If you seek compensation for a personal injury, the jargon that lawyers, insurance adjusters, and other parties use can be confusing. For instance, the terms “claim” and “lawsuit” are used interchangeably when discussing an accident claim or injury claim. However, the terms have very different meanings.
Understanding the difference between these two personal injury terms can help you understand the claims process and the timeline for a personal injury case.
It can also help you understand what to expect as you fight for fair compensation for your injuries, pain, financial losses, and other damages.
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What Is a Personal Injury Claim?
When another party causes you to be injured, you have a “claim” against that party for your losses and damages.
Suppose that another driver is speeding and causes a car accident by running a red light. Your damages from the car accident might include:
- Physical injuries, such as brain injuries, neck injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other injuries
- Cost of medical treatment and care
- Mental, physical, and emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of income, including benefits, wages, bonuses, salaries, commissions, decreases in earning potential, and other forms of income
- Permanent disabilities, impairments, scarring, and disfigurement
- Decreases in quality of life or loss of enjoyment of life
- Other out-of-pocket financial losses
The damages in a personal injury claim depend on the facts of the case and the person’s injuries.
The “claim” is between you and the person who caused your injury. In most cases, the insurance company for the other party handles the claim. For example, if you slip and fall on another person’s property, the homeowner’s insurance company handles the premises liability claim.
Likewise, if you are injured in a motorcycle accident or truck accident, the other driver’s car insurance carrier handles the claim. If a defective product causes your injury, the product manufacturer’s liability insurance company is likely to handle the product liability claim.
Process of Settling Insurance Claims
Most insurance claims settle without going to court. A lawsuit is never filed if you reach a settlement agreement with the insurance company.
Investigating the Claim
The at-fault party may notify its insurance provider of the claim, or you may contact the insurance company directly to file a claim. An insurance adjuster is assigned to investigate the claim. The adjuster may review accident reports, interview eyewitnesses, and gather physical evidence from the accident scene.
The adjuster may also contact you to ask questions and take a statement. You are not required to provide a statement or answer questions without an attorney. It is generally in your best interest to speak with a personal injury attorney before giving statements or answering questions.
Anything you say to the insurance adjuster could be used to undervalue your injury claim or deny the claim. Insurance adjusters work to protect the best interest of the insurance company. Adjusters are not on your side, regardless of what they may tell you.
The adjuster’s job is to limit the liability for the insurance company. Limiting liability means paying as little as possible to settle your claim. It is a better idea to get legal advice from a personal injury law firm first.
Offering a Settlement Amount
The insurance company may offer an amount to settle your claim. Do not accept a settlement until you complete medical care so you have a complete understanding of all damages caused by the accident.
If you accept the settlement offer, your claim is closed. The insurance company will not pay any more money for your claim, even if you discover additional damages or injuries. Those who have an attorney negotiate with the insurance company usually recover more compensation.
Negotiating a Settlement for a Claim
When you hire a personal injury lawyer, your lawyer handles the settlement negotiations. After your lawyer completes a thorough investigation, gathers evidence supporting your claim, and your doctor releases you from care, the lawyer calculates the value of your personal injury claim.
The attorney drafts a settlement demand and sends the demand letter to the insurance company. The settlement demand includes a discussion about legal liability, your injuries, and the amount you demand to settle the injury claim. The insurance company reviews the settlement demand and takes one of three actions. They deny the claim, pay the claim, or submit a counteroffer.
In many cases, the company sends a counteroffer to your lawyer. Your lawyer and the insurance company may negotiate back and forth for several weeks before reaching an agreement. If you accept the settlement, your lawyer prepares the settlement agreement, and you receive your money.
If the insurance company refuses to agree to a fair settlement, your lawyer discusses with you the pros and cons of filing a personal injury lawsuit. Based on the facts of your case and your lawyer’s advice, you must decide whether to accept the settlement offer or proceed with a personal injury lawsuit.
What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A personal injury lawsuit is filed in civil court. It is the legal process of seeking compensation for injuries and damages caused by another party.
The injured party files the lawsuit and is known as the plaintiff.
The party who caused the injury is known as the defendant. Even though the person who caused your injury is named as the defendant in the lawsuit, the party’s insurance company often hires an attorney to handle the lawsuit.
A personal injury lawsuit is more complicated than a claim. First, you must prove each legal element of a negligence claim to win the case. Also, there is no guarantee the jury will rule in your favor, even if you have evidence proving negligence or other wrongdoing.
Timeline for a Personal Injury Lawsuit
It can take months or years for a lawsuit to go to trial. There are several phases of a lawsuit that must be completed before the court schedules a trial. The time to complete each phase depends on numerous factors specific to the case.
The phases of a personal injury lawsuit include:
- Filing the Complaint – The complaint begins the lawsuit. It is served on the defendant. The defendant has a specific deadline to file a response to the claim.
- Discovery – Discovery is the process of gathering additional information about the case. The parties may use a variety of legal tools to gather evidence from each other and third parties, such as expert witnesses.
- Pretrial Motions – Both parties may file one or more motions before trial. The motions may request a dismissal or summary judgment. A party may also file a motion to suppress or allow evidence.
- Trial – The parties each have a turn to present their case at the trial. The jury listens to testimony and reviews the evidence presented during the trial. The jury decides the case based on instructions from the judge about relevant laws and the evidence presented in court.
- Appeals – Either party may file an appeal if it does not like the jury’s verdict.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit is not a guarantee that you will receive compensation for your injuries and damages. Before filing a personal injury lawsuit, discuss all your options with a personal injury lawyer.
Call Our Florida Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Your time to sue for injuries is limited by the Florida Statute of Limitations. If you do not file a lawsuit before the deadline, you lose your right to seek compensation for your injury claim. Therefore, you should not wait too long to talk with a lawyer.
Contact our office now to schedule a free consultation with one of our Florida personal injury lawyers to discuss your case. We are here to help you seek fair compensation for the pain, suffering, and other damages you experienced because of another person’s negligence.