It is common to see the terms ‘claim’ and ‘lawsuit’ used interchangeably in personal injury cases. However, these are two different forms of legal action to recover compensation after an accident.
If you’re wondering whether to file a claim or lawsuit after your injury, make sure you speak to an experienced attorney.
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What Are Claims?
The first thing most people do after an accident is file a claim. A claim is a demand to an insurance company to cover the costs of an accident, usually, because someone it insures is responsible for the accident. Claims are made outside of court, and a variety of people can be involved in the claims process.
Examples of claims include:
- Automobile insurance claim after a car accident
- Property insurance claim for house damage after a storm or hurricane
- Business liability insurance claim after a slip and fall
- Medical malpractice insurance claim after a medical error
An insurance company can assign an adjuster, an attorney, and other negotiators to deal with a claim. The adjuster will examine the reasons and basis for a claim and determine the appropriate compensation level for the claimant, if any. The final decision to accept, deny, or negotiate a claim belongs to the insurance company, not the claimant.
Why You Should or Shouldn’t File a Claim
If the cause of your accident is obvious, it might be more beneficial to file a claim as opposed to a lawsuit. You can often recover fair compensation for your injuries and damages through an insurance claim.
It can be beneficial to file a claim to:
- Save potential court fees and costs
- Save potential attorney fees
- Recover compensation more quickly
It can be beneficial to file a lawsuit instead of a claim to:
- Force an insurance company into settlement negotiations
- Collect more evidence about the cause and circumstances of your accident
- Have your case decided by a judge or jury instead of an insurance company
Each case has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some legal actions may fare better as an insurance claim. Others will find more success in a lawsuit. A personal injury lawyer in Clearwater can help you evaluate your case to determine your best chances of recovering compensation after your accident.
What is a Lawsuit?
If a claim doesn’t result in fair compensation, the next step is usually a lawsuit. A lawsuit is a legal action to resolve a dispute between a plaintiff and a defendant. To win your personal injury lawsuit, you will have to prove to the court that the defendant injured you through negligence or carelessness.
Lawsuits can take a long time, often more than a year, before they are completed. They involve discovery, motions, hearings, trials, and possible appeals. These processes can be extremely time-intensive and expensive.
Why You Should or Shouldn’t File a Lawsuit
Often injury victims will file a lawsuit after an unsuccessful insurance claim. Sometimes an insurance company won’t accept responsibility for a victim’s damages. Or it may undervalue the victim’s claim. Lawsuits arise after negotiations break down in these and other ways.
Some advantages you have when filing a lawsuit instead of a claim include:
- The case is given to a third-party judge or jury and is taken away from the insurance company
- The potential damages are higher in lawsuits
- Non-economic and punitive damages are more common in lawsuits
Some advantages you have when filing a claim instead of a lawsuit include:
- Your claim expenses are typically lower than they would be for a lawsuit
- The final outcome can be guaranteed
- A claim will take less time to complete
Insurance claims are limited to policy limits and terms. For example, after a car accident, you may be able to recover some (but not all) of your medical expenses and lost wages related to your injuries. A lawsuit will allow you to recover all your damages — economic and non-economic — if you can prove your case.
Moreover, insurance companies don’t have to work with you if they don’t believe your claim is legitimate. If you file a lawsuit, then an insurance company has to respond, or else they will lose the case by default.
How An Attorney Can Help Your Claim or Lawsuit
Although you can represent yourself in a claim or lawsuit, an experienced personal injury attorney can be a great asset in both legal actions.
Your attorney can:
- Evaluate the strength of your case
- Investigate to gather evidence and identify liable parties
- Calculate how much your case is worth
- Discuss a general strategy to get your maximum compensation
Insurance companies will likely take your claim more seriously if you have an attorney. Your attorney will negotiate with the insurance adjuster for a settlement that compensates you for your damages fully. If negotiations break down, your attorney can file a lawsuit to recover the compensation you deserve after your accident.