How long do personal injury compensation claims take to settle?

Many of us will have learned from personal experience that the wheels of the legal industry often appear to turn relatively slowly. What can on the surface look like minor issues can often drag on for months and sometimes years. Consequently, one of the more common questions asked regarding personal injury compensation claims is how long they take to settle.

At the outset, it is important to realise that each claim will have its own particular characteristics, issues and challenges. Some claims may go through relatively quickly, where the third party admits liability at an early stage, while others may go to court. The following information is indicative but it does give you an idea of the complexity of different types of personal injury compensation claims.

Estimated personal injury compensation claim settlement timeframes

The following information is based upon the third party involved admitting liability and the victim recovering from their injuries in a “reasonable amount of time”. Consequently, this information should only be considered as guidance.

Type of claimEstimated timeframe
Road accident4 – 9 months
Work accident6 – 9 months
Slip, trip, fall6 – 9 months
Industrial disease12 – 18 months
Medical negligence18 – 36 months

We will now take a look at various factors which will impact how long it takes to pursue a valid and ultimately successful personal injury compensation claim.

Issues which will impact a settlement timeframe

At the outset of your personal injury compensation claim, which is traditionally pursued within three years of the injury, your adviser should be able to estimate a potential settlement timescale. This may be subject to change along the way but will give you a rough idea of how long it will take. There are numerous factors to take into consideration such as:-

Proving liability

One of the obvious stumbling blocks to the settlement of a personal injury claim is proving liability. If there is irrefutable evidence of liability the likelihood is that the defendant would seriously consider early settlement. They would have several issues on their mind such as:-

  • Reduced opportunity to negotiate a settlement if it went to court
  • Potentially large legal fees
  • Damage to their personal/business reputation

We often hear victims suggesting that personal injury solicitors are not required where liability is admitted at a relatively early stage. In reality, there is still the small matter of negotiating a settlement, with personal injury solicitors experienced in maximising compensation.

Sometimes victims are blinded by the initial “large settlement figure” which on further review may be significantly less than what they are reasonably entitled to. Allowing your solicitor to negotiate on your behalf removes the emotion and creates a simple business transaction.

Court action

If the case goes to court this can significantly extend the settlement period with additional evidence often required such as:-

  • Witness statements
  • CCTV coverage
  • Numerous medical reviews
  • Historic records demonstrating evidence of negligence

This then opens up the prospect of the defence submitting counter-evidence and lengthy legal jousting. On the flipside, if the case does go to court and the judge rules it should have been settled earlier, due to obvious liability, this can work in favour of the claimant.

Medical evidence

There is an air of confusion with regard to medical evidence used in personal injury compensation claims. Many people assume that it is simply a case of undertaking a medical review, the doctor producing a report which is then presented to the court. This is only part of the story!

When pursuing compensation for injuries received as a consequence of negligence, your solicitor may not proceed until there is a detailed medical prognosis or full recovery. The reason is simple – early settlement, where not all of the medical information is available, presents a risk of undervaluing your claim. When a compensation claim is negotiated, or settled by the court, this is traditionally on a “full and final” basis. This means that there is no opportunity for recourse if additional information were to arise at a later date.

In compensation claims involving complex medical evidence, where liability has been accepted, there is the opportunity for interim payments. These payments will be deducted from the final settlement, but ensure the delay is not to the detriment of the claimant.

Complex claims

While it is common for defendants to accept liability early, and negotiate a settlement, where there is irrefutable evidence, some claims are more complex. We often see scenarios where two or more parties have been accused of negligence, sometimes prompting lengthy legal wrangling. From the outside looking in, it may appear that all of the parties have been negligent to varying degrees. Proving the degree of negligence for each party can be challenging!

Quite often there are claims where the defendant could be deemed at least partially responsible for their injuries. Even in this scenario, the claimant could be eligible for significant compensation which would be adjusted for their “degree of responsibility” according to the Law Reform (Contributory Negligence) Act 1945. These situations can lead to drawn-out legal arguments with some requiring a judge to issue a final ruling.


As we touched on above, every individual personal injury compensation claim has its own challenges, characteristics and complexities. The above information should be used for guidance only, where liability is admitted at a relatively early stage, and settlement is agreed upon without delay. Where there is strong evidence of negligence, the vast majority of defendants will look at an early out-of-court settlement to save on potentially large legal fees.

We can only imagine the number of people who fail to pursue perfectly valid compensation claims to the bitter end. The delays can be frustrating, and legal arguments appear complex but unfortunately, this is part of the overall process. Your personal injury solicitor should be able to offer guidance along the way and put your mind at rest.

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