Timetable of the typical personal injury case

The timetable below is a general guideline for the usual small to medium personal injury cases. The actual time for each case will, of course, vary.

Time frame: Activity:
Week 1:
  • You take your case to your personal injury attorney’s office—and you have your first interview with your attorney.
  • The Contingent Fee Agreement is explained and presented by your attorney for your review.
  • Your attorney gives you instruction sheets and information booklet.
  • Your attorney fills out intake forms and acquires general information.
  • You sign authorization forms, including medical, employment, and others.
  • Your attorney’s secretary prepares your file.
Weeks 2-4:
  • The Contingent Fee Agreement is executed.
  • The initial investigation of your case begins. Your attorney will:
    • Visit the scene of incident.
    • Contact the witnesses and interview them by telephone or in person.
    • Consider whether or not to employ an investigator.
    • Explore the availability of medical or health insurance.
    • Obtain police and other governmental reports.
    • Have photographs of scene, objects, injury, etc. taken.

    Your attorney will also:

  • Send a representation letter to appropriate insurance carriers or potential defendants.
  • Send a Notice of Claim by certified or registered mail, if appropriate in your jurisdiction.
  • Consider the decision to retain an expert.
  • Obtain newspaper clippings.
  • Obtain initial medical bills.
  • Request emergency report from hospital.
Weeks 4-8: Your personal injury attorney will:

  • Obtain further medical reports and bills.
  • Obtain remaining reports such as Secretary of State, police, etc.
  • Obtain names and contact in writing all potential witnesses, requesting notification of any changes in address or phone number.
  • Send appropriate information including medical reports, medical bills, police reports, and other supporting documents to the insurance adjuster.
  • Discuss your case by telephone with the insurance adjuster.
  • Meet with you to determine recovery progress.
  • Retain expert(s), if necessary, considering both liability and damage factors.
Weeks 8-12 Your personal injury lawyer will:

  • Check with you to gauge progress of recovery.
  • Make sure all medical bills are in your file.
  • Make sure all medical reports, including office notes, have been received.
  • Obtain a narrative report from primary physicians, if necessary.
  • Complete investigation of incident.
  • Obtain reports from experts whom the attorney has retained and/or discuss results of their investigation.
12 weeks plus Your personal injury lawyer will:

  • Determine your recovery status.
  • Keep track of your progress and follow up with you on medical information.
  • Obtain initial loss of wage or loss of income information from your employer.
  • Review file and diary file for 2-4 week periods to maintain status with you.
  • Meet with your appropriate family members, such as your spouse, to ascertain your recovery and credibility.
  • Talk with your doctor or physical therapist, if necessary, to ascertain status of your recovery progress.
  • Maintain telephone and written contact with insurance adjuster regarding your progress.
  • Maintain running tally of medical expenses.
2-6 weeks post-recovery or near complete recovery Your attorney will:

  • Meet with you to determine whether or not complete, or near complete, recovery and medical end result has taken place.
  • Evaluate settlement range by reviewing medical bills, medical reports, and other evaluation analysis.
  • Determine whether there are any liens or subrogations on your claim such as workers’ compensation, medical payments, health payments, loans, or other claims.
  • Meet with you to discuss settlement range and obtain your authority to begin settlement negotiations.
  • Review file in its entirety.
  • Obtain final lost wage documentation.
  • Ascertain from the adjuster whether the insurance carrier requires any additional information, reports, etc.
  • Confirm with insurance adjuster that all medical reports, medical bills, and lost wage documentation have been furnished.
  • Prepare demand or request for settlement to send to adjuster.
4 weeks after demand has been sent to ins carrier: Your personal injury attorney will:

  • Check to see if the insurance adjuster has responded to request for settlement.
  • If not, your attorney will send a courteous letter asking for a response to request for settlement, giving a 2-week deadline.
6 weeks after demand has been sent:
  • If the adjuster still has not responded, your attorney will call and request an exact date on which the response can be expected.
  • Diary file and calendar.
8 weeks after demand has been sent:
  • If there has been no offer, your attorney will interview you and instruct you about the necessity to file suit.
  • Your attorney will then:

  • Review your file in its entirety
  • Draft the Complaint and Summons.
  • File the suit on your behalf.
  • Send a copy of the suit to insurance adjuster and to claims manager of the company.
  • If the adjuster has made a reasonable offer, your attorney will call you and discuss the offer. Some states require lawyers to always inform their clients of offers made in writing.
2 weeks after offer has been made:
  • If the offer is reasonable with room to move, your attorney will respond by telephone or in writing with reduced demand.
  • Negotiations will continue for the next several weeks, if necessary, to conclude settlement.
  • If settlement is accomplished, your attorney will ask for the check and release.
  • You will execute the release immediately and your attorney will explain to you the disbursement of settlement proceeds.
  • Your attorney will then:

  • Pay all unpaid medical bills, liens, and disbursements.
  • Pay check with closing letter.
  • Send thank you letters to appropriate patties, such as witnesses, etc., and send the release and courteous letter back to adjuster.
If suit has been filed, 4 weeks after suit: Your attorney will:

  • Ascertain whether the answer has been timely filed.
  • If no answer has been filed, determine why and investigate advantages of filing for default.
8-16 weeks after suit: Your personal injury lawyer will:

  • Initiate discovery by use of interrogatories and requests for production of documents.
  • Follow the pretrial requirements of court.
  • If interrogatories and requests for production of documents have been received from defense attorney, review them immediately with you.
  • If interrogatory answers have been received, schedule depositions.
4-6 months after suit: Your personal injury lawyer will:

  • Double check that all discovery has been completed or at least initiated within required time frames.
  • Send requests for admission to delineate both liability and damage issues.
  • Designate experts, if necessary.
  • Conduct any remaining depositions.
6 months after suit to trial date: Your personal injury attorney will:

  • Review your file periodically to determine status in court.
  • Complete all necessary steps to get case to trial as soon as possible.
  • Prepare witnesses and exhibits for trial.
  • Take video depositions of witnesses, including medical witnesses, if necessary.
  • Prepare trial notebook.
  • Make sure defense counsel has received all necessary information about experts.
  • Prepare Motions in Limine, if appropriate.
  • Contact defense attorney and/or adjuster to determine whether out-of-court settlement is possible.
  • Contact court from time to time to ascertain time frame for trial.
  • Prepare for trial.