Filing a Personal Injury Claim - The Basics

Filing a Personal Injury Claim - The Basics

Michelle Patrick
Michelle Patrick
 | 
Personal injury claims arise when one person is hurt, or injured, because of someone else’s negligence. Negligence happens when someone acts differently than a reasonable person would have under the same circumstances. 

Personal injury cases arise out of a number of situations. Some of the most common include:
  • car accidents
  • slips and falls
  • dog bites
  • medical malpractice 
  • assaults
  • battery

Should I File a Claim in Court?

This is an important question and depends on a variety of factors including the severity of the injury and the actions of the party who caused the injury, or that party’s insurance company. If you feel that the other party, or his/her insurance company, is not willing to pay what you believe you are owed, you might consider filing a claim in court (litigation) to recover greater damages. Damages may include: doctors bills, prescriptions costs, hospital costs, rehabilitation, lost wages and pain and suffering. 

Before filing a claim, your lawyer might try to settle with the other party, or his/her insurance company. Settlement is a negotiation between both parties. Both parties come to an agreed amount that they are willing to settle for that avoids the parties having to go through the time and expense of litigation. If you do not settle before litigation, there is always a chance of settling during the litigation process. 

Advantages of settling include: avoiding the stress and expense of trial, and the time it takes to get to trial and for the trial itself. It can take years before a case reaches trial. Settlements can happen quickly. Disadvantages of settling include: you will likely be settling for less money then you feel you are entitled to, and settlements are binding. If your injury gets worse, or you discover a new injury that relates back to the other party’s negligence, you cannot recover any additional money. 

If you do choose to file in court, then you (the injured party/plaintiff) will begin the process by filing a Complaint. The Complaint sets forth the details of the injury including: how the other party (defendant) caused the injury, what you are looking for, and the legal reasons that the defendant is liable. The defendant will then file an Answer which responds directly to each allegation in the Complaint. Both parties will then engage in discovery, or the exchange of information, including talking to witnesses. The culmination of litigation is a trial either in front of a judge or a jury. 

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim? 

Each state has a statute of limitations, or time limit, that governs the filing of a personal injury claim. The statute of limitations can vary from state to state and may vary depending on the injury. For example, in both Texas and California, the statute of limitations for a personal injury case arising from injuries received in a car accident is two years. Generally the statute of limitations starts running at the point in which the person is injured, or realizes that they are injured. If you file in court after the statute of limitations runs, you will likely not be permitted to bring a claim. Since statutes of limitations are so important, and can vary depending on the circumstances of the case, it is important to talk to a lawyer to make sure that you know what statute of limitations applies in your case. 


This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps. 
 
Michelle Patrick

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