary across jurisdictions, impacting the timeline of a personal injury lawsuit.

Some jurisdictions have more streamlined processes for case management and trial scheduling, while others may have backlog issues or specific procedural requirements that can cause delays.

Willingness to Reach Settlement

The willingness of parties to negotiate and reach a settlement can greatly influence the duration of a lawsuit.

Collaborative efforts toward settlement, including mediation and negotiation, can expedite the resolution process and avoid the need for prolonged litigation.

Common Concerns and Questions Regarding Delays

Delays in personal injury lawsuits often raise questions and concerns among plaintiffs.

These setbacks are normal in an average personal injury case.

Common factors contributing to delays include court scheduling issues, the availability of key witnesses or experts, and procedural motions filed by opposing parties.

Plaintiffs may also encounter delays due to the need for ongoing medical treatments or evaluations to determine the full extent of their injuries and damages.

To help appease your concerns, it’s crucial to maintain open communication with your lawyer and stay informed about the progress of the case.

A skilled personal injury lawyer can provide clarity on the reasons for delays and work diligently to address any obstacles hindering the progress of the lawsuit.

Role of an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

A skilled personal injury lawyer plays a crucial role in navigating the challenges of a lawsuit and expediting the process wherever possible.

They are adept at managing complex legal issues, coordinating with experts, and efficiently conducting discovery to build a strong case.

Lawyers adopt a proactive approach to settlement negotiations, including exploring alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation with the defendant’s insurance provider.

These methods help expedite the resolution of the lawsuit while ensuring fair compensation for the plaintiff.

Contact TorHoerman Law for Your Personal Injury Claim

Seeking experienced legal counsel is paramount for navigating the personal injury lawsuit timeline and process.

Skilled attorneys like us can tailor strategies to individual cases, whether simple or complex, maximizing the chances of a favorable outcome.

If you believe that you have a personal injury claim, don’t hesitate to contact us.

We provide free, no-obligation consultations.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for a lawsuit instantly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the initial steps in the personal injury lawsuit timeline?

    The personal injury lawsuit timeline begins with an immediate assessment of the accident.

    This includes gathering evidence at the accident scene, seeking medical attention to document injuries, and consulting with a personal injury lawyer.

    The attorney will then file an insurance claim and possibly a legal claim against the at-fault party, initiating the process with a demand letter outlining the damages and injuries.

  • How long does each phase of a personal injury lawsuit typically last?

    The duration of each phase in a personal injury lawsuit can vary greatly.

    Gathering medical records and evidence might take a few weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of the injuries and the clarity of the accident details.

    The discovery phase and settlement negotiations can extend the timeline, often taking several months to over a year, especially if the case proceeds to trial.

  • What role does a personal injury lawyer play throughout the lawsuit timeline?

    A personal injury lawyer is crucial in guiding the injured party through the entire legal process.

    They provide legal representation, prepare and file all necessary documentation, negotiate with insurance companies and the defendant’s legal team, and advocate for the client’s best interests.

    In cases that go to trial, the lawyer presents evidence and arguments to support the claim for compensation.

  • At what point in the timeline are settlement negotiations most likely to occur?

    Settlement negotiations typically occur after the discovery phase, once all parties have a clear understanding of the accident’s circumstances and the extent of injuries.

    These negotiations can happen at any time before a trial starts but are most common after both sides have exchanged critical information and right before the trial to avoid the uncertainties and expenses of court proceedings.

  • How does the discovery phase fit into the personal injury lawsuit timeline?

    The discovery phase is a critical part of the personal injury lawsuit timeline, usually following the initial filings and pre-trial motions.

    During this stage, both parties exchange information through depositions, interrogatories, and document requests.

    This phase helps both sides evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their cases, which is essential for formulating legal strategies and for settlement discussions.

    The discovery can last from several months to a year, depending on the complexity of the case and the amount of information to be gathered.

Written By:
Tor Hoerman

Tor Hoerman

Owner & Attorney - TorHoerman Law

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