More than a year after the injury and months of litigation, we mediated and settled a Georgia car accident case for a client yesterday and the client commented to me, “I had no idea it would take this long to settle my case.” While it used to be the exception that a case would go into litigation, it is becoming more and more common due to changing insurance company tactics. The most frequently cited statistics show that 90% of cases settle before trial, but that does not mean they do not get litigated. Many clients want to know “how long will it take to settle my case in Georgia?” Lets go through the steps of a injury case.
After the medical care is completed, an Atlanta car accident lawyer will gather the records and prepare a demand package to send to the insurance carrier. As I wrote in this piece answering the question “how much is my case worth”, the value of an injury case varies wildly but in the pre-suit phase, the nature of the insurance company is determinative of whether it gets worked out. When i evaluate a case, it is based on a number of factors but the value is the same no matter who the insurance company is. The insurance company involved in that case though will decide if they are going to do the right thing and pay fair value or if they will fight it based on policy. Therefore, the insurance company and the adjuster truly decide if your case will settle before having to file suit.
In the injury lawsuit that we resolved yesterday, the client broke her pelvis in October 2008. Her medical care was finished by February 2009 and we sent the demand that month. Liberty Mutual insurance refused to make an offer on the case and contested their liability. We filed suit on the case In May. We took 5 depositions during discovery and conducted extensive document reviews. Once the six month discovery period was over, I requested that the Judge place us on the trial calendar. In Georgia that gets you a place in line to try your case. Some courts move quickly but in my experience it takes 2 months to get to a pre-trial hearing and then another 3-4 months to get an actual moving trial date. At the state court level in Georgia, most Judges will not give you a set trial date. You have a place in line and if your number is close enough the Judge will warn you that you can be called to trial on as little as 2 hours notice. This is not a convenient process.
The process is definitely annoying but it is important to know that if you do not want to be taken advantage of by the insurance company, you have to resolve to be patient. If the insurance company you are dealing with regularly fights valid claims just to see if you have the fortitude to litigate, then prepare in advance for a process that could take up to a year. Just because you litigate the case does not mean you have to try it, but you do need to understand that in order to get justice you may have to litigate the case.