If you are preparing to seek compensation after an injury, filing and handling a claim may seem overwhelming. Taking the right steps and working with a competent, dedicated personal injury lawyer can reduce stress during this difficult time. Here is an overview of what you need to know about the personal injury claims process.
How to Process Personal Injury Claims
First, let’s review the basic steps in personal injury cases. These include collecting evidence, seeking legal guidance, settlement negotiations, and sometimes litigation.
As the injured party, you are responsible for proving that the allegedly responsible person or entity (a speeding driver, a careless medical practitioner, your employer, or another individual) did or failed to do something that caused your injury. To do that, you need rock-solid evidence.
Relevant evidence in personal injury cases may include:
- Photos of the accident scene
- Video footage of the accident
- Your medical reports
- Witness testimonies
- Other documentation, such as police reports, workplace injury reports, and vehicle repair documents
Seeking prompt medical care after your accident is absolutely imperative for two reasons:
- One, you need a full medical check-up to assess your injuries and receive timely treatment recommendations that will promote your recovery.
- Two, you’ll need to save all your medical bills and records to support your claim. Keep hospitalization records, logs of physician visits, lab reports, and every other medical document.
Contacting an Attorney
Calling a reputable local personal injury attorney is one of the first steps to take after an accident, preferably before you talk to insurance company representatives. An experienced lawyer can assess your case, let you know whether you may expect compensation, and guide you through the personal injury claims process.
As part of building your claim, your attorney will come up with what’s known as a demand package: a collection of all your medical expenses, records of missed days at work, and other documents that show the damages you suffered because of your injury. Filing the demand package will start the negotiation process with insurers.
Negotiating with Insurance Companies
As the relevant insurance companies receive your demand package, they will issue a settlement offer. The initial offer may fall short of covering the full extent of your damages. The negotiation stage typically involves a few back-and-forth exchanges until the insurer and your attorney reach an acceptable compromise.
Settlement of the Claim
Your attorney will help you evaluate the insurance company’s payout offer so you can make an informed decision about settling your claim. You and your lawyer may consider factors like present damages, prospective costs, and the likelihood of winning a trial in a disputed case.
If the insurer denies your claim or makes a settlement offer that fails to cover your losses, your attorney may recommend taking your case to court. A personal injury lawsuit includes the following steps:
- Filing a complaint
- Collecting relevant information from both parties
- Arbitration as a last-ditch effort to resolve the case before it goes to trial
- A settlement agreement or trial, depending on the outcome of arbitration
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Filing a Claim
Many legitimate claims fall through or encounter frustrating delays because of common, easily avoidable mistakes. Beware of these pitfalls during your personal injury claim process.
Not Seeking Medical Treatment
Delaying medical treatment or saying, “I don’t think it’s a big deal,” can be extremely dangerous. Some severe injuries, like traumatic brain injuries or internal organ damage, can have gradual-onset symptoms, so you may feel almost normal at first while, in fact, suffering from a serious condition.
Failing to seek treatment doesn’t only put your health at risk but also deprives you of crucial documentation you need to build a strong claim.
Giving a Recorded Statement
After your injury, you may receive a call from an insurance company asking you to give a recorded statement. The insurer will usually frame it as a routine request, but in fact, insurance companies can and do use recorded statements to undermine claims.
Even innocent phrases, like, “I’m not in a lot of pain right now,” can act against you if you agree to a recorded statement. It’s preferable to minimize direct contact with insurers and let your lawyer handle all communication.
Settling Too Early
The aftermath of a serious accident involves a lot of pain, trauma, stress, and uncertainty. It’s entirely understandable that you want to resolve your claim quickly and go on with your life. However, insurance companies may exploit your vulnerable position and rush you into a settlement offer that leaves you with many uncovered damages and out-of-pocket costs.
Not Hiring an Attorney
Yes, you can handle your claim yourself, but doing so puts you at an enormous disadvantage against insurance companies and corporate entities that will use a battalion of lawyers, professional advisors, and expert witnesses. Working with a skilled, experienced attorney will give you a much better chance of successful claim resolution.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Personal injury lawyers, including Sadaka Law, usually handle personal injury cases on a contingency basis. This means that you only pay when the lawyer successfully negotiates a settlement or wins your case at trial. Then the law firm will charge a percentage of your settlement.
The contingency fee may depend on the complexity of your case and other factors but typically ranges from 25% to 40%.
What Should I Look for When Hiring a Lawyer?
Choosing the right personal injury lawyer is a vital step in the personal injury claim process. Look for an attorney who offers:
- Long-term experience practicing personal injury law in your state
- An excellent track record with complex personal injury lawsuits
- Assertive, proactive strategies for handling claims
- Full transparency and a realistic evaluation of the outcome you may expect
- A personalized approach, empathy, and constant communication
- A powerful motivation to fight for your rights
Online reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations can help you assess the law firm’s reputation and its success in resolving claims similar to yours. However, it’s also important to talk with the lawyer personally and form your own impression. Ask yourself: Does this attorney seem like the skilled, knowledgeable legal professional I need in my corner?
Personal Injury Claim Tips and Best Practices
The personal injury claim process can be tricky and long-winded. The following tips will improve your odds of a favorable claim resolution.
Keeping Good Records
It’s impossible to over-document personal injury claims. Save every piece of possible evidence, including photos, surveillance or dash cam footage, witness details and statements, reports, communication logs with insurance companies, and your own written records. Organize your documentation to keep it within easy reach when you need it.
Following Doctor’s Orders
When you receive medical treatment after your accident, follow the doctor’s orders to the letter. Obeying healthcare guidelines is crucial for both your recovery prospects and to avoid doing anything that may hurt your claim.
The law will expect you to do what you can to mitigate damage after an accident. If your actions (for example, lifting a heavy object when a doctor instructed you to avoid back strain) aggravate your condition, your final payout may be significantly lower.
Avoiding Social Media
Remember, everything you share on social media goes public. While Tweeting or posting on Facebook may feel completely innocuous, the responsible party, their lawyer, or investigators working for insurance companies could use whatever your share against you, even if you don’t talk specifically about your accident.
For example, if you share photos from a family vacation, the liable party may argue that your injury can’t be as serious as you claim since you’re traveling. Even setting your posts to “private” won’t protect your information since insurance companies can request access during the discovery process if your case goes to court. Thus, it’s safer to minimize any social media activity after your accident.
Personal injury cases can take months or even years to settle, while you’re facing immediate losses like medical costs and lost wages. Insurance companies may try to drag out your claim in the hopes you’ll give up or agree to a low settlement. It’s important to stay patient and keep collaborating with your attorney throughout the personal injury claims process.
What Damages Can You Recover?
As a personal injury survivor, you may expect your settlement to cover medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If your accident involved especially gross negligence or recklessness, the court may also award you punitive damages.
Medical costs include both out-of-pocket healthcare expenses you already covered and prospective medical treatment like rehabilitation, physical therapy, future surgeries, or medical equipment you may need.
Like medical expenses, coverage for lost wages includes both current and future losses. You may receive compensation both for missed days at work and for potential income you could have earned, based on your line of work and recovery prospects after the accident.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering encompass all the non-calculable losses you may experience after a serious injury, like emotional trauma, forcible alterations to your lifestyle, and the loss of activities you used to enjoy. To calculate pain and suffering damages, insurance companies may use the per diem method (for short-term injuries) or multiply all monetary damages by a multiplier, the height of which will depend on the seriousness of your injury.
How Long Does It Take to Settle?
Personal injury cases may take anywhere from several months to a couple of years to resolve. The duration of your case may depend on various factors, like the circumstances of the accident, available evidence, your recovery prognosis, and the negotiation process with the insurance company.
Generally, a straightforward accident claim will settle much faster than a complex litigated case that involves several potentially responsible parties.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Personal Injury Claim?
Every state imposes a different time limit on personal injury claims. In New Jersey, accident victims or their families usually have two years from the date of the injury to file a claim. However, this rule has a few exceptions. For example, in medical malpractice cases, the victim has two years to file, starting from the date when they should have reasonably discovered the injury. If the injured person is a minor, the statute of limitations extends to two years after the victim turns 18.
How Do You Know if You Have a Valid Personal Injury Claim?
As someone who isn’t a legal professional, it can be hard to estimate whether you have grounds for a personal injury claim and, if you do, who is responsible. Many accident cases are complex and may involve several potentially liable parties.
For example, if you suffered a collision with a truck traveling above the speed limit, and a poorly secured load also contributed to the accident, who is liable: the driver, the trucking company, or the service responsible for loading cargo? An experienced personal injury lawyer can let you know whether you may pursue a personal injury claim and which parties are likely liable in your case.
Can You Still File a Personal Injury Claim if You Were Partially at Fault for the Accident?
The answer to this question depends on the state you live in. In New Jersey, personal injury claims follow a rule known as modified comparative fault. According to this doctrine, you may be able to collect damages as long as your percentage of fault is 50% or less. The payout will drop proportionately to your degree of fault; for example, if you’re 25% responsible and your claim is worth $100,000, your total payout will be $75,000.
Sadaka Law: Dedicated Legal Representation for Personal Injury Victims and Their Families
Did you or your loved one suffer an injury because of an accident, a defective product, or medical malpractice? The dedicated, compassionate team of Sadaka Law will suggest efficient legal strategies to help you seek compensation and support you throughout the personal injury claims process.
Call (800) 810-3457 or contact us online for a quick case evaluation.