If you’ve been injured in an accident, then you may need to file a personal injury claim to receive compensatory damages from the person or entity responsible for the accident. However, if you’ve never filed a personal injury claim before, then it may seem overly complicated. And if you have previously filed a personal injury claim, then you already know that it’s not something you want to do through trial and error.
To help you understand the process, we’ve provided this step-by-step guide to filing a personal injury claim. Let’s have a look…
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
Step 1: Seeking Medical treatment
The most important thing to do after being injured in an accident is to seek medical treatment. Some people assume that since they don’t feel any immediate symptoms after the accident, there is no need to be examined. While you may not feel any pain or discomfort immediately following the accident, you may find yourself in serious pain a year later.
Furthermore, foregoing medical treatment will work to your disadvantage in terms of being compensated for your injuries. The responsible party’s insurance companies will use the fact that you did not seek medical treatment following the accident to call into question the severity of your injuries and your claim for compensation.
Step 2: Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Sometimes you can settle small personal injury claims on your own. For example, if you are involved in a minor incident, and you are not injured or only require a one-time hospital visit.
However, if you have been involved in a major accident and/or treatment for your injuries is ongoing or involves multiple visits to the hospital, then you may need a personal injury lawyer to help you recover the entire cost of your medical treatment.
Even if you choose not to hire a lawyer, you should at least contact one to discuss your claim. There may be certain requirements that you may not be aware of, such as the statute of limitations, which limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. No matter how small you think your accident or injury was, you may find out that your claim will be more complicated than you thought.
Step 3: Setting Up a Claim
The third step in filing a personal injury claim is for you or your attorney to inform the individual who is liable for your injuries, and their insurance provider, that you plan to file a claim. This can sometimes help to get your claim settled quickly.
Step 4: Gathering of Information and Getting Treated for Your Injuries
The next step will be to continue to receive medical treatment and to gather as much information about your injuries and other damages as possible. In other words, this is the time to collect medical records and invoices from your doctors, to communicate with your doctor to learn the full extent of your injuries, find out what continuing medical treatment you will require, collect invoices and/or get estimates on the damage to your personal property or vehicle, keep records of lost wages, etc.
Step 5: Negotiating a settlement
Your attorney can make a demand for compensation to the person responsible or their insurance company before or after filing suit.
Negotiating a personal injury claim is a lot like negotiating a transaction with a used car dealer. Each side has their own idea of what your claim is worth. You (the claimant) know how much you are willing to accept, and the insurance company (the respondent) knows how much (or how little) they want to invest. But, neither of you really knows what the other is thinking. So, to arrive at an amount that is agreeable to both sides, you enter into a process of “back and forth” with offers and counter-offers until either a compromise is reached or suit is filed and the case continues to trial.
Step 6: Settlement Is Reached or a Lawsuit Is Filed
If your negotiation has reached a settlement that you will be happy with, you and your attorney will accept the offer. However, if the respondent does not respond with an acceptable offer, you may choose to file a lawsuit to seek the amount compensation you need.
Bear in mind, however, that there are legally prescribed limits regarding how long you can wait to file your personal injury claim. If you don’t file a claim before this statute of limitations runs out, you will be forever barred from filing a personal injury claim for this accident and will have lost your chance to be compensated for your injuries and losses.
Step 7: Filing a lawsuit
Many personal injury cases are settled without going to trial. However, if the previous steps do not result in a settlement, a lawsuit will be necessary. Understanding the trial process will help you make better decisions and increase your chances of succeeding in your personal injury lawsuit.
The process is as follows:
- A lawsuit is initiated by filing a complaint for damages, which is a written document that includes your claims and how much money you are seeking to receive as compensation.
- During the litigation period, information is exchanged between the parties in the lawsuit. This will often require you to give a deposition, which simply means testifying under oath regarding injuries and having it recorded for later use at trial.
- Once the case goes to trial, the evidence will be presented to the court and the jury will weigh contested issues of fact and decide which evidence they find credible.
- Finally, if you prevail, the judge or jury will decide how much compensation to award you. It is a commonly held misconception that when you file a personal injury lawsuit, the judge decides your case. But, unless the case is tried to the bench in what is called a “bench trial”, it is usually a jury who will decide not only if you will prevail in your lawsuit but also how much you will be compensated.
If you have specific questions regarding the filing of personal injury claim, contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you set up and file your claim for compensation. Call 504-581-4892 or fill out our free, no obligation case review form.