How Long Does a Car Accident Case Take in Illinois?

A car accident case may seem like a straightforward issue at first, but if a case proceeds to a trial it can take quite a long time to reach a conclusion to the matter. If you or a loved one face a car accident case in Illinois, it is vital to know what to expect from the process and have a realistic idea of how long it will take to conclude the case.

The Pre-Trial Process

The first step in a car accident case is for the plaintiff to serve an official complaint to the defendant. The plaintiff’s car accident attorney can help draft this initial complaint and file a copy with the courthouse. The complaint will generally stipulate the plaintiff’s claimed damages and a preliminary list of evidence that indicates the defendant is responsible for those claimed damages. The complaint will also include the amount the plaintiff is seeking in compensation and provide directions for the defendant to respond.

If the defendant acknowledges his or her fault for the accident, he or she may simply agree to pay for the stated damages and be done with the issue, but virtually every defendant will attempt to fight a complaint regardless of their fault. A defendant may agree to settlement negotiation with the plaintiff, and this can bring a speedy resolution to the issue for both parties.

Settlement Negotiations

If a defendant agrees to negotiate a settlement, the two parties choose a time and location to meet and discuss the case. Generally, settlement is in the best interests of all parties involved. A trial is long and expensive for everyone, whereas a settlement can offer a relatively simple end to the issue. A defendant may be willing to pay a bit more than originally anticipated in exchange for a quick ending to the matter, and the plaintiff may be willing to accept less than expected if it means securing compensation sooner than expected.

Settlement could potentially conclude after a single meeting, or the two parties may need to reconvene for several negotiation sessions before they reach a mutually agreeable settlement. However, if the two parties cannot agree to settlement terms, or if the defendant refuses to budge on his or her settlement offer, the case may proceed to a trial.

Discovery and Depositions

The trial process starts by each side sharing evidence with each other in a process called discovery. This ensures no surprises in the courtroom and fair access to available evidence for both parties involved. The discovery process is very time-consuming. It can take days or weeks for the parties to exchange all of their information and review it all before the trial. Additionally, the courthouse where the case will unfold may not have a judge available for several weeks or even months in some cases, further prolonging an already time-consuming ordeal.

After discovery but before the trial, the parties involved will conduct depositions, or question-and-answer sessions recorded as sworn statements. Each side has the right to depose the other side’s participants and witnesses, and the trial phase will review their answers and verify them in a court of law.

The Trial

The trial itself could be over in a few hours or it may take days or weeks of multiple sessions before a jury can deliver a verdict. Ultimately, many factors can complicate a car accident injury lawsuit, and taking a case to trial is usually the most time-consuming method of reaching a resolution. Additionally, the defendant may not start paying the plaintiff’s compensation until well after the trial concludes. A personal injury lawsuit for a car accident can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years to reach a result. The exact timeframe depends on the complexity of the case, the number of parties involved, the clarity of fault for the accident in question, and the amount of damages in question.