After being injured in an accident, you’re likely to hear the words “claim” and “lawsuit.” Although they might be used interchangeably, don’t get confused on the legal difference between the two. They’re legal terms, and they’re a world apart. If you file a personal injury claim, it only involves you and the insurer of the person who caused your accident and injuries. Your claim is independent of the court system, and there is no judge. A lawsuit is a separate and distinct proceeding in a court of law. A judge will make binding rulings on disputed legal procedural issues throughout the pendency of a lawsuit. The parties are on a level playing field when the courts are accessed in a personal injury case.
The Opposing Insurer
From the moment that the person who caused your accident notifies his or her insurer of the crash, that insurer is financially exposed to a loss. Insurance companies want to cash premium checks, deposit them and invest that money so that they can make even more money. When an insurance company is exposed to a loss, it’s going to do whatever it legally can do to minimize its financial exposure. Its objective is to either devalue your claim as much as possible or even deny it in its entirety. If you’re making your personal injury claim without the benefit of an attorney, that opposing insurer has you right where it wants you.
When Notice of a Claim is Required
What most people don’t know is the fact that a properly drafted and served written claim notice is required before a lawsuit can be filed if a state, county or municipal entity is responsible for an accident and resulting injuries. Depending on what state the accident occurred in, the time for serving that claim notice can be much shorter than the applicable statute of limitations. You should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after being injured in an accident about whether notice of a claim will be required in your case.
The Statute of Limitations
Depending on what state that the accident happened in, the statute of limitations might expire anytime within one to six years from the date of your accident. Without an experienced and aggressive personal injury attorney representing you, an opposing insurance company might try to string you along until such time as the statute of limitations expires. If that happens, it’s highly likely that you’ll be forever barred from seeking compensation for your injuries. Always be aware of any claim notice requirement and the statute of limitations in your case.
Personal Injury Lawsuits
Once an actual personal injury lawsuit is filed, your case moves from the claim stage to the litigation stage. No matter how long your case takes to navigate its way through the court system, you’re protected so long as you filed the case within the period prescribed by your state’s statute of limitations and have used due diligence.
If a private citizen was responsible for your injuries, there is no requirement that you serve notice of a claim before filing a lawsuit. If you believe that a state, county or municipality is liable for your injuries and damages, you’ll probably need to properly draft and serve a notice of a claim before the law will even allow you bring an to bring a personal injury lawsuit. Consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer about this issue after being injured in an accident.
It’s recommended that you don’t even speak with an opposing insurer on a personal injury claim. It’s only going to use tactics that are likely to result in devaluation or denial of your claim. By retaining an established personal injury lawyer right away after an accident, you’re protecting your rights. Even the most respected personal injury law firms offer free consultations and case evaluations. They don’t even charge a retainer fee either, so you don’t need to pay a penny in advance to hire them. Arrange for that free consultation and case review after being injured in any accident.