The Timeline for a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Massachusetts
If you’ve been injured and are headed to court for a settlement, you’ll want to be as prepared as possible for the steps ahead. Personal injury lawsuits can be difficult on the plaintiff, the family, and everyone involved. Knowing what to expect can make the process a little easier.
First Six Months
In a typical personal injury lawsuit, the first six months are dedicated to medical recovery and the initial research about which firm to hire. In Massachusetts, all lawsuits must be filed within three years of the date of the accident (statute of limitations). Make sure you fall into this window if you plan on going to court.
In these first six months while you recover, your attorney will obtain the accident report from the police and conduct an initial investigation. The attorney will study the accident, interview eyewitnesses, review your medical records, and piece together your case. This typically takes several months before the lawsuit is ready to be filed.
Months Six to 12
You can file a lawsuit any time within the three-year statute of limitations in Massachusetts, but the general timeline is six months to one year. Once you file a lawsuit, the court has about 30 to 60 days to serve the summons to the defendant. The defense then has 30 days from the date of the summons to file its response. Commonly, the defense will ask for an additional 15-day grace period, pushing your timeline back even farther.
In a small personal injury case, your lawyer might at this time make a demand and try to achieve a settlement. A good lawyer will not make a demand until you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement, and are as recovered as you’re going to get. Until you’ve reached this point, your lawyer doesn’t know how much your case is worth.
Within 60 days of filing the lawsuit, both parties send interrogatories (questions) to investigate the adversary’s legal claims and defenses. These typically have a 35-day response period, but could take several months depending on the complexity of your case.
Months 12 to 18
Beginning in the first year of your lawsuit, it’s common for the defense to require you to be examined by one if its own doctors in the presence of an attorney. These examinations could take months to complete to their satisfaction. Around three months after filing the lawsuit, an oral deposition may occur. Both sides ask questions of the key people in the case and conduct interviews of witnesses.
Depositions require a lot of preparation on both sides of the case, and are close to a mini-trial. Reporters may be present and statements can be made during the deposition. Attorneys for both sides can depose each other’s witnesses and victims. The deposition can last about three months.
At about the 16th or 17th month after your accident, if negotiations have not settled the case, both sides will hire expert witnesses to present their respective sides of the case. This can take about six months.
Months 18 to 24 and Beyond
In most personal injury cases, your lawyer will try mediation. In this situation, a skilled, neutral third party (often, a retired judge) is called in to review the case in one day. If mediations are successful, your case won’t have to go to trial. Instead, a settlement will be agreed upon that both parties are happy with. If mediation is unsuccessful, your case will go to trial.
Depending on the complexity of your case, a trial could last one day or up to two months. Any financial award is disbursed to the victim within 30 days of a jury verdict or successful mediation.
Protect Your Rights
If you need a professional, experienced personal injury lawyer in Massachusetts, contact Sweeney Merrigan Law. The lawsuit process can be complex and difficult; it needs the expert advice of a skilled lawyer. You don’t have to go through this alone. Let us give you peace of mind in the months or years ahead, so you can focus on healing.