How long a claims process for a car accident in Phoenix, Arizona will last is dependent on a number of variables including but not limited to the following: (1) extent and duration of your injuries; (2) whether you ultimately agree to the amount being offered or (3) whether the at-fault insurer agrees to the amount you are offering. While each case has a different time variable, all cases can be viewed in terms of duration by a singularly specific event: filing a Complaint. This event divides the case in terms of duration. Before filing a lawsuit (Complaint), the case is considered to be in “pre-litigation” which is what most people consider the “claims process” as set forth in this question.
The time duration for the claims process before filing the lawsuit is primarily dependent on the nature and extent of your injuries. It is difficult to understand the value of a claim if the injured person does not know the nature and extent of the injuries. The continued treatment adds to the delay of understanding the value of the claim, which is often dependent on not only knowing the full extent of the injuries but the full value of the medical expenses. Once treatment is completed and the full extent of the injuries are understood, the attorney will have to obtain the client’s records and bills in order to prepare a demand. Once this is done, the resolution of the claim is entirely dependent on both sides reaching an agreement on the value of the claim. If they cannot reach an agreement, the only solution for the injured party is to file a lawsuit.
After filing the lawsuit, the case is considered to be in “litigation.” The distinction between pre-litigation and litigation provides a generic timeline for the case. Before filing a lawsuit, there is no set time frame for resolving a case. The only deadline for any case is a statute of limitations and that deadline only provides for the time a lawsuit must be filed. It does not provide a deadline for resolving a case. Thus, if the case is in pre-litigation, the time frame for resolving it is entirely dependent upon both sides (plaintiff and defendant) on agreeing to a settlement amount. There is no deadline for this and the time it takes to resolve the matter before filing a lawsuit is entirely dependent on the parties’ agreement to do so. There is no impetus or rule for either side to do so by any set deadline (other than the deadline to file the claim- which is on the plaintiff to do).
After filing a lawsuit, the court imposes some general deadlines that provide a general perspective on when a case in litigation should theoretically resolve. The Arizona Supreme Court implemented new scheduling rules that took effect on July 1, 2018. One of the reasons these rules were created was to alleviate the usually slow resolution of cases, specifically to implement rules for different types of cases, primarily dependent on the financial value of the case (though not entirely). While these rules were implemented for several reasons, the primary reason was to differentiate between low-value cases and high-value cases and more importantly, the amount of time and resources needed to resolve these different cases. One effect of these rules was to shorten the resolution times of the cases based on the inherent value of the cases. The courts would now instruct the parties to treat the litigation process in accordance with the initial determination of the value of the case. Discovery, which is the process of obtaining and producing evidence during the course of litigation, would now be limited based on the initial determination of the value of the case. Thus, discovery, which would often last months and years in cases, are now theoretically constrained to presumptive time limits. Discovery for Tier 1 cases (cases valued at $50,000 or less) should be completed within 120 days of the parties engaging in an early meeting. Early meetings are to be conducted within 30 days of a defendant filing an Answer to the Complaint (which must be done within 20 days of being served the Complaint). Discovery in Tier 2 cases (More than $50,000 to $300,000) should be completed within 180 days of the early meeting. Discovery in Tier 3 cases (more than $300,000) should be completed within 240 days of the early meeting. While these deadlines certainly do not require the case to be completed by the dates set forth for each tier, it does give the parties some idea of when the case should be resolved. Only cases in litigation provide some indication of when a case should be done, but even then, nobody can accurately inform a client when their particular case will resolve. More importantly, settlements are agreements to resolve a case between both a plaintiff and a defendant, and settlements can be accomplished anytime- before, during or after a case is litigated. A case can resolve anytime, provided both sides agree to it. This type of resolution has no timeline. Once filed, a case, depending on the tier, has a theoretical timeline of approximately 120 days, 180 days and 240 days (for discovery). This means the case will not likely last longer than approximately 2-6 months from the time discovery ends. Again, even these deadlines are theoretical because setting a trial date after discovery is entirely dependent on not only the parties’ and their attorneys’ schedules but on the court’s schedule.
Personal injury law can be extremely complex as there are many variables that are involved. Not only is it important to retain the right law firm, but it's critical that the law firm knows how to handle these matters to the fullest extent. If you have a question regarding a personal injury claim in Phoenix, Arizona, please feel free to reach out to us at 602-494-4800. Or, you may also visit us online at https://zacharassociates.com.