What Happens When You Make A Personal Injury Claim?

Accidents are part of life. Try as we do to avoid them, they happen anyway. If you get in a car, slip and fall or other type of accident, you have to decide whether to make a claim to recover compensation for your injuries and losses.

Some accident victims fear making a claim. Sometimes this comes from not knowing what happens in a personal injury claim. But there is little to fear, especially if you have a lawyer’s help. After suffering an injury, making a claim starts the process of obtaining what the law entitles you to receive as damages.

The Claims Process

The law says that if you get hurt because of someone’s negligent or intentional act, you are entitled to receive compensation for your injuries and losses. But whoever caused an accident probably will not voluntarily pay your damages. You must make a claim. Here is a summary of the claims process.

Investigate The Accident and Prepare Your Case

After you hire a lawyer, your lawyer will start the first steps in the claims process, which are investigating and documenting the accident. The accident investigation typically includes reviewing police reports and other documents, photographing the accident scene, your injuries and the vehicles involved (in the case of a car accident), and obtaining statements from all witnesses. Depending on the complexity of your case, it can also include using experts to help determine what occurred. By conducting a proper investigation, your lawyer can determine the strength of your case. Documenting the accident provides the evidence and other information needed to help your lawyer obtain a settlement for you, or if no settlement can be reached, will help in a trial.

Document Your Damages

Damages are the monetary, property or other losses you suffer from the accident. Damages can be economic, such as lost wages or medical bills, or non-economic, such as pain and suffering. All your damages will be documented in order to obtain the best possible recovery for you.

To document the medical expenses from your accident, your attorney will contact all doctors, hospitals and other health care providers involved in your accident and obtain medical bills and records.

Your attorney will also document all other damages you are entitled to receive money for due to your accident. It is vital to remember there are many types of damages you can receive money for in addition to medical bills, such as lost wages and pain and suffering. Because there are many categories of damages, you must not rely on what an insurance adjuster says you can recover. Insurance adjusters work for the insurance company — not you — and their job is to pay you as little as possible. Your own attorney will tell you the true value of your claim.

Settlement Negotiations or Lawsuit

Once you have recovered to the point where it is possible to determine the full extent of your damages, negotiations can begin to achieve the best possible result for you. In most cases, the negotiations will be with an insurance company.

What happens next depends largely on what the insurance company does. It can pay the amount sought, bringing the process to an early, satisfactory end. Most personal injury claims are resolved this way, through the back-and-forth communications in which your attorney and the insurance adjuster negotiate and reach an agreed compromise. But the insurance company can also deny the claim and refuse to pay. They may dispute the facts, the seriousness of your injuries, the amount of your damages or some other aspect of the claim.

If the two sides cannot reach a settlement, the claims process may need help from someone who is impartial. This can be a court, arbitrator or mediator. Mediators help the parties reach a solution. Courts and arbitrators review all the facts of the case and then decide who is right.

Filing a lawsuit can occur at any time in the claims process. In the court procedure, your lawyer files a statement of your claim and damage in court. This is called a “Petition” or “Complaint.” The other party is allowed to tell their side in a document called an “Answer” (they are given a certain period of time to respond). In the court process, both sides exchange information about the claim, including asking written questions of the other party (interrogatories) or getting oral testimony from the other party or a third party (depositions). This stage of the process is called “Discovery.”

Throughout the court process there are many opportunities for both sides to reach an agreed settlement. These include discussions, settlement meetings set by the court, and settlement meetings the parties can agree to voluntarily. The vast majority of claims filed in court result in settlements before an actual trial.

Only a very small percentage of matters filed in court go all the way to a trial. If that happens then each side explains their position to a judge or jury. The judge or jury is empowered to make decisions about the other side’s conduct, whether they acted wrongly, and how much money they must pay you.

Distribution of Money

After your case has been resolved — whether by settlement or a court awarding damages — your lawyer will then obtain the money from the insurance company, deduct the legal fees and other costs, and pay you the remaining amount, thereby ending the claims process.

As the foregoing shows, accident victims have little to fear in making a claim for damages. After all, this process has been used successfully for hundreds of years to resolve personal injury claims and pay accident victims for their damage. With a lawyer’s help, a claim can easily be made and the best case presented so that you receive the maximum compensation for your injuries.

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In most instances, in the aftermath of a work-related injury you have the right to seek monetary benefits under state workers’ compensation laws, so that you can recover lost wages and medical expenses.

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We understand that family law matters can be highly emotional, and that different solutions work for different clients.

Many people have the idea that when we file a lawsuit, we are suing the person. We are not. We are suing the insurance company that the person has been paying to protect them against a loss like this. The insurance company that this person has been paying for quite some time.

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