If you have been injured in an incident such as a car accident, you may be confused as to the difference between a personal injury claim and a lawsuit. While these are not the same thing, it is common to confuse the terms, as they are closely related. To move through the claim and lawsuit process in the right way, it is important for you to understand which comes first, and why. Of course, it would also be helpful to retain the assistance of a personal injury attorney, who can help you to navigate this often-complex process from start to finish.
The first step in the process of seeking monetary damages as the result of an incident is typically going to involve filing a personal injury claim. This claim is going to be filed with the appropriate insurance company involved in the case. Depending on the specifics of the accident, and the state in which it occurred, the claim may need to be filed with your own insurance company, or it may need to be filed with the company of the party who is deemed to be at fault.
Once a claim is filed, the insurance company involved will go through their own process of investigating the accident to determine their own liability in the case. Depending on the results of that investigation, a number of outcomes are possible. It is possible that the claim will be denied outright, or there may be some form of settlement offered. However, just because a settlement is offered, you should not feel compelled to immediately accept and sign on the dotted line. The settlement offer may, in fact, be an attempt to get you to accept a monetary reward which is significantly lower to that which you are truly entitled.
If the process of filing a claim is fruitless – either the claim is denied or no acceptable offer is put forward – you may need to move on to filing a lawsuit. Rather than going through the insurance company, you are now going to be working with the legal system to pursue monetary damages. While it is possible to start with the filing of a personal injury lawsuit right from the beginning, most people will only take the time and money to file suit after filing a claim has been unsuccessful. As is the case with any kind of lawsuit, both sides will have an opportunity to present their case before a judge or jury makes a ruling.
Going to trial with a personal injury lawsuit is inherently risky, as you could always lose the case, but it is the only option in some cases. Rather than trying to navigate the world of claims and lawsuits alone, most people who have been injured in an accident will be best-served to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Not only will this lawyer know how to follow all procedural guidelines, he or she will also have a better understanding of what is a fair monetary settlement for your case.