After a severe burn injury has been sustained, an important question that burn injury victims often have is how long a lawsuit will take against those who may be responsible.
If the burn injury occurred at work, the employee usually will be entitled to compensation from his or her employer under workers’ compensation laws. These laws are designed to provide compensation to workers quickly, although this is not always the case.
Additionally, if there are others liable for causing the injury (such as other contractors or the manufacturers of defective products), the employee may bring a lawsuit against all of such people or entities.
If the burn injury does not occur at work (such as to those who live nearby a refinery that explodes), a lawsuit normally is required to get those responsible to pay. Naturally, those injured will want to recover compensation as soon as possible, particularly if they are not able to work and may be experiencing financial pressure.
Factors Affecting the Length of Burn Injury Lawsuits
In a burn injury lawsuit, there will be a number of factors that will impact how long the case will take, including:
- How willing the defendants and their insurance companies are to enter into negotiations for a reasonable and fair settlement,
- The rules and procedures in the litigation process concerning the dates by which certain filings will be made,
- The amount of discovery and depositions that take place in the litigation process, and
- The status of the recovery of the burn injury victim.
The Willingness of Defendants and Insurance Companies to Enter into a Settlement
In most personal injury cases, defendants often deny all liability at the outset of the case. They frequently also question the damages that have been sustained. In many cases, defendants carry insurance, and the applicable insurance companies often control the process for defendants. These insurance companies typically have only one goal – to minimize the amount of money that they pay.
In many litigation cases, as discovery progresses and the facts and evidence become clear, if it looks like the defendants are likely to lose at trial, they, and their insurance companies are often willing to engage in productive settlement negotiations. Typically, defendants and their insurance companies will not enter into meaningful settlement negotiations for many months or even a year or more after a case has been filed. It’s also common that defendants and insurance companies will not engage in meaningful settlement negotiations until immediately before trial.
Often defendants and their insurance companies try to prolong litigation as long as possible in order to increase financial hardship on burn victims and their families. We seek to fight these wrongful delays. In some cases, just before trial, when defendants and their insurance companies realize that they are likely to lose and that the trial date will not be postponed, they will agree to discuss an appropriate settlement. At this point, if anything less than full compensation is offered, clients are often better off simply proceeding to trial.
The Rules and Procedures of Litigation
The rules and procedures of litigation have specific time periods by which documents must be filed. For instance, defendants will have a certain number of days to file an answer to a complaint, and each of the parties will have specified time periods upon which the must respond to motions and other matters. These time periods necessarily extend the length of a case.
The Court’s Docket (Caseload)
Another function of the time period for litigation concerns the docket of the court in the jurisdiction where the case is filed. In some jurisdictions where the caseload is less heavy, a trial may take place sooner. In jurisdictions with heavy caseloads a trial may not take place for two or more years after a case is filed.
The Condition of the Injured Person
While those injured in burn cases will want to see resolution of their case as soon as possible, in some circumstances this is not the best for them. Instead, it is usually best not to engage in settlement negotiations until the burn injury victim’s medical condition has stabilized, and doctors are reasonably confident about the medical future of the person concerning their injuries.
This is because when a settlement or trial takes place, there’s only one chance to recover for all past and future damages. In making a case for damages, we will often consult with physicians, economists, therapists, and other professionals to understand the likely medical treatment, course of recovery, physical and emotional impairment, and other future aspects that are compensable. In order to recover for these damages, we need to prove that they are likely to be sustained. Seeking a recovery before a person’s medical condition has stabilized on the belief that future medical treatment and surgeries will not be needed can result in less than the full amount of compensation due.
The Amount of Discovery and Depositions that Take Place
Every burn injury case will differ in terms of factors such as causation and damages. The more severely than a person is burned (and the more significant that there injuries and damages are likely to be), and the more complex a case is, the more likely it is that more discovery and depositions will take place, and that the longer the litigation process is likely to be.
Average Time for a Burn Injury Lawsuit
While every case is unique, burn injury cases tend to take between one and three years. At our firm, we do our best to keep litigation on track so that it is advantageous to our client.
Find Out How We Can Help
Once we learn about your case, we can explain the process for seeking recovery against those who may be responsible for your injuries.