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How Long Does it Take to Settle a Semi-Truck Accident?

How-Long-Does-it-Take-to-Settle-a-Semi-Truck-Accident

Plaintiffs who have filed a lawsuit in the wake of a semi-truck accident are often pressed to settle the case since they are in need of the money. The plaintiff has likely been injured and has incurred significant medical bills. At the same time, they may not be able to work and have little to no money coming into their account. Alternatively, the lawsuit could take the form of a wrongful death suit and the family that is left behind may be suffering financially without the deceased. In any event, a common question asked when the lawsuit is filed is how long it will take to settle, if it settles at all. The answer according to a truck accident attorney, like many things in the legal arena, is that it depends on how the case unfolds.

In order to answer this question as best as possible, it is vital to understand the motivations of the defendant in the case. The most important thing to take into account is that a lawsuit will not settle overnight. Instead, the defendant needs a reason to settle the case, which may take time to materialize. The nature of a settlement is that of a strategy of risk reduction. In other words, the defendant is often calculating the amount they may have to pay should the case go to a jury and multiplying it by the percent chance they believe the jury has of ruling against them. They will then try to settle the case for an amount that is below that, preferably by a significant amount. A plaintiff is making a similar calculation and then balancing it with whether they have an immediate need for the money. The time it takes to reach a settlement will ultimately be an intersection of both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s interests.

It is also vital to understand the timelines that accompany a case in the court system. Those who expect the legal system to move at lightning speed will find themselves disappointed. It is almost always true that cases move through the legal system at a deliberate speed. There is an entire process that must be followed once a complaint is filed with the court. The defendant will have a certain time to answer the complaint. Then, there will be a variety of motions that are filed, including a motion to dismiss the case. The defendant has no real motivation to settle the case so long as there is a motion to dismiss pending in front of the court.

Once the case moves through these motions, the two parties will then proceed to discovery. This can be a drawn out process where the two parties will end up requesting information from each other. The information that is learned in discovery can become part of the record at trial and can form the basis for either side’s case. Discovery also takes time to complete as there are numerous rounds of it and the parties will often engage in legal fights over what can be a part of discovery. This process can take upwards of a year. Defendants often have hope that they can limit the record of a case by being aggressive in fighting for limited discovery. This requires the time for judges to rule on the discovery issues.

Oftentimes, it is once discovery is complete that the parties will begin settlement negotiations that may stretch right up until the time that trial starts. At this point, each party may have a better idea of the strength of their case and their chances of prevailing at trial. With their attorney, they will take a hard look at how the case has transpired so far and what is going to come before the court at trial. The defendant may realize that their case is not airtight and they have some legal risk. As a result, they may try hard to reach a settlement agreement in order to avoid a jury that could be sympathetic to the plaintiff.

All of this adds up to a process that can take several years when dealing with a semi-truck injury lawsuit. Cases will rarely go to trial soon after the complaint is filed. Instead, you can expect that it could take two years or even more until your case is in front of a jury. Even after there is a date set by the court, it is often subject to postponements and delays. While some cases may settle in as little as six months, others may take up to three years to reach an agreement.

Remember that the defendant will rarely make their best offer first in settlement negotiations. They will likely be trying to see how little a plaintiff will accept. If they know that the plaintiff is desperate, they may try even harder to give an initial lowball offer. As a result, a truck accident settlement lawyer may have to go through protracted negotiations in order to reach a figure that is acceptable to the plaintiff.

It is critically important that plaintiffs not jump at the first settlement offer because they are desperate for the money. They will likely be leaving money on the table. Once a case gets closer to trial where it looks like a defendant may have some risk, it is the defendant who may be the one who is desperate to settle the case. In other words, the closer the case gets to trial, the more the balance of power may shift in favor of the plaintiff. Thus, there are incentives to wait out the negotiations. The only time a defendant may reduce or pull a settlement offer is it was made prior to discovery and then that process has unfolded in a manner that favors the defendant.

A semi-truck accident lawyer can help you navigate the litigation process and can give you more information about how the settlement process works, including additional details about the timing. Settlement negotiations are something that an individual plaintiff may have difficulty doing on their own without the help of an experienced attorney.

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