Sometimes we’re living our normal, everyday lives when the impossible happens: we get hurt because of someone else’s actions.
Every so often, life simply takes an unpleasant and overwhelming turn. For these times, it’s imperative you consider filing a personal injury claim.
The thought terrifies many people. It’s intimidating. However, filing a claim is simpler than most people think.
That’s why we’re going to show you exactly how to file a personal injury claim.
If you’ve suffered because of someone else’s negligence, you deserve compensation. Here’s how to get it.
What Is It?
Most personal injury claims stem from car accidents, but personal injury can include countless scenarios.
In every instance of personal injury, an individual undergoes damage or death as a result of someone else’s actions. Below is a list of common personal injury cases:
- Product liability claims
- Injuries from animals
- Medical malpractice
- Slips and falls
In most personal injury cases, negligence is involved. Negligence occurs when someone fails in his or her duty, resulting in an injury or death. Consequently, to prove negligence four things must be demonstrated:
- The defendant had a duty to the individual who was harmed.
- The defendant breached that duty.
- The defendant’s negligent actions resulted in the plaintiff’s injury or death.
- As a result of the defendant’s actions, the plaintiff suffered damages.
If you can prove an injury was sustained, negligence occurred and recoverable damages resulted from that negligence, chances are you have a personal injury case.
When Should I File?
Every state has a different statute of limitations, which provides deadlines for when a claim must be filed. These deadlines can range from one year from the date of the sustained injury to six. Check your state laws to see what the statute of limitations is for your location.
Unfortunately, it is common for individuals to not realize an injury was rooted in someone else’s negligence. Consequently, many states have what is called the discovery rule.
This rule states that the statute of limitations should be altered to reflect the date upon which the individual learned of the injury or discovered the true cause of the injury. Therefore, if someone realized a car accident resulted in back issues one year after the crash occurred, some states may change the statute of limitations’ deadline.
The date of discovery becomes the “starting date” for the statute of limitations.
How to File a Personal Injury Claim
The necessary steps to file a claim begin as soon as the injury occurs. Your first step? Seek medical help.
1. See a Doctor
It’s imperative that the individual wishing to file a claim (the plaintiff) seeks a medical examination. This visit can provide invaluable documentation about the injury and the circumstances concerning it.
Furthermore, the visit can impact the statute of limitations dates if any issues occur.
Because the injury itself is usually disputed, having the damage assessed by a trained professional is necessary. Courts may require a specific physician to also assess the individual once a file has been claimed.
2. Determine If You Have a Valid Claim
The next step is to ensure you have everything necessary to substantiate a claim. Consider the following questions:
- Do I have an injury that is a direct result of someone else’s actions?
- Can I seek reparations for my injury?
- Does the offending party have insurance to cover my claim?
- Can I prove negligence?
- Do I have proper documentation and evidence?
On top of these questions, anyone wishing to file a claim should understand the components of the burden of truth. Putting it in plain English, the burden of truth is a measurement of how convincing your claim is to a jury or court.
In personal injury cases, plaintiffs must prove their information is more likely than not, termed a preponderance of evidence in law. That means the court should believe your facts are true by at least 51%.
If the defendant is able to prove the chances are 50% or more he or she is in the right, you will not win compensation.
3. Collect Evidence
After deciding if you have a convincing claim, it’s time to collect evidence. Try to gather as much of the following as possible:
- Medical records
- Eyewitness testimonies
- A written account of events
- Any photos of damage at the time of the accident
- Medical or damage-related bills
- A list of names of anyone involved in the incident
If the injury resulted in you being unable to attend work, pay stubs may also be required to calculate earnings.
4. Meet with Attorneys
When meeting an attorney, bring all relevant documentation with you. He or she will ask specific questions about your case and will review the paperwork to determine if he will accept or decline it. It’s a good indicator demonstrating if you may have a winning case.
5. Hire an Attorney
Many people are reluctant to hire an attorney because they assume it will be costly. However, most attorneys will take your case with a contingency fee. This means that if you win a settlement, the attorney’s pay will be deducted from the settlement’s amount.
Generally, an injury lawyer receives about a third of any monies.
While you do not have to hire an attorney, it is a time-saving and efficient method to ensure your claim gets the attention it deserves. Before you hire an attorney, you’ll want to research which one is best for you; obviously, you’ll want to select an attorney with a proven record.
6. Discuss Demands or Negotiating
Before filing a complaint, it’s common practice in smaller claims to try to settle before a complaint is ever filed.
Discuss specifics with your lawyer to see if this may be the best route.
7. File a Complaint
Finally, it’s time to file the complaint. The attorney will help you fill out all necessary paperwork and adhere to any deadlines. Usually, it takes one to two years for a case to make it to trial.
8. The Typical Process
From here, you should expect your case to proceed through the regular steps:
- The Discovery Process: This can take up to a year. During this time, both sides will communicate with each other to ascertain information about the case.
- Mediation and Negotiation: During this process, settlements outside of court may occur. If settlements cannot be agreed upon, the parties generally undergo mediation, where a mediator attempts to help them settle the case.
- Trial: If mediation does not succeed, the case will move to court.
After the trials, the court will come to a ruling about the case.
Turning Life Right-Side Up
Don’t let a personal injury case flip your life upside down. Now that you understand how to file a personal injury claim, seek the help you need at a firm you can trust.
At Alvarez Law Offices, our attorneys are experts at filing personal injury cases. Contact us today to get your life back in order.