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How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?
March 8, 2024

How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?

When you've been injured due to someone else's negligence, a personal injury lawsuit can be a crucial step toward recovery and compensation. However, one of the most common questions we hear at Arye, Lustig & Sassower, P.C. is, "How long will my personal injury lawsuit take?" The truth is that the timeline for a personal injury case can vary widely based on several factors. Understanding these factors can help set realistic expectations for your lawsuit journey.

What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit in NYC?

A personal injury lawsuit in New York City (NYC) is a legal action initiated by an individual, known as the plaintiff, who has suffered harm due to the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of another person or entity, referred to as the defendant. This type of lawsuit falls under the broader category of tort law, which aims to provide compensation for physical injuries, emotional distress, and financial losses resulting from the defendant's actions or failure to act.

Purpose of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

The primary purpose of a personal injury lawsuit in NYC is to seek financial compensation (damages) for the injuries and losses the plaintiff has endured. These damages can cover a wide range of expenses and impacts, including but not limited to:

  • Medical bills and treatment costs
  • Lost wages and future earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Property damage, if applicable

Common Types of Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury lawsuits can arise from various incidents or accidents. Some of the most common types include:

  • Car accidents: Involving injuries sustained in traffic collisions, which can include drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists.
  • Slip and fall accidents: Where individuals are injured due to unsafe conditions on someone else's property, such as icy walkways or wet floors without proper warning signs.
  • Medical malpractice: When healthcare professionals provide substandard care that results in harm to a patient, including misdiagnosis, surgical errors, or medication mistakes.
  • Workplace accidents: Injuries that occur in the workplace or as a result of job-related activities, often leading to workers' compensation claims as well.
  • Product liability: When defective or dangerous products cause injury, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers can be held liable.

How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take?

When you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else's negligence, navigating the aftermath can feel overwhelming. A personal injury lawsuit offers a pathway to securing the compensation necessary for recovery and moving forward. However, one of the most pressing questions on the minds of those affected is, "How long does a personal injury lawsuit take?"

Pre-Litigation Phase

Before a lawsuit is formally filed, there’s a critical period known as the pre-litigation phase. During this time, the injured party (plaintiff) and their attorney gather necessary medical records, accident reports, and any other evidence that supports the claim. During this time, the attorneys at Arye, Lustig & Sassower, P.C. will seek to identify the responsible parties and their insurance coverage. We will typically put them on notice of your claim and begin the initial negotiations. We will also seek to file any Notices of Claim that are often required, especially for claims against government agencies (such as the City of New York, New York City Housing Authority and New York City Transit Authority). Because the Notices of Claim are usually required to be filed only a short time after the claim arises (often only 90 days), it is extremely important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

Filing the Lawsuit

Once the decision to file a lawsuit is made, the legal process formally begins. Drafting and filing the complaint might take a few weeks, but it’s relatively swift compared to other stages of the lawsuit.

Discovery Phase

The discovery phase is where both parties exchange detailed information about the case. This includes a so-called “bill of particulars” (where the plaintiff’s attorneys amplify or expand on the allegations contained in the complaint by providing details about the case), requests for documents, and depositions (oral testimonies under oath). Discovery is crucial for building a strong case, but it’s also time-consuming. Depending on the case’s complexity and the court’s schedule, discovery can last from six months to a year or more.

Motion Practice

During or after discovery, either party may file motions with the court to resolve the case or narrow the issues for trial. These motions can include requests to dismiss the case, compel evidence, or summary judgment motions, which ask the court to decide the case based on the evidence presented without going to trial. Motion practice can add many months to the timeline; and appeals that may be filed by parties dissatisfied with the court’s rulings can further increase the time until a case is resolved.

Settlement Negotiations

Most personal injury lawsuits are settled out of court. Settlement negotiations can occur at any stage but often gain momentum after discovery, once both sides have a clear understanding of the case’s strengths and weaknesses. The negotiation process's length varies, potentially extending the lawsuit by weeks or months. However, settling at this stage can also significantly shorten the overall timeline. At Arye, Lustig & Sassower, P.C. we recognize that our ability to push our adversary to offer a reasonable settlement often depends on our ability to convince them that we will be successful if the case has to proceed to trial. Therefore, it is important for us to prepare all of our cases as if they were going to trial. That allows us to be confident in the eventual outcome and to negotiate from a position of strength. Although it is common to refer to “out of court” settlements, settlements can occur before, during or after a trial or other court proceedings.


If a settlement isn't reached, the case goes to trial. Securing a trial date can take time due to court backlogs, and the trial itself can last from several days to several weeks. The unpredictability of trial schedules and outcomes can add considerable time to the lawsuit’s resolution.


Either party can appeal the trial's decision (or any other court rulings leading up to the trial), introducing a new layer of complexity and extending the timeline further. The appeals process can take several months to years, depending on the specifics of the appeal and the appellate court’s schedule.

Personal Injury Lawsuit Estimated Time Lines

The duration of a personal injury lawsuit can vary significantly depending on various factors, but generally, it can take anywhere from a few months to several years. Here's a general breakdown:

Short Duration: Some personal injury cases can be resolved in as little as a few months (3-6 months), especially if the facts are straightforward, the liability is clear, and the parties are willing to settle quickly.

Moderate Duration: A more typical timeline for resolving a personal injury lawsuit, including the discovery process and negotiations, might range from one to three years. Most cases fall within this timeframe, accommodating the complexities of evidence gathering, liability disputes, and possible settlement negotiations.

Long Duration: In complex cases involving severe injuries, disputes over liability, or when cases go to trial, the process can extend beyond three years. Cases that require appeals after the trial (or during other phases of the case) can prolong the duration further, sometimes taking several additional years to reach a final resolution.

It's important to remember that each personal injury case is unique, and various factors, including the jurisdiction's legal process, the case's complexity, and the parties' willingness to negotiate, can influence the overall timeline. Although we would like to resolve all of our cases quickly, the reality is that the work necessary to maximize the potential recovery for our clients takes time. If we have to choose between settling our clients’ cases quickly but cheaply – or putting in the time and work to obtain a full recovery for our clients, we will seek to obtain the best recovery for our clients.

Ready to Take Action? Connect with Arye, Lustig & Sassower, P.C.

Navigating a personal injury lawsuit can be complex, but you don't have to go through it alone. If you're seeking justice and compensation for your injuries, Arye, Lustig & Sassower, P.C. is here to help. Our experienced team is dedicated to guiding you every step of the way, ensuring you understand your rights and options. Contact us today for a consultation, and let's work together towards the resolution you deserve. Your journey to recovery and justice starts with a single step—reach out now.

Personal Injury Lawsuit FAQs

Navigating the complexities of a personal injury lawsuit can be daunting for many individuals. Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) that aim to clarify common concerns and provide valuable insights into the process:

How long does a personal injury lawsuit typically take?

The duration of a personal injury lawsuit can vary widely depending on several factors, including the complexity of the case, the severity of injuries, the willingness of both parties to negotiate, and the court’s schedule. Generally, a lawsuit could take anywhere from a few months to several years to resolve. Simple cases might be settled in a few months, while complex cases involving severe injuries and disputed liability can take several years.

What types of damages can I recover in a personal injury lawsuit?

Victims of personal injury can typically seek to recover two types of damages: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are intended to compensate for both economic losses (like medical bills and lost wages) and non-economic losses (such as pain and suffering). Punitive damages, which are much less common, aim to punish the defendant for particularly reckless or negligent behavior.

Can I still file a lawsuit if I was partially at fault for the accident?

Yes, you can still file a lawsuit if you were partially at fault for the accident. New York generally follows a "comparative negligence" rule, meaning that the compensation you receive will be reduced by your percentage of fault. Your contribution to the accident does not bar you from seeking compensation for the portion of damages for which you were not responsible. However, for construction accidents with claims under Labor Law §240 involving falls from scaffolds, ladders or other elevations, or involving workers struck by falling objects, a worker’s recovery is not reduced by any comparative negligence unless the accident was caused solely by the worker’s own fault.

How soon after an accident should I file a personal injury lawsuit?

It’s important to file a personal injury lawsuit as soon as possible due to the statute of limitations, which sets a deadline for filing a claim. In New York, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is three years from the date of the accident.

However, there are many exceptions. For example, in cases involving municipalities and public authorities, such as the City of New York, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), and  New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), the deadline to commence a formal lawsuit is only one year and ninety days from the date of injury. Those cases generally include additional conditions precedent, such as filing a Notice of Claim, that are required to be completed within only ninety days from the date of injury. The same abbreviated deadlines also apply to cases against the New York City municipal hospitals operated by the New York City Health & Hospitals Corporation. So, it is vital to consult with a lawyer to understand specific deadlines for your cases. Failing to file within the required period typically results in losing your right to sue.

What if the responsible party’s insurance company offers me a settlement?

While accepting a settlement can provide a quicker resolution to your case, it’s essential to consult with a personal injury lawyer before accepting any offer. Insurance companies often offer settlements that are lower than what you might be entitled to recover. A lawyer can help negotiate a fair settlement or decide if proceeding to trial would likely result in a more favorable outcome.

Can I file a personal injury lawsuit if the injured person is a family member who cannot file themselves?

Yes, in certain circumstances, you can file a lawsuit on behalf of a family member who cannot file themselves due to severe injuries, disability, or being a minor. Legal guardians, parents, or personal representatives may have the right to file a claim to seek compensation on their family member's behalf.

How is fault determined in a personal injury lawsuit?

Fault in a personal injury lawsuit is determined by evaluating evidence, including accident reports, witness statements, photographs of the scene, medical records, and expert testimony. The goal is to establish negligence on the part of the defendant, which requires proving that the defendant owed a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused damages as a result.
Navigating a personal injury lawsuit requires understanding these key aspects and working with experienced legal counsel. At Arye, Lustig & Sassower, P.C., we are dedicated to guiding our clients through each step of the process, ensuring they are well informed and positioned to achieve the best possible outcome for their case.

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