A personal injury attorney does more than just file your lawsuits. Hiring an attorney to handle your personal injury case, whether it goes to court or not, will ensure that your specific case is handled properly, especially when dealing with insurance companies, and that your case meets all the filing deadlines, among many other things. People who have attorneys working their case tend to get more money from their case than those who don’t.
There are many different kinds of personal injury cases, and personal injury law can be confusing. Depending on how bad your injury is, and who was involved, no two personal injury cases will follow the same timeline.
Difference Between a Claim and Lawsuit
Before we can go through filing a personal injury claim, let’s clear up one common misconception: a claim versus a lawsuit.
Claim and lawsuit are two of the most commonly misunderstood legal terms and often mistaken for each other, they represent two very distinct legal actions. Typically, these actions do not go into effect until after you complete medical treatment. But having an attorney from the beginning makes your claim or lawsuit go much smoother.
Personal injury claim: A person injured in an accident will file a claim with the insurance company of the party who is at fault. Filing a claim against insurance is simply asking the insurance company to use the policy that has been paid for to compensate you for a covered loss.
If you are in a rear-end collision, for example, and you want that person to pay for your vehicle repairs and any medical expenses you have, you don’t go to the person directly and ask for money. Instead, you call their insurance company and make a claim against their policy for that compensation.
If the insurance company doesn’t offer you fair value for your claim (a.k.a: loss or damages), then you have the option of filing a lawsuit. You are not specifically suing a person or an individual.
Also, if your injury treatment recovery is higher than $3000 the maximum your insurance company will pay, then you may need to file a claim and pursue legal action.
You are not suing the person who is at fault directly, you are suing insurance companies to cover the costs of your claim, which is why you have insurance in the first place.
Personal injury lawsuit: Just the same as a claim, when filing a personal injury lawsuit, the claimant (person making a claim) is looking for compensation for their accident. Instead of filing the claim to the insurance company, the request goes through the court.
When you file a lawsuit, you become the plaintiff and the person being sued is the defendant. The defendant will always be the person that caused the harm (the driver, for example), but it doesn’t mean that person will have to pay you out of their own pocket. When we pay for insurance, we also pay for those insurance companies to hire attorneys to defend us in any lawsuit.
So even if you get sued, you pass on the documents you receive from the plaintiff to your insurance company, and they hire an attorney to defend you. If ultimately a verdict is awarded to the plaintiff, then the defendant is not the one having to pay that verdict. The insurance company would have to cover those costs. This is why it is important to have car insurance, and a policy with the right type of coverage. Insurance protects you from the risks related to car crashes and collisions and helps protect your personal assets in these cases.
Let’s Talk About Filing a Claim
Is there an insurance policy that covers the incident? The first step in filing a personal injury claim is determining whether or not the person you are filing against 1.) has insurance- such as homeowners, auto, business liability, or malpractice, and 2.) their insurance policy covers the incident. This is an important step to making sure you will actually be able to collect any compensation. If the at-fault party has insurance, a claim must be filed first before filing a lawsuit.
Proof of claim: Once the claim has been filed, the insurance adjuster will need to investigate the case and prove negligence of the insured person you filed against. While determining fault, the adjuster’s investigation may include the following:
- reviewing medical records;
- reviewing police reports; and
- speaking with you and any witnesses to the accident.
To ensure you are awarded fair compensation, it is important that all files shared with the adjuster are honest and speak directly to your case. These files will influence the insurance adjuster’s final decision.
This list is by no means exhaustive, which is why we recommend always having an attorney present when dealing with insurance. Do not ever sign anything or speak to the adjuster before speaking with your lawyer. Having an attorney to navigate these conversations can protect your best interests, because they understand this process inside and out.
- Final decision: Once the investigation is over, the adjuster will make a final decision based on all the information collected in the claims file. Their offer can range anywhere from a specific dollar amount to paying nothing at all. This is generally where the negotiations will begin.
- Negotiations: Following the adjuster verdict, negotiations between the claims adjuster and your lawyer will take place. If negotiations result in favorable terms, you will receive whatever monetary value you agreed to. Once this has been accepted, you release yourself from seeking any further compensation.
Suppose negotiations are less than favorable for your case (i.e., the compensation offered doesn’t cover medical and other expenses). In that case, your lawyer can move forward with filing a lawsuit and take your case to court.
Statute of Limitations
Personal injury claims in the state of Utah are subject to legal deadlines known as Statutes of Limitations. The deadline for most personal injury cases is four years, meaning that if you don’t file a claim or lawsuit within four years of injury, you forfeit the right to seek compensation for your injuries.
The clock starts ticking at the time of the injury, not when you file the claim with your insurance company, a common misconception.
We at Johnson | Livingston are here for you. We take our job personally and work hard to provide our clients with the best possible outcome to their personal injury cases.
You don’t have to do it alone, and you shouldn’t. We would love to get to know you, hear your story and hear how your injury impacted your life. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with you through your claim or lawsuit. You can count on us to make sure you are listened to and treated with respect through the whole process.