The Basics of Filing a Personal Injury Claim

The Basics of Filing a Personal Injury Claim
(Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Shutterstock)
Mike Valles

If you have suffered bodily injury due to another person's fault or alleged negligence, you may be due some compensation from the other party. The amount you receive—if you win the case—will largely be based on the detailed information you provide beforehand.

You may feel that an insurance company is not offering nearly enough compensation for what you have been through. Even after debating with them, you may find that they are unwilling to budge. Instead of accepting their offer, you can contact a personal injury attorney and pursue further recovery of losses. People often recover up to three times as much when they use a lawyer to seek better compensation.

Before filing a personal injury claim, there are some things you need to know.

You Have a Limited Time to File

Every state has a statute of limitations law, which means you have a limited amount of time after an injury to file a claim. After that time is over, you will no longer be able to file your claim.

The limitation is different for various types of claims, such as personal injury, debt, crime, or medical malpractice. The time for filing personal injury cases ranges from one (Kentucky, Louisiana, and Tennessee) to six years (North Dakota and Maine), but most states have a two-year limit.

Even if you think it's too late to file a personal injury claim, you may want to seek legal advice.  There are many factors that can cause the clock on the statute of limitations to be "paused" in a personal injury case.

Legal Consultations

Most lawyers for personal injury cases will not charge anything to hear your complaint. From the facts and information you provide, they will be able to determine if they think you have a winnable case. Lawyers in this field usually get paid only after winning, and payment comes from the money gained.

Be Patient

Settling a personal injury case takes time to complete. There are several parts to the process, and each one can take months.

Even if you file for a personal injury claim shortly after the incident, you need to know that settlement will not happen quickly. The legal process can take one or two years to complete. At the earliest, it will not occur before your injuries have completely healed—or have healed as much as they are going to. Filing too early could mean that your lawyer may be asking for inaccurate amounts for compensation.

Once your personal injury lawyer believes you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI), the case can proceed. Your lawyer cannot estimate the total amount of compensation that you are due until he or she has received all medical bills.

If a trial is needed, it may take one or two years to come to court. The trial date will be set after your lawyer files a personal injury lawsuit, and that will happen after negotiations have failed.

Provide Details Quickly

You can forget some of the important details of the accident if you wait too long to contact a lawyer. Shortly after the incident, you should write down all details of the event that you can remember. Add more details to your list as you remember them and let your lawyer know about them, too.
The lawyer will need as much evidence as possible before proceeding. Keep detailed records of things such as phone calls to your insurance company—with names, dates, phone numbers, summary details of the conversations, and all medical receipts. Your lawyer will also need all medical records related to the accident.

Detail Your Losses Thoroughly

Your losses as a result of the bodily injury provide the basis of your claim and determine how much you can receive. Losses can be physical, mental, or financial, and may include the disruption of your daily schedule. Financially, they can include your loss of income from an inability to work, and medical bills. Mentally, they can include emotional problems after the event, and an inability to sleep. Pain also needs to be included. Your injury lawyer can help you detail your losses.

Negligence Needs To Be Established

Many personal injury cases center on the theme of negligence. If your case involves negligence, you will need to provide the lawyer with the reasons you believe negligence on the part of the other person (or entity) is involved. Think about things like the following:  Was the individual drunk when the accident occurred? Did he or she run a red light? Did a company neglect to shovel a sidewalk?

Insurance Company Recompense

Before you decide to take the matter to trial, consider how much you will receive from insurance companies. Sometimes, your health or auto insurance company may pay enough to reasonably cover your losses.

An insurance company may contact you through an insurance adjuster, who may ask you to sign documents accepting the insurance company's offer as a settlement. This initial amount is apt to be low: remember that a lawyer may be able to obtain much more for you.  Avoid signing anything until you talk to a personal injury lawyer.

On the other hand, the negligent party may not have insurance and may have few assets—which means you would not have anything to gain from a lawsuit.

You May Not Need to Go to Court

Often, cases involving personal injury are never brought to court: many reach a settlement before trial, or are resolved without a lawsuit being filed.
It is not always necessary to file a lawsuit to be compensated for your losses. With the name and policy number of the at-fault party, you can send a notice of claim to the insurance company, providing basic information about the accident and stating that you are making a claim. Avoid being too specific: you will need to provide that information later. You can research the writing of notification and demand letters online, or write them with legal advice.

If the insurance company is cooperative, there will be settlement negotiations.

If the insurance company demonstrates a lack of cooperation, it may be necessary to contact a lawyer and pursue litigation. Keep in mind the statute of limitations.

The Epoch Times Copyright © 2022 The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors. They are meant for general informational purposes only and should not be construed or interpreted as a recommendation or solicitation. The Epoch Times does not provide investment, tax, legal, financial planning, estate planning, or any other personal finance advice. The Epoch Times holds no liability for the accuracy or timeliness of the information provided.
Mike Valles has been a freelance writer for many years and focuses on personal finance articles. He writes articles and blog posts for companies and lenders of all sizes and seeks to provide quality information that is up-to-date and easy to understand.