Getting hit by a truck can be a painful and financially difficult situation. If you or someone you know has been involved in a truck accident in New Mexico, you may be entitled to compensation, and you should know how long the legal process takes so that you can plan accordingly.
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While each truck accident case is unique, with several factors that can delay or expedite the process, there are general steps that truck accident lawsuits move through. Here is the timeline for lawsuits in New Mexico—and how long, on average, you can expect each step to take.
How Do Lawsuits Differ from Settlements?
One important fact to note about most automobile accidents is that they never arrive at a lawsuit. Instead, a settlement is reached, where the at-fault party pays restitution to the injured party to end the litigation. This outcome is often desirable for the at-fault party, as going to court can accrue significant legal fees, only to arrive at the same result… and perhaps some embarrassing disclosures during discovery. Ultimately, most vehicular accident cases are settled before they ever see the inside of a courtroom.
The time that settlements take varies based on the extent of the injuries suffered and the case’s complexity. When liability is straightforward and injuries minor, settlements can often be reached in three months or less. When injuries are significant or liability in the case is complex or challenging to prove, settlements can take a year or longer.
Lawsuits generally only occur in a truck accident when both sides cannot agree on a settlement. Even if the case does proceed to a trial, defendants will often settle before the trial comes to a conclusion. In the somewhat uncommon event that a lawsuit progresses through a full trial without a settlement, the case moves through the following steps: sending a demand letter, filing a lawsuit and serving a complaint, completing discovery, the trial itself, and the appeals process once the trial is completed.
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What Are the Steps of a Truck Accident Lawsuit? A Timeline for Lawsuits and Other Legal Actions
#1. Sending a Demand Letter
The first step in legal action, whether you’re aiming for a settlement or to take things to a trial, is to draft and send a demand letter. Even though this is the first step in the process, it can cause significant delays. You don’t want to send a demand letter before the full extent of your injuries and the cost of treating them is understood. You also want a full accounting of any lost wages, car repair, and other expenses. If a demand letter is sent before those numbers are entirely known, it may result in a settlement that is less than what the injured party deserves.
One of the best reasons to contact a lawyer early in this process is that your lawyer will help you understand the full scope of expenses you need to consider and help you know the best time to complete and send the demand letter. Overall, crafting and sending the demand letter generally takes from a few weeks to a few months to complete, primarily based on the extent of your injuries.
#2. Filing a Lawsuit and Serving a Complaint
Once a demand letter is sent, the party who received it has a few weeks to decide how they want to proceed. If they opt not to grant the relief requested in the demand letter or enter into negotiations for a settlement, then you and your lawyers will need to file a lawsuit.
Gathering the information to file the complaint with the court takes time, though it overlaps with the information gathering process for the demand letter. Once the complaint is complete, filing with the court usually takes a few minutes.
Once the complaint is filed with the court, the plaintiff must “serve” the defendant or provide them with a copy of the lawsuit, which generally takes a few weeks to complete.
#3. Completing Discovery
Once the lawsuit is served, the trial will advance. The next stage is discovery. Unlike on legal TV shows, there are relatively few surprises in most court cases. That’s because the discovery phase involves both sides requesting information from the other that they can use to build their case. Consequently, when the case goes to trial, both sides know everything the other side knows (from a factual perspective).
The amount of time that discovery takes depends on the case’s complexity and the degree to which each side challenges the other’s actions during discovery. Generally, discovery lasts from a few months, but it can sometimes take a year or longer.
#4. The Trial
Of the cases that make it through discovery, many end up settling before the trial itself begins. At this point, the defendant has had time to review all available evidence and evaluate the strength of their claim. Sometimes, that evaluation leads them to settle. Other times, they may believe that they have a strong case, but the risk of getting an unfavorable verdict from a judge or jury, plus the cost of trial litigation, makes settling a cost-effective move.
The good news is that if the case does proceed to a trial, it generally only takes a day or two to complete in the case of a truck accident.
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#5. The Appeals Process
If a party disagrees with the verdict in the case, then they may be able to appeal the decision to a higher court. Appeals aren’t very common in accident lawsuits, especially relative to early settlements. However, when they do occur, you can expect a single level of appeals to increase the time to resolution by six to twelve months.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer in a New Mexico Truck Accident Case?
One of the best reasons to contact a lawyer when you’re injured in a truck accident is this: They can help you understand what the timeline for lawsuits will look like in your particular case. That provides peace of mind and can help you focus on the things that need to get done, like healing and taking care of your family. Your lawyer can also help you avoid costly legal missteps that could extend the timeline for your lawsuit or even weaken your case.
Please note that this article was created for advertisement purposes, and it does not constitute any contractual legal relationship, nor imply one.