When you need compensation after an accident or personal injury, the terms “claim” vs. “lawsuit” might not matter to you.
However, the difference between the terms is significant.
They both refer to a personal injury case, but one path could lead to a court trial.
What Is a Personal Injury Claim?
A personal injury claim is a demand for compensation for damages caused by another party. Personal injury claims are based on one or more legal causes of action, including negligence, intentional torts, strict liability, premises liability, and medical malpractice.
Your claim is against the party who caused your injuries. However, the at-fault party may have liability insurance that covers the claim. Therefore, you may file a claim with their insurance company.
Settling Personal Injury Claims with the Insurance Company
Most personal injury claims are settled through negotiations with the insurance company. The company assigns an insurance adjuster to investigate the claim. The adjuster determines whether the insured was responsible for causing your injury.
In most cases, the insurance adjuster contacts the victim for a statement. An adjuster’s job is to protect the insurance company by limiting liability as much as possible. You are not required to answer questions or provide a statement without a lawyer.
Generally, it is in your best interest to talk with a personal injury lawyer before making a statement or answering questions. Insurance adjusters are highly trained professionals. They are skilled at getting people to say things that could be used to undervalue or deny claims.
Should You Accept an Insurance Settlement Offer?
The insurance adjuster might make an offer to settle your claim. Do not accept the settlement offer if you have not completed medical treatment. Until you complete your treatment plan, you cannot know the full extent of your injuries and damages.
Most initial insurance offers are lower than the value of the claim. You do not have to accept the settlement offer. You can negotiate for a higher amount.
If you accept the insurance company’s settlement offer, you give up the right to pursue other claims. Even if you discover you were underpaid or had damages you were unaware of when you signed the settlement agreement, you cannot pursue those claims in court if you waived your rights in a settlement agreement.
What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A lawsuit is filed in civil court. The plaintiff is the injured party. The defendant is the party accused of causing the plaintiff’s injury.
If the party who caused your injury or accident has insurance coverage, the insurance company will probably hire a defense attorney to respond to your lawsuit. Each lawsuit is different. Therefore, timelines for personal injury cases vary.
However, most personal injury lawsuits follow the same procedural steps:
- Filing the complaint, answer, and other pleadings
- Settlement negotiations and/or mediation
- Pre-trial motions
- Trial and verdict
Filing a lawsuit does not guarantee you will receive a verdict in your favor. Even if the jury decides in your favor, you might not receive the entire judgment.
The insurance company is only liable up to the policy limits. The at-fault party would be liable for any remaining amount. Collecting a judgment from someone can be challenging.
Therefore, before filing a personal injury lawsuit, your attorney will weigh the pros and cons of an insurance settlement vs. a lawsuit. Depending on the circumstances in your case, it might be better to accept an insurance settlement. For example, your evidence proving fault might not be strong, so you might compromise by accepting a slightly lower settlement amount.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A statute of limitations is a deadline for filing a lawsuit. Each state sets the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits filed in their jurisdiction.
The Arizona statute of limitation for most personal injury lawsuits is two years from the injury date. New Mexico’s statute of limitations for most personal injury lawsuits is three years from the injury date.
However, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations. The deadline could change based on the parties involved in the case, the type of personal injury case, or other factors.
Judges could dismiss your lawsuit if you file it after the statute of limitations expires. Therefore, we recommend talking with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation To Discuss Filing a Claim or Lawsuit
Fighting for fair compensation after an injury is complicated, regardless of whether you file a claim or a lawsuit. Our attorneys will take up the fight for you. We’ll handle all aspects of your personal injury case while you focus on your recovery.
Call Curiel & Runion Personal Injury Lawyers at (602) 595-5559 today or contact us online for a free case evaluation with an experienced personal injury attorney. We represent clients in Arizona and New Mexico.