Starting a Personal Injury Claim
The time period after you have been injured in either a slip and fall or a car accident can be confusing and stressful. First and foremost, you should look after your health and get the medical attention you need. When you're ready, you can consider pursuing a personal injury claim for your injuries.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the first steps in pursuing a personal injury claim.
- I was hurt in an accident. How do I start a personal injury claim?
- How long do I have to notify a person that I am filing a claim for my personal injury?
- Is there a time limit in which I have to file my lawsuit to be compensated for my injuries?
- How soon do I have to file a claim against the government for my personal injury?
After prioritizing their well-being, accident victims can take a number of steps to help preserve the right to file a claim for personal injuries.
These steps are valid in most situations. There is no "right" order to take. If the claim to be filed is against the government or a government agency, you can learn how to proceed with our injury claims against the government page.
- Collect evidence, such as photographs and videos, that can point to who caused the accident and the damage sustained as a result.
- Write down everything that has happened to you after the accident. This may include medical bills, hospital visits, lost work/wages, etc.
- Be sure to get the names and contact information of any witnesses who may have observed the accident (and obtain a copy of the police report, if applicable). Contact these people to confirm their information is correct.
- Try to obtain insurance coverage information for any party involved in your accident, such as a supermarket's liability insurance (in a slip and fall case) or a driver's accident coverage (in a car accident case).
Dealing With the Car Insurance Company
Pursuing a personal injury claim often begins with dealing with insurance companies. Both your own insurance company and the at-fault party's insurance company may be involved.
Contact your insurance company promptly after an auto accident to report the incident. Your insurance policy may require this. Failing to do so could potentially jeopardize your insurance claim. You should also contact the at-fault party's insurance company to initiate a claim. This is often the first step in the claims process.
When dealing with the at-fault party's insurance company, you should be aware that their priority is often to minimize their own costs. They may use an insurance adjuster to investigate the car accident claim. The adjuster may attempt to minimize your car accident injuries or place blame on you. So, having a car accident lawyer to advocate on your behalf is beneficial.
Addressing Medical Expenses and Records
You may have significant medical expenses after a car accident or other incident leading to personal injury.
These can include:
- Immediate emergency medical care
- Ongoing medical treatment
- Any necessary future medical care to address your bodily injuries
Keep thorough records of all your medical treatment. These records will serve as evidence of your injuries and the costs associated with them. Medical records can play a key role in your personal injury lawsuit. They help to prove the severity and impact of your injuries. They may also be crucial in determining a fair settlement amount.
Car Accidents and the Role of the At-Fault Driver
In many personal injury cases, particularly those involving car accidents, the role of the at-fault driver is central to the claims process. The at-fault driver's behavior leading to the motor vehicle accident may be considered negligence or reckless endangerment. This could increase the potential compensation.
A car accident attorney can help:
- Establish the fault and negligence of the other party
- Gather evidence such as traffic surveillance footage, witness testimonies, and police reports
In some cases, such as hit-and-run incidents or accidents involving uninsured or underinsured motorists, your own insurance policy may be called upon to cover the damages.
Understanding the Deposition, Demand Letter, and Settlement Negotiations Process
As a personal injury case progresses, it may involve a deposition, a demand letter, and negotiations for a settlement. The deposition is part of the discovery process in which you, the plaintiff, as well as the defendant and potential witnesses, will be asked to give sworn statements about the incident. Your attorney will prepare you for this process.
Your attorney will also likely prepare a demand letter outlining the details of the accident, demonstrating the other party's fault, providing medical records detailing the injuries from the accident, and stating the damages you are seeking. This letter is sent to the at-fault party or their insurance company.
Once the demand letter is sent, negotiations for a settlement often begin. The goal is to reach a fair settlement. The settlement offer should adequately cover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other damages.
Dealing With Wrongful Death Cases
In tragic circumstances, a personal injury case may be a wrongful death case. These cases occur when a loved one is fatally injured as a result of someone else's negligence or intentional action.
In these cases, surviving family members may be able to file a lawsuit to seek compensation for:
- Medical costs
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of future income
- Loss of companionship
- Emotional pain and suffering
As with any personal injury case, a wrongful death case requires thorough documentation and a clear demonstration of fault.
Throughout the entire legal process, having a skilled and experienced personal injury lawyer at your side can be valuable. They can guide you through the claims process, advise you on dealing with insurance companies, help gather evidence and fight for the compensation you deserve.
Unless you are suing a government agency, you have no duty to notify a potential defendant that you intend to sue them. However, in some cases, informing a private person or company that you intend to escalate the matter by filing a lawsuit may incentivize the prospective defendant to settle with you more quickly. When it comes to making your intentions clear to the other party, you will probably increase your chances of resolving your claim by acting quickly and efficiently rather than if you delay.
Keep in mind that even if you notify people of your intent to file a lawsuit, this does not make it a legal requirement that you follow through on actually filing. However, it is important that you inform an adverse party that you have been injured as a result of their actions. By notifying the other involved parties, you can ensure that negotiations regarding settlement and/or arbitration can proceed at a pace you are comfortable with.
Yes, there is a time limit involved. Settling a personal injury claim can be time-consuming. If you fail to file your claim in a timely manner, you may find yourself denied from collecting any sort of compensation. There are laws on the books called "statutes of limitations" that give the maximum time (sometimes as little as one year from the date of injury) you have for starting a personal injury claim. If this period expires, you may be barred from ever suing to recover for your injuries. You should always check on your state's statute of limitations for your type of claim to ensure the time period does not pass you by.
As mentioned above, filing a claim against the government, a government agency, or a government employee differs from filing against a company or a private citizen. There is usually a shorter time period for you to initiate your claim. Depending upon your type of case and the state you live in, this period usually ranges between 30 days and one year. If you do not abide by these timelines, you may lose your right to recover any sort of compensation for your injuries or property damage.
Starting a Personal Injury Claim? Get Legal Advice From a Personal Injury Lawyer
Injuries from car crashes can be disruptive, complicating your life with:
- Medical bills
- Time away from work
- Vehicle damage
- Personal pain and suffering
Filing an injury claim, if caused by someone else's negligence or intent, can help bring balance and stability back. Hiring an experienced law office will aid with:
- Arranging for witnesses
- Filing the necessary paperwork
- Advocating on your behalf
Get a case evaluation from a local personal injury attorney today. Many attorneys offer free initial consultations, so you won't owe anything upfront.
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