If you sustained injuries in an accident and you’re thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit in Colorado, it’s normal to wonder how long your case may take. Knowing the claims process and how litigation fits in a personal injury case will help you make informed decisions on your journey to fair compensation for the aftermath of the accident.
The best way to understand the process and timeline in an accident case is to discuss it with an experienced Colorado personal injury lawyer. At Front Range Injury Attorneys, we fight for the rights of people injured due to someone else’s negligence throughout the state from our Denver law firm. Our dedicated lawyers have handled thousands of cases in Colorado and helped clients recover millions of dollars in financial relief for their injuries, medical bills, lost wages and other damages. Our clients are people, not case files. When you hire our law firm, you’ll enjoy the benefits of direct contact with an attorney from start to finish. To learn more about how we can help you, call or complete the contact form below for a free consultation.
Do I have a personal injury claim in Colorado?
Sustaining an injury does not necessarily mean you qualify for a personal injury claim under Colorado law. Most personal injury claims arise because your illness or injury was caused by someone else’s negligence. Negligence under Colorado law means a person or entity had a duty not to cause harm and failed in that responsibility through their action or failure to act. There are other personal injury claims that involve other conduct, such as intentional acts or strict liability for defective products, but the majority of cases resolved through insurance or litigation involve negligent accidents.
Car accidents are among the most common injury cases in Colorado. An example of an auto accident caused by negligence is a drunk driving collision. Drivers have a legal duty to operate their vehicles safely. That includes driving in a physical and mental state that allows them to safely drive the motor vehicle. By driving intoxicated, an impaired driver acts negligently and can be held liable for injured caused in an accident. An accident victim could pursue a case against the driver for physical, mental and economic harm caused by the wreck.
Some of the Colorado personal injury cases we handle at Front Range Injury Attorneys include:
- Auto accidents
- Commercial truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Slip and fall injuries
- Defective products
- Electric scooter accidents
- Uber and Lyft rideshare accidents
Personal injury timeline
The timeline for your personal injury claim will depend upon many factors. There are several steps that will take place in most accident cases, including:
- Seeking Immediate Medical Attention: Your health is paramount. Prioritize medical care and document everything for future reference. Seeking prompt medical care is vital to your case because it links your injuries to the accident and creates independent evidence of your condition. It also ensures you recover as quickly as possible and get your life back on track. Following your doctor’s orders is also important. Otherwise, the insurance company will argue your injuries were not that bad and under-value your case.
- Investigation and Discovery: You or your lawyer will investigate the accident, gather evidence, and analyze liability. This might involve interviewing witnesses, obtaining medical records, and reviewing insurance policies. Often evidence becomes more difficult to preserve and obtain the longer you wait to gather evidence or hire an attorney to conduct this work for you. This evidence is critical to proving who is responsible for your damages. In addition to evidence of the accident, your legal team will need to assemble medical records, expert testimony and other evidence of your injuries, lost wages and other damages.
- Negotiation and Settlement: Most personal injury cases settle before trial. Your lawyer will negotiate with the insurance company to get you fair compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any lasting disabilities. Typically this process begins by sending a demand letter with evidence of your damages and present the compensation you’re asking to make you whole. The insurance company will respond with an offer and negotiations will begin. Most personal injury claims resolve through a settlement with the liable party’s insurance company. The insurance carrier will ask you to sign a settlement agreement that exchanges a sum of money for your agreement not to pursue additional compensation or file a lawsuit.
- Filing a Lawsuit: If settlement negotiations fail, a lawsuit may be filed. This initiates the formal litigation process, leading to discovery, depositions, and potentially a trial. If your case goes to trial, a judge or jury will determine liability and award damages. However, trials are uncommon, and most cases settle beforehand. Your case may reach a settlement after filing a lawsuit but before trial reaches a verdict.
Deciding upon when to conduct each step depends on the circumstances of your individual case. Often, several steps occur at the same time. For example, your lawyer will begin investigating the accident shortly after you hire the law firm but you will also receive medical care at the same time. The investigation may be ongoing during negotiations with the insurance company to retain expert witnesses if your attorney believes litigation is necessary. Additionally, the extent of treatment can determine the timeline for your personal injury case. For most clients, negotiations will not begin until your treatment concludes and you reach maximum medical improvement. That can be a few weeks to a few years for catastrophic injuries like a traumatic brain injury. Your personal injury attorney will evaluate your case throughout to assess the best time to execute each step in your case.
What is the personal injury statute of limitations in CO?
The statute of limitations is the legal deadline by which you must file your personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation. If you file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations passes, you’ll lose your right to pursue compensation. This legal deadline is important to consider when negotiating a settlement because you must file a lawsuit before the deadline expires to protect your right to financial recovery.
Under Colorado law, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years from the date of your injury. If your claim involves a motor vehicle accident, you have three years from the date of the accident to settle or file a lawsuit. Some Colorado personal injury claims allow you as little as one year to file a lawsuit. If your claim is against a Colorado government entity, you must take special steps within 180 days to protect your right to pursue compensation.
Although two or three years seems like a long time to resolve your case, you want to act quickly to give your attorney maximum opportunity to develop your case and reach the best outcome. Evidence can become more difficult to obtain or use effectively as time goes on. Your attorney also needs time to collect medical records, assemble a persuasive demand letter, negotiate and reach a settlement. For example, if you reach maximum medical improvement after one year, your attorney cannot obtain all of the medical records and billing until your treatment concludes. It can sometimes take months to obtain medical records. Your attorney may need to hire an expert witness to prepare exhibits or testimony as part of the demand letter. The insurance company may drag out negotiations to try to frustrate you. In this example case you may not reach a final offer from the insurance adjuster until nearly two years from the date of the accident.
How long will my case take to resolve?
Every personal injury case has its own unique facts which will determine how long your case takes to resolve. Some of the factors that determine the length of your case includes:
- Whether there is a dispute over the facts or legal issues determining who is liable for your injuries
- The quality and type of evidence available to prove liability and your damages
- How long it takes to gather evidence of the accident and your damages
- The types and severity of your injuries and impact on your life
- Whether the defendant or insurance company is open to a fair settlement
- If your case enters litigation and requires a trial
Some personal injury claims resolve within a few months but cases involving catastrophic injuries often take years to resolve. The more complex the facts and serious your injuries, the more likely your case will take more time to reach its conclusion. A case involving minor injuries might reach a settlement within 3-6 months but if there is a dispute over who caused the accident, it may take more than a year to take your case to trial and reach a verdict. On the other hand, a collision resulting in permanent injuries may settle within 3-6 months because there is no treatment available for the permanent injury. Expecting your case to resolve in a defined time period that is common for similar cases may result in unnecessary frustration or motivation to settle your case prematurely for less than you deserve. Your personal injury lawyer will evaluate your case and help you understand the timeline specific to your accident claim.
Settlement or trial?
The most difficult decision for accident victims in any personal injury case is whether to accept a settlement offer or continue to pursue your case.
When you accept a settlement offer, you give up the right to pursue more money from the insurance company and the negligent parties who caused your injuries. In almost every case, the settlement agreement is the absolute conclusion to your case. A settlement guarantees a financial outcome without the costs or time to go to trial. On the other hand, if you accept a settlement and later discover your injuries are worse than understood when you settled, you cannot seek additional compensation. It is important to consider settlement offers with a full understanding of your injuries and their future impact as well as your economic damages such as lost earning capacity and medical bills.
Under Colorado law, you have the right to have legally valid claims decided by a jury trial but that does not mean it is necessarily the best path for your case. Trials are risky. Juries are unpredictable and may feel very differently from you about your case. If you lose or receive less than you feel you deserve, you cannot go back and accept a more favorable settlement offer. Trials are also expensive and the costs to get to trial may make a larger verdict worth less to you than a settlement offer. Nevertheless, a trial may be necessary because the liable party refuses to extend a fair settlement offer or disputes responsibility.
Your personal injury attorney will use experience and expertise to carefully evaluate your case to determine fair value and advise you on the best approach to resolve your case.
how our lawyers can help
The Colorado personal injury lawyers at Front Range Injury Attorneys are experienced advocates for accident victims just like you. Contact our law firm for a free consultation today. We’ll listen to the facts of your case and help you understand your legal rights. We can help you seek necessary medical care, investigate your case, handle the legal paperwork and insurance claim, pursue fair negotiations and litigate your case if necessary. Call our law office at 720.826.4399 or complete the contact form below to schedule your free case review with our Colorado accident attorneys.