The Personal Injury Claims Process:
Each Step Explained
The personal injury claims process can be confusing. After all, many people never expect they’ll be the victim of a personal injury, so it’s not something they look into. With the help of a knowledgeable lawyer, however, you can approach the process well-informed about personal injury law basics and with a stronger personal injury claim to help you get the compensation you deserve.
The Standard Personal Injury Claims Process
- The Injury Occurs: Your life is turned upside down by an unexpected event that leaves you struggling with your health and finances.
- Seek Treatment: Your health is of the utmost importance.
- Contact A Personal Injury Attorney: As soon as you are able to, get a free consultation from one of our attorneys about your case.
- File a Claim: This begins the legal portion of the personal injury claims process to help you get the compensation you need to get back on your feet.
- Support Your Case: How you approach your recovery and document your handling of the injury may matter in court.
- Settlement Or Trial: The successful completion of your personal injury claim gets you the money you need.
A Closer Look At The Personal Injury Claims Process
Before taking a more detailed look at the personal injury claims process, it helps to define exactly what a personal injury claim entails. A personal injury occurs when you are injured by another party without the primary fault resting on you.
This can be a car accident, slip and fall, or any number of other incidents that result in an injury that causes you economic or noneconomic damages. The claim is meant to compensate you for the money you pay out to recover from the injury and, in the case of serious or life altering injuries, the pain and suffering you’re working through as you try to adapt to a life far different than you lived pre-injury.
A personal injury often results from either an accident or negligence. You can be rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light, fall while leaning on a defective guardrail at a baseball game, or be misdiagnosed by a physician and suffer healthcare complications. The point is that you’ve been hurt and you bore no or little fault in the conditions that led up to your injury.
The personal injury claims process may be more complicated if you are partially at fault. However, as long as the majority of the liability rests with the other party, you can still file for compensation.
If you stop abruptly at a traffic light, for instance, and are rear ended, depending on the context, a court may decide your abrupt stop created an unsafe driving condition but that the car that rear-ended you was following too closely. This divided liability may result in a reduced settlement.
Seek Medical Treatment
After you’re injured, seek medical care before doing anything else. This gives important documentation of the effects of the injury in the immediate aftermath. Successful personal injury claims cover medical bills as part of their economic damages, so you should be compensated for your expenses. Also, it helps show the court that you were an enthusiastic participant in your own recovery, limiting the defense’s ability to portray you as “milking it” if your case goes to court.
It’s also important to get medical care as soon as possible to avoid long-term complications. While the personal injury claims process may cover pain and suffering as well, avoiding as many complications as possible for your body is far better. Avoiding additional complications for your case can also be beneficial to the final outcome.
Contact An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
After being injured and seeking medical treatment, it’s important to contact a personal injury attorney. You’ll have a lot of people contacting you to sign documents, medical care providers, your insurance company, and representatives from the defendant.
Some of these documents may be necessary, but others could end up hurting your chances of winning a personal injury claim in court. It’s best to avoid signing any document or issuing a verbal statement (beyond what’s required for immediate medical attention) until your lawyer is present.
Your lawyer may help you save money by working with providers on a promise to pay copays or coinsurance out of your claims proceeds. In addition, they can review documents you are asked to sign to make sure the defendant isn’t trying to get you to sign a release or an early settlement offer that is far lower than what you deserve. As the go-between in the personal injury claims process, the defendant’s contact will go to your lawyer first, so they can help you understand all offers and your options.
File a Claim
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a personal injury claim is two-years from the date of the injury. That is your initial timeline for filing a personal injury claim. Once it’s filed, the process itself can extend outside that 2-year mark, and often does as plaintiffs and defendants negotiate for settlements that avoid court or schedule the necessary hearing dates if no settlement can be reached.
This filing serves as the official notification to the defendant and court, preserving your right to seek compensation. While some people would prefer to negotiate a settlement that offers them enough compensation quickly to cover expenses, other clients, prefer to go to court and fight for the full amount they’re owed. Your lawyer will talk to you about your needs and how the personal injury claims process might affect them so you can make the best possible decision about your future.
Supporting Your Claim
Once the claim is filed, the work isn’t over. Personal injury claims can take time to reach an end, years in some cases. It’s important that you continue your recovery efforts by keeping doctor and therapy appointments. Be honest with your providers about the impact on your life and the pain you’re experiencing. It’s important to be honest about these effects around your friends, family, and coworkers too.
Some people try to have a “stiff upper lip” about pain, while others may feel guilty it takes so long to recover or that others are seeing them struggle. Don’t hide the issues your injury is causing.
The photos, videos, and testimony of your personal and professional acquaintances can help make your case in court. Keep a journal of your thoughts on your pain and recovery. Finally, be aware of what you post on social media, as public statements can be used either for or against you in court.
Settlement Or Trial
This is the final step in the personal injury claims process. If you follow the personal injury law basics laid out above, then your claim has the groundwork to succeed and you have a competent lawyer at your side.
A settlement is a negotiated agreement between the parties to end a lawsuit for a set amount of funds. Companies will often negotiate because trials are expensive and carry the risk that you will receive a higher amount in judgement. Despite this, they can be good for plaintiffs too.
While there is the risk for the defendant of a higher judgement, the plaintiff runs the risk that a judge or jury may not see things their way, leading to a lowered or no compensation. In addition, trials take time and can be stretched out for years with different motions.
Meanwhile, the injured party may be stuck with lost wages, unpaid medical bills, and an altered way of life. That’s why some defendants will pursue a settlement, giving up a higher compensation potential for a quicker “sure thing”.
In a trial, your lawyer will fight for your right to compensation. There will be evidence, witness testimony, and arguments from both sides. In the end, the judge or jury will determine who was at fault, how much your injury is worth, and whether or not your claim will succeed. Every step of the way, your lawyer will stand with you.
Average Personal Injury Claims Timeframe
There is no way to know how long it will take to go through the personal injury claims process. Every case is different and unique. In cases of settlement, they can be finalized in a matter of weeks, getting much needed money into the hands of the injured or their family. Trials can even go on for several years. If you want to speed up the process, contacting a lawyer for a free consultation right away is the first step to take.
With decades of personal injury experience, our lawyers are ready to discuss your case. We’ll work to understand not just your injury, but how it’s affecting you, and get you the compensation you deserve. Call Anapol Weiss today so your case can become our next cause.