Unfortunately, a legal case takes more than an hour like you see on TV crime dramas. I wish they only took an hour. Small cases in West Virginia that may involve property dispute, breach of contract, a simple divorce – cases like that move through the court system pretty quickly – often times in just a few months to a year.
In serious personal injury cases – explosions or coal mine accidents, drilling rig accidents, power house or chemical plant accidents – those can wind up in the court system for as much as a year to two and half years depending on the judge’s docket. A judge doesn’t have one case to handle the way they do on TV, they’ve got hundreds. So the cases move through the system like a pipeline and the judge can only handle so many cases. If the pipeline gets a little bit clogged up, the judge may be only be able to try so many cases in a year. If he gets a lot of settlements, he or she will be able to move the cases more quickly. But I think as a rule of thumb, in a year to two and half years, your case should be resolved unless there is some very difficult problem with the case. Generally speaking, its going to take that much time or little longer in the very complex cases.
For example, cases involving airplane or helicopter crashes, certain types of explosions or electrocution cases and those can take longer. You also should be aware that there are a fair number of sophisticated defendants – large corporations who are in litigation and they sometimes, once they look at your preliminary work, will ask that the case go to what’s called an early mediation. Which is an attempt by the parties using an uninterested third party to see if the case can settle early. And that happens more and more.
It also points out why we talk so many times about the importance of hiring a lawyer who’s got experience. An experienced lawyer knows that it’s important to prepare a case early so it is clear from the outset. Experience is really important when you’re choosing a lawyer.
It takes more time to do the background work – the research on a case. You don’t see that on the TV. With a helicopter crash, the NTSB is going to be there the very next day. They are going to have multiple investigators. Once they narrow down the problem they may take the whole helicopter or a part of the helicopter such as the engine, to their laboratory where they will further investigate.
We handled a case where a fuel controller essentially starved the helicopter of gas and killed the occupants and pilot. It was at an NTSB laboratory outside of West Virginia that that discovery was made. The NTSB is very thorough and they can take easily up to a year before they will release their findings. You’ve got to be patient, because that information is critical to the success of that family’s case.
Every case is different but it’s a pretty safe bet to say that your case will not be taken care of in just an hour. If you have any questions, call the Segal Law Firm at (855) 344-9100.