Navigating the intricacies of a personal injury case can be confusing, especially when terms such as “claim” and “lawsuit” start to emerge. Often used interchangeably in everyday conversation, these two concepts hold distinctive meanings in a legal context, both potentially playing vital roles in your recovery journey.
It’s helpful to understand the differences and to learn the pros and cons of each.
What is a Personal Injury Claim?
A personal injury claim is a legal process initiated by an individual who has suffered harm due to another person or entity’s negligence. The aim of such a claim is to seek compensation for the damages incurred. This most often includes economic damages like medical expenses, loss of earnings, and property damage, and non-economic damages, like pain and suffering.
In these claims, insurance plays a crucial role. Making a personal injury claim typically means you are seeking compensation through an insurance claim. You or your attorney will generally file an initial demand seeking reimbursement for costs that arose from the incident.
The insurance company then reviews this demand and either denies your claim, agrees to your claim, or makes you a lower offer, which starts the negotiation process. Accepting a settlement offer removes the need to take further legal action, such as filing a lawsuit.
What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A personal injury lawsuit is also a legal dispute that arises when one person suffers harm from an accident or injury attributed to someone else’s negligent behavior. If your personal injury claim can’t reach a satisfactory settlement with the insurance company, it may escalate into a lawsuit.
To initiate this process, you would first file a complaint in court detailing your allegations against the at-fault party. Your attorney would then serve these documents to the defendant notifying them of impending legal action.
Following this, both sides engage in the discovery phase, where the defendant’s attorney and the plaintiff’s attorney exchange information about the case so they can prepare their respective arguments. This includes reviewing evidence, witness testimonies, and any other documents and information that are required to be shared.
Assuming the matter does not get settled during pretrial negotiations or dismissed through a motion raised by the defendant’s counsel, the parties proceed to trial. Here, evidence will be presented in front of a judge or jury, who will then determine liability and compensation based on the facts of the case.
If I’m Injured, Should I File a Personal Injury Claim or a Lawsuit?
Choosing whether to file a claim or a lawsuit after an injury can be a complex decision. Each option has its own set of advantages and potential drawbacks.
Benefits of Filing a Personal Injury Claim
Some of the benefits of filing a claim include the following:
Quicker: Filing an insurance claim is typically the faster route. Once submitted, both sides engage in negotiation until they agree on compensation for damages you sustained as a result of the accident. A claim could end up taking just a few months.
Less Expensive: Legal fees involved in filing a claim are often much lower than in a lawsuit. If you work with an attorney, they will get paid a percentage of your compensation, regardless of whether it’s a claim or a lawsuit. However, some attorneys charge less for a case that settles.
Additionally, you may save money on expert witness fees and other costs incurred during litigation. This could mean more money in your pocket.
Less Stressful: Filing a claim is also less stressful than having to go to trial. You don’t need to worry about testifying under oath in front of a judge or jury, and claim negotiations are often confidential, so it provides you with more privacy.
More Certainty: Finally, settling provides certainty. When you agree to a settlement, you know exactly what you’re getting. Should your case go to trial, the outcome depends entirely on someone else. Unfortunately, this may leave you without compensation in the end.
Benefits of Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
While there are clear benefits to filing a claim, a personal injury lawsuit offers certain benefits that might not be available when simply settling the claim out of court.
Holding the Defendant Accountable: Public accountability is one prime reason. If the at-fault party’s negligence has resulted in severe damages or if there’s an element of gross negligence involved, taking matters to court ensures such actions aren’t swept under the rug. Instead, the defendant is called out in a public forum and held accountable.
More Compensation: Another potential advantage is the possibility of securing greater compensation. Trials open the door to punitive damages, which could add significantly to the overall award amount granted by the jury. These are damages above and beyond the actual losses you suffered. They are instead aimed at punishing the defendant and deterring others from engaging in similar conduct.
Contact a Laredo Personal Injury Attorney To Determine the Best Course of Action in Your Case
While navigating the aftermath of a personal injury can be intimidating and confusing, remember that you don’t have to do it alone. The decision between filing a claim and initiating a lawsuit depends heavily on the specifics of your case. Contact us at (956) 529-7336 to find out how we can help.
An experienced Laredo personal injury lawyer at Roderick C. Lopez Personal Injury Lawyers will guide you through each stage, ensuring you make the right decisions.