How Long Will the Case Take?
There is no precise answer to this question. The length of time a claim remains open depends primarily on the recovery of the injured plaintiff. It is impossible to assess accurately the amount of damages necessary to fully and fairly compensate an injured claimant until after they have recovered or have reached a point where they are fixed and stable and future consequences of the injury can be ascertained with reasonable precision. In cases where attorneys are involved and the injuries are severe, it is not uncommon for cases to remain open for years after the injury.
While fractured bones typically heal within three months of an accident, damage to soft tissue, including tearing and stretching of ligaments and resulting scarring, often remains symptomatic for six months to one year. An injured plaintiff should not gamble with their recovery by attempting to settle a claim too early in reliance upon an optimistic opinion by a treating physician. Sometimes physicians mistakenly inform their patients that they will be over their symptoms within months, when in fact the injury may be permanent or symptomatic for years.
The importance of knowing the true nature and extent of your losses before attempting to settle a case is that, as a condition to the payment of money to the injured person, the injured person will be required to sign a release covering the at fault motorist and his insurance company. This release will forever bar any further or additional claims. In other words, you only get one bite out of the apple.
If liability is disputed and a lawsuit is required to be filed, the case likely will remain open for several years. When a case is filed in King County, the Clerk of the Court assigns a trial date which is approximately 18 months from the date of filing. Sometimes that date is continued at the request of either the parties or the court.