About a month ago, a deadly two-car crash occurred at the intersection of South Broadway and Keokuk Street in St. Louis, Missouri. The accident was so gruesome that both the cars were found in a non-salvageable condition.
In the aftermath, one individual lost their life, whereas four others were severely injured (albeit with stable vital signs). Victims would have been able to file a lawsuit seeking compensation and justice.
This is a classic civil case that is complex, given there could be more than one party to blame. Since Missouri’s filing window is open for five years from the date of the incident, no lawsuit may have been filed yet. Victims (and their families) require time to recover and grieve their losses.
However, should they choose to start a legal battle, what is the possible timeline for a fair settlement? This article will discuss St. Louis personal injury lawsuits, in general, exploring the time taken to settle.
The General Lawsuit Timeline
Thousands of civil court cases are filed in the US District Court Eastern District of Missouri every year. For instance – nearly 1,700 different civil cases were filed during the financial year ending March 31st, 2022.
Every St. Louis personal injury case must proceed through numerous distinct phases, each affecting the time taken for settlement. These distinct phases include –
- First, the victim(s) must get back to a stable condition following the accident’s immediate aftermath. Even in case of a wrongful death, the family needs time to grieve and recover.
- The next phase is to look for reliable St. Louis personal injury lawyers who can help the victim navigate the complex legal landscape.
- The attorneys will launch a thorough investigation to build a strong case. This will include reviewing medical records, gathering evidence from the scene of the accident, interviewing eyewitnesses, etc.
- Once armed with crucial evidence and facts, lawyers will deliver a demand letter to the liable party’s insurance provider. This way, the insurer will know of the victim’s intention to pursue a personal injury claim.
- Now comes the discovery process where both parties exchange documents and dispute facts/evidence. This may take anywhere from 6 to 12 months.
- In the next phase, parties try to avoid a trial through some private or confidential negotiation. The process may also take a couple of extra months.
- TorHoerman Law states that the case will go to trial if a settlement has not been reached during the negotiation phase. Just getting a trial scheduled in the court docket can take months. Then, negotiations may take another couple of months before settlement.
- At the end of the trial, the presiding judge will give their verdict after hearing arguments from both sides. If the argument falls in the plaintiff’s lot, a fair compensation amount will be decided.
- Depending on the verdict, the plaintiff will be entitled to receive regular installments or a lump-sum payment.
Factors That Affect Settlement Timeline
Every personal injury lawsuit filed in St. Louis court is different. Though there is no exact way to generalize the timeline for settlement, the following factors do impact the time taken –
The Type of Personal Injury Lawsuit
Certain personal injury lawsuits are (by nature) more complex than others. Let’s take the example of a medical malpractice lawsuit. This is precisely why the state of Missouri has established a shorter statute of limitations for these cases (two years).
Compared to other personal injury cases, medical malpractice lawsuits require mandatory expert eyewitness testimony. Healthcare providers (defendants) are rarely willing to settle the case until there’s been a lengthy discovery and pre-trial process.
So, a St. Louis personal injury lawsuit settlement timeline for medical malpractice may take years as opposed to slip and fall accidents (resolved in a few months).
Severity of Injuries
A second factor affecting a St. Louis personal injury lawsuit outcome is the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries. Minor injuries like simple bone fractures or shallow wounds take less time to heal. This means the lawsuit will also take less time to settle.
However, if a plaintiff has sustained catastrophic injuries that have life-altering effects, including paraplegia and spinal cord or brain injuries, the settlement may take longer.
Number of At-Fault Parties
Certain personal injury lawsuits are straightforward, generally, with a single liable party involved. If such is the case, investigation and discovery do not take too long, and the litigation is not considered to be complex.
However, certain lawsuits (especially those involving 18-wheelers or trucks) are highly complex since there are mostly several parties at fault. This increases the time taken for discovery, thereby delaying the settlement timeline.
How Many Cases Go to Trial?
In most personal injury cases, both parties are unwilling to drag the outcome to a trial. There is not only the inherent risk of losing all chances at compensation, but the process is money and time-consuming.
Hence, a bulk of the civil cases the St. Louis jury tackles each year only head to trial if the lawsuit is consolidated into a class-action, multidistrict litigation, or mass tort. However, exceptions exist where no negotiation is made between the parties, necessitating a trial. That would be an estimated five percent of the total cases.
Claim Settlement is a Serious Business
When it comes to lawsuits (be it civil or criminal cases), Missouri’s St. Louis is no stranger to heaps of them. After all, the city was ranked the most dangerous in the US due to natural disasters, road accidents, and homicides.
Numerous families are even choosing to move out of the St. Louis region altogether, particularly those in the eastern part. However, for those who stay and experience the ill effects of a personal injury, claims settlement means serious business.
If the plaintiff’s claim is expensive, the case takes longer to settle. The only consolation during such an ordeal is the support of an experienced attorney. It is the best course of action to avoid costly mistakes and build a strong case.