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How Long Does a Lawsuit Take to Settle?

Sarah Edwards | December 20, 2022

Sarah Edwards
Legal Expert
Sarah Edwards, BS

Sarah Edwards is a professional researcher and writer specializing in legal content. An Emerson College alumna, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from the prestigious Boston institution.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: A lawsuit can take months, or even years, to settle. Since there are so many types of lawsuits, it really depends on the type of case in question. If you’ve been sued for a debt, you can settle your lawsuit in weeks with the help of SoloSettle.

If you’re embroiled in litigation, you may wonder how long your case will take to resolve. Lawsuits are often complex, and it can be frustrating if your claim seems to be dragging on with no end in sight.

The time it takes to settle a lawsuit can vary significantly from case to case. Some lawsuits settle within a few months, while others go to trial and can spend years in court.

Learn more about the lawsuit settlement process and the factors that can impact the time it takes to settle a suit.

Why do people file lawsuits?

The purpose of a lawsuit can affect its settlement time. For instance, people who file personal injury claims usually seek monetary damages — they’ve suffered some physical or financial loss and need compensation to reimburse their medical expenses, lost wages, or property damage.

Personal injury claims typically involve an insurance company providing coverage for the defendant. A car accident victim may file a lawsuit against the defendant and their insurance provider for damages, or an injured worker may file a lawsuit against their employer’s workers’ compensation company to collect benefits.

A lawsuit can also occur when there’s a dispute concerning a contract. Contract disputes can involve two or more businesses, individuals, or a combination thereof. The purpose of a contract lawsuit may be to force a party to abide by the terms of the agreement or to seek financial damages from the party who fails to perform.

Lawsuits are also typical in family law, especially when a divorce occurs. Cases concerning divorce typically require a judge’s arbitration to work out details like child custody or alimony.

Last but not least, another typical type of lawsuit involves debt collection. When someone falls behind on paying off a financial obligation, usually to a bank or credit card company, there is a good chance they will be sued for the debt.

Regardless of the type of case at hand, it’s important to respond to your lawsuit to avoid losing the case automatically.

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Lawsuits can settle in and out of court

A lawsuit can resolve in one of two ways: an out-of-court settlement or a court judgment.

A court judgment will see the claim go in front of a judge and possibly a jury. The trial will allow both parties to the suit to present their arguments and evidence. Once the trial ends, the judge will issue their findings and a judgment in favor of one of the parties.

An out-of-court settlement is preferable to parties who want to resolve a dispute quickly, without a judge’s involvement. Most personal injury claims resolve through an out-of-court settlement. However, contract disputes and family law cases may end up in court if the parties cannot negotiate an agreement.

How does an out-of-court settlement work?

An out-of-court settlement requires both parties of the lawsuit to reach an agreement.

Typically, both sides have legal representation that handles the settlement process. There are four potential ways that the parties may come to a settlement agreement: negotiation, facilitation, mediation, and conciliation.

Negotiation involves both parties seeking to settle the dispute. They sit down and discuss the problems they’re attempting to resolve and try to reach an agreement. Sometimes, the parties will negotiate on their own without the involvement of lawyers.

Legal representation can help avoid emotional arguments between the parties. The lawyers negotiate on behalf of their clients and present their results when they complete the negotiation process. Often, lawyers will make counteroffers until both sides come to an acceptable agreement. Once the deal is signed, the case settles.

Facilitation is similar to negotiation but involves a third party, the facilitator, who joins the negotiation process and attempts to move both parties to an agreement.

Mediation is another settlement process that involves the assistance of a third party. However, mediation differs from facilitation in that both parties agree on the mediator, who is typically a lawyer.

The mediator will seek to understand each party’s arguments and desired outcomes. They’ll then attempt to negotiate an agreement that addresses the needs of both individuals.

Conciliation is similar to mediation in that a third party helps to settle the dispute to the satisfaction of both parties. However, in mediation, the parties in the suit propose their own solutions, while in conciliation, the conciliator recommends options independently.

The settlement process can be quick, long, or somewhere in between

As mentioned, lawsuits can have vastly different time frames depending on their nature and mode of settlement. With that being said, it’s possible to give a rough estimate of how long you can expect your suit to go on.

On average, resolving personal injury claims takes around two to five years. However, some settle much more quickly — less than a year, in some cases. Reaching a successful settlement will come down to how strong each party’s argument is and whether they’re willing to meet each other’s demands.

What factors can affect the time it takes to settle a lawsuit?

Case complexity is a significant hindrance to settling a lawsuit quickly. A case involving lots of evidence, multiple parties, or a team of various lawyers will likely drag on for a while. If expert testimony is necessary, it can take additional time.

If the legal team is working hard to negotiate a settlement, counteroffers can increase the length of the process. Every time a counteroffer is made, both parties must discuss the implications of accepting the agreement. They’ll then decide whether to take the deal or present another counteroffer with additional demands.

Another factor that impacts the time it takes to settle a lawsuit is whether both parties are willing to compromise. Cases that parties can’t resolve through negotiation or mediation go to trial.

Lawyers often require months to prepare for a case that goes to trial. They’ll need to assemble evidence, obtain witness testimony, consult with experts, and develop a viable case strategy. Trial cases also involve abundant paperwork and filings, and lawyers must schedule the trial according to the judge’s availability.

How long does it take to resolve a small claims court case?

Cases that go to small claims court take less time to resolve than full-blown lawsuits. Most small claims court cases complete within four to six weeks of filing.

Typically, cases that end up in small claims court involve small sums of money, usually $10,000 or less. Small claims courts hear a variety of lawsuits, including breach of contract, some personal injury claims, warrants in debt, and property damage.

Settle you debt lawsuit before going to court

If you’ve been sued for a debt, you can reach out to the creditor or debt collector suing you at any stage of the debt lawsuit process.

Follow these three steps to settle your debt after being sued:

  1. File an Answer into the case before your state’s deadline. This will help you avoid losing the case automatically, giving you time to negotiate a settlement. If you ignore a lawsuit, the court will most likely order a default judgment against you. With a default judgment, your creditor or debt collector can garnish your wages and seize your property. This is why it’s essential to respond to your debt lawsuit before anything else.

  2. Determine how much you can pay, and send an offer. You’ll have to analyze your finances and do some research to determine what a realistic offer may be in your situation. On average, consumers can settle a debt for 50% of the original debt amount, but it might not be so easy to get that kind of settlement. Start with a lower offer to give yourself room to counter and negotiate. You may go through several rounds of counter offers before reaching an agreement.

  3. Get the settlement agreement in writing. When you and your creditor or debt collector have reached a consensus, get the debt settlement agreement in writing. This will help you avoid any future mishaps if anyone changes their mind. Be sure to review your agreement carefully before signing.

SoloSettle takes care of the settlement negotiation process for you.

Check out this video to learn more about these three steps to settling a debt:

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