How long does a lawsuit take?

The length of a case varies greatly from case to case.   A case that has complex issues, many parties, many witnesses or extensive medical treatment can take considerably longer than a simple car accident case.   On average, it will take 2-4 years from the time the case is started to the trial.   Of course, a case can settle at any time.   You can follow the progress of your case by using the table below.   In fact, if you're not sure what state your case is at, you can ask your attorney, or check the status of your case for free at the Office of Court Administration website.

Step Explanation Time Range
Investigation Your attorney will gather information to see if you have a case.   This can include speaking with witnesses, having experts look at what injured you, getting police and accident reports and copies of your medical records. 0-3 months
Notice of Claim If you may be suing a municipality such as NYC, your attorney will file a Notice of Claim.   This must be done within 90 days of your accident and will usually delay your case by 1-3 months.   If your accident happened more than 90 days ago and you have not filed a Notice of Claim, see a lawyer immediately as it may be possible to file a late notice of claim. 0-3 months
Starting the lawsuit Once your attorney has determined that you have a case, he/she will file and then serve a Summons and Complaint which starts the lawsuit.   You may be required to sign a verification of the Complaint. 0-6 months
Answer The Defendants are required to serve an Answer in response to your Complaint within 20-30 days of receiving the Complaint.   It is very common for the defendants to ask for a 30-day extension of time to serve their Answer. 30-60 days from service of the Complaint
Bill of Particulars Your attorney will serve a very detailed description of your accident and injuries in a document called a Bill of Particulars along with authorizations for the other side to get your medical records, copies of photographs and witness information in a Response to Demands   It is very important that you cooperate with your attorney's office to supply the information necessary since your case will not move forward until these documents are served
0-3 months after Answer is received
Preliminary Conference Once the Bill of Particulars is served, your attorney will file for a Preliminary Conference.   The purpose of this conference is to make out a timetable for the completion of your case.   You do not appear at the conference, only the attorneys go to court on that day. 30-60 days after the Bill of Particulars is served
Depositions Your Deposition or Examination before Trial (EBT) is sworn testimony taken outside of court regarding your accident and injuries.   Your attorney will meet with you before the EBT to prepare you.   In addition, your attorney will take the Deposition of all defendants and possibly some non-defendant witnesses.   While all EBTs can often be done on one day, the more depositions required, the longer the process will take. 6-8 weeks after the Preliminary Conference
Physical Examination The defendants have the right to have you examined by a doctor or doctors that they hire.   Their time to schedule the examination usually begins after your deposition is complete.   It is important that you go to this examination as scheduled.   If you have any trouble keeping the appointment, let your attorney know as far ahead of time as possible. 45-60 days after your deposition
Discovery Motions In the Bronx, the court prefers that all disputes over discovery (authorizations, documents, photographs, depositions, physical examination, exchange of witness and expert witness information, etc.) be resolved at a Preliminary Conference and/or a subsequent Compliance Conference.   This is faster and easier.   Some disputes, however, cannot be worked out and must be decided by the judge through a formal Motion.   Examples of this can be where the defendant wants medical, psychiatric or criminal records not directly related to your case.   Such motions can delay your case for as much as 6-12 months. Between Answer and Note of Issue
Note of Issue Filing a Note of Issue lets the court know that all discovery is complete and your case is ready for trial.   It starts the Trial Calendar clock ticking towards your trial.   6-24 months from the time the lawsuit is started
Summary Judgment Motions Motions for Summary Judgment can be made by either side at any time but are usually made after the Note of Issue is filed.   Motions to Dismiss can also be made by the defendants at any time.   While it will usually take 6-12 months to get a decision on these motions, it will not necessarily delay your case if they are made after the Note of Issue is filed because they will usually be decided before your case rises to the top of the Trial Calendar. Within 90 days of filing the Note of Issue
Pre-Trial Conferences While you are waiting for your case to climb to the top of the Trail Calendar, the court will schedule one or more Pre-Trial Conferences (PTC).   The whole purpose of the Pre-Trial Conference is to try to settle your case.   Unless the judge orders otherwise, you do not appear at the PTC.   If the judge who discusses the case with your attorney and the defedants' attorneys believes that it might settle, he/she will schedule additional PTCs until it either settles or it appears that it cannot settle. 4-6 months after filing the Note of Issue
Trial When your case will go to trial is one of the more predictable time periods in your lawsuit.   Right now, the Trial Calendar is about one year and three months from the time that the Note of Issue is filed.   If NYC, NYCHA or NYCTA or any of their subdivisions are a party to the suit, add at least one year to that time.   On the other hand, if you are: at least 70 years old, if you are suing for malpractice, if you are not likely to live until the trial, or if you are financially crippled by the accident or on welfare because of the accident, you may be entitled to a Special Preference.   This will move your case up by 6-12 months. Average of 15 months from filing the Note of Issue
Appeal Appeals taken before a trial will not usually delay your trial.   Your case can continue during a pre-trial appeal.   Any party may appeal a judgment or a verdict. Post-trial appeals from the Bronx Court usually take from 1-2 years. 1-2 years from verdict