Florida may be known for its sunny skies and beautiful waters, but a car accident is no day at the beach. While it may seem unfair, a careless decision by another driver made in the blink of an eye can cause you months, years, or even a lifetime of pain and suffering. Your physical and mental suffering is only exacerbated when you and your family are enduring financial difficulties as a result of the accident as well. No wonder that Florida car accident victims who are seriously hurt want to know when their case will be finished and they can receive the compensation they need.
While it is impossible to say how long any specific case will take to resolve itself – the answer can change on a variety of factors and even cases that are initially thought to be “sure things” or “quick wins” can quickly end up taking far longer than anticipated – car accident lawsuits in Florida follow a general, predictable pattern and timeline. Knowing this pattern and timeline can help you manage your expectation as well as know when to ask your Florida car accident attorney about ways your case’s resolution can be accelerated.
Timeline of a Car Accident Lawsuit in Florida
Car accident lawsuits filed against the at-fault driver or party that resulted in severe injuries to you or your loved one need to commence within four years of the date of the car accident. This period is not extended or delayed while you pursue your rights under your no-fault insurance policy. Failing to meet this deadline (called a “statute of limitations”) can result in your case being dismissed without you receiving any compensation whatsoever.
- Within 20 days after you commence your case, the other party (the one who is accused of being negligent) will have filed a response to your initial pleading – the document in which you set forth the facts and law that you believe support your case. If the other party has any claim against you or believes he or she is entitled to raise any defenses, then the other party will raise these as well in his or her response. The court may have one or more hearings during this time period, too, if there are questions about whether your case is legally able to proceed.
- Once this initial stage is completed, your case will enter the discovery phase. This phase can last anywhere from a couple of months up to a year or more, all depending on the complexity of your lawsuit, the cooperativeness of witnesses and custodians of evidence, and the amount of evidence and witnesses in your case. The court will exercise some control over the discovery process to ensure your case does not languish unnecessarily, but your attorney is in a better position to help make sure the other party does not attempt to delay your case unnecessarily.
The discovery process exists to help ensure that each party has access to the evidence and witnesses that the other party intends to present and has an opportunity to review the same.
- After the discovery process is finished or is almost complete, your case is about ready for trial. By now, anywhere from six to nine months may have passed from the date you first commenced your lawsuit. There may be one or more pretrial hearings to address any legal issues that arose during the discovery process. Otherwise, your personal injury case will be set for trial for a time when you, the other party, and the court are available. The more complicated your case, or the busier your local Florida courthouse is, the longer it will take for your case to reach the courtroom.
Once a verdict or decision has been reached in your case, the other party may be ordered to pay you a monetary judgment for your injuries. Unless the other party appeals such a decision, he or she will be expected to begin making payments promptly to you. However, if the other party does appeal the decision, then your recovery of monetary compensation may be further delayed until the appeal is resolved.
A Word About Settlements
During this timeline, you and your attorney may pursue a settlement agreement with the other party to the lawsuit. A settlement is an agreement, typically one in which you agree to cease further prosecution of your lawsuit in return for the other party paying you a specific sum of money for your injuries and losses. In a settlement agreement, both parties typically give up any right they might otherwise have to appeal any issues in the case.
While a settlement agreement does typically result in you obtaining compensation sooner than you would have your case proceeded to trial, a settlement agreement typically requires you to waive or give up substantial legal rights. It is always best to speak with your attorney about any potential settlement before taking this “shortcut” to recovery.
Contact Parker Waichman LLP, Your Florida Car Accident Attorneys
Call Parker Waichman LLP at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529) for friendly but dedicated assistance in handling your Florida car accident lawsuit. Our team of experienced attorneys can help make sure you obtain the maximum amount of recovery possible, as quickly as possible.
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