Legal Guide

Reasons Why Lawsuits Take So Long

Personal injury issues and other lawsuits take varying amounts of time to settle. While some are straightforward, others are complex and take more time to resolve. Sometimes, such issues take years to resolve. 

The extent of a plaintiff's harm and treatment plays an essential role in a personal injury lawsuit's duration. However, no civil lawsuit can escape similar legal processes. 

This article outlines reasons lawsuits can take unimaginably long.

Civil Litigation Entails Similar Processes

The processes include:

Retaining a Lawyer

Plaintiffs must search for and retain the right lawyer in any given case. You cannot afford to be lackadaisical with your choice of attorney because compensation is not only based on the facts of the matter. It also depends on the lawyer's skill, expertise, experience, and potency of argument. 

Investigating the Claim

After interacting with the plaintiff, a hardworking attorney will extensively investigate the plaintiff's claim. It will help the lawyer have more insight into the case,” says Attorney John Yannone of Price Benowitz Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP 

Attorneys deploy their resources for some or all of the following:

  • Collect information about the accident or incident
  • Gather details of initial treatment records
  • Gain insight into medical records
  • Learn about every available insurance coverage 
  • Write a representation letter to potential defendants
  • Put all concerned parties on notice, if necessary

Although it is unethical for personal injury lawyers to control the medical treatment of their clients' injuries, there is no gainaying that they have experience in this aspect and can help clients make informed decisions. However, your physician's advice supersedes every other suggestion. Your medical provider's advice benefits your healing and settlement value of your claim.  

Completing Treatment

Most personal injuries cause permanent scars on the victim. Such severe and permanent injuries have the potential for higher compensation. However, a physician or expert may be unwilling to testify to the permanence of an injury after a few weeks of treatment. 

Hence, personal injury attorneys have to wait until after the completion of treatment to make a demand. In some cases, additional treatment has no substantial effect on the healing. At that point, the plaintiff has reached “maximum medical improvement (MMI).” 

It means any remaining disability at that point has become permanent. It takes six months to one year to reach the MMI. 

Reaching MMI does not necessarily elongate the lawsuit’s duration as some other works are simultaneously going on during the medical treatment. So, it does not mean that all parties are idly waiting and counting time. 

Pre-Suit Negotiations

Most less-severe injury cases take the "pre-suit" route. It means settling the claim without formally filing with the court. This process has three primary advantages for both parties. 

One, it ensures timely compensation of plaintiffs. It also helps attorneys to get a fee quickly. Thirdly, it saves insurers the legal fees to hire a defense counsel if the case proceeds to trial. 

However, most larger cases go via the trial route. To avoid paying colossal compensation, insurers thoroughly investigate the plaintiff (past mishaps and harm) and the facts surrounding the incident. Insurance companies hire lawyers to “zealously” defend severe injury cases in court. 

Formal Proceedings

If negotiating with an insurer does not bring any positivity, the victim may need to file a complaint to signal the commencement of the formal proceedings.

After filing initial pleadings (Complaints and Answers), the discovery stage sets in. This stage takes a longer duration and energy. Generally, it includes interrogatories, dispositions, and developing witness lists to share with defense counsels. 

Appropriate parties must answer interrogatories and questions in writing under oath. Conversely, dispositions are questions that people answer orally under oath. After analyzing the testimony, the parties can more suitably determine the issues to sort during trial. 

Numerous court systems demand matters to pass through arbitration and/or mediation for objective parties to review the same evidence that will likely suffice at trial. Due to the crowded nature of the courts, the authorities believe that by receiving a third party’s evaluation of the issue, insurers and plaintiffs can redefine their expectations about the matter’s value and negotiate from a more practical viewpoint. The notion is that a compromise and settlement are likelier under these conditions.

However, the case will proceed to trial if settlement negotiations fail. The counsels for the two opposing parties will appear at a trial call. Depending on the venue and jurisdiction, it may take several months before the judge presides over the case. 

Similarly, the testimony amount will affect the duration of the case presentation to the jury. Then, the jury will decide whether the plaintiff's counsel has proven their case. If so, they will determine the appropriate monetary damages for the case. 

The plaintiff "winning" the case does not signal an automatic end of the case. The accused can appeal to a higher court if they are not pleased with the awarded compensation. Apart from factual issues that the defendant cannot raise at the higher court, they can premise their argument on other legal concepts. 

Other Crucial Factors

Case Type

Theoretically, the court frowns at preferential treatment in any civil case. Yet, the lawsuit type can be a crucial point in the duration it takes to complete the process. 

For instance, it takes a longer duration to deal with medical malpractice cases. The court may have to review extensive documentation, contact the dozens of named defendants, the medical experts for the plaintiff, and the defense lawyers to depose and structure trial testimony. Mere logistics can cause such cases to run for years. 

If you compare this scenario to a mere rear-end car accident case, you will quickly see a vast difference. For the rear-end accident, the liability is clear with ample coverage. It also has minimal treatment. Logically, this scenario will take far less time than the medical malpractice example we considered in the preceding paragraph. 

Geographical Location

Civil litigation experiences a low turn of the wheel of justice due to differing contrasting interests. The issue is often between local governments and the public on resource allocation to cases. Hence, geographic location primarily influences a civil case’s ability to get through the court system. 

You can expect a quicker turnaround in instances where resources are readily available. Cases tend to be slower in places where civil cases take a backseat to more pressing ones.

For instance, getting a jury in New York takes an average of four years. However, the duration is shorter in other courts. In fact, the case may not go beyond six months in less populated locations. 

The Options You Can Explore 

Our discourse above shows no one can escape the delay of civil cases. We will discuss the aftermaths of this delay on litigants. 

Option One: Wait it Out

You may decide to wait until the completion of the process. Since lawsuits are time-consuming, some plaintiffs dump the burden on their lawyers and focus on their businesses. This option is the best for the most significant net recovery. 

Option Two: Settle for Less

This option means you want to accept a “low-ball” settlement offer because almost all parties want the case to end. Insurers admire this option because they will pay less than if the case proceeds to a lawsuit. 

Option Three: Lawsuit Loans

Plaintiffs who want to decline “low-ball” offers have had access to lawsuit “loans” for the past two decades for their lawyers to get an improved settlement. These specially structured financial systems permit a plaintiff to sell a part of the probable recovery before settlement. Consequently, plaintiffs promise to repay the advance and then some, depending on the case duration.  


No one can accurately determine when a civil lawsuit will end. The factors mentioned in this piece are some hindrances to a quick resolution. However, despite the system's imperfection, it offers citizens a chance of justice. 

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