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A Personal Injury Claim Guide: What to Expect and How to File

It is not unusual for someone to seek justice for the injuries they have suffered due to the negligence of another person or party. These unfortunate situations represent a big portion of civil litigation cases (including personal injury cases) and are a way for people to receive payment for their injuries. In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice has reported that there are over 400,000 personal injury claims each year. 

Prior to filing a claim, it is essential to understand whether the accident you have been associated with will actually be considered a personal injury accident

A personal injury is the legal term for an injury to an individual’s body, mind or feelings, or reputation instead of an injury to property. This term is most commonly used to describe a type of tort legal suit where an individual who brings the suit has suffered damages (or harm) to their body or mind. There are three main circumstances that every injury claim involves: liability, fault, and damages. You have to be able to show these are directly correlated, meaning that the accused is responsible for the injuries that you, the plaintiff, have suffered. A defendant may be at fault for an accident that led to your injuries through negligence, gross negligence, reckless conduct, or intentional misconduct and, sometimes, on the basis of strict liability. No matter what type of negligence was done, if you think that you can prove liability, fault, and damages concurrently, then you have grounds to submit a personal injury claim.

Although filing a claim can be scary, hiring a skilled personal injury lawyer can help make the complex legal process less frightening. Our personal injury lawyers at The Cochran Firm are prepared to fight for you and help you get the settlement you deserve.

Common Personal Injury Cases

There are various types of personal injury cases. Your injury could qualify as a personal injury case depending on the type of accident you or a loved one has experienced. Some examples of injury cases include:

Out of all of the personal injury cases listed above, the most common are automobile accidents. In fact, they comprise over half of all cases (52%). These can include anything from car accidents to being hit by a motorcycle. The remaining 48% of cases are comprised of medical malpractice cases (15%), product liability (5%), and other (28%).

When somebody is injured due to somebody else's negligence, serious injuries can follow. These injuries can consist of:

When you sustain one of these injuries, you will most likely face impending medical bills, the inability to work, and pain and suffering. This is why the accident lawyers at The Cochran Firm fight for the maximum settlement legally possible. We seek damages well beyond the minor offerings insurance companies typically make. The type of injuries that people often suffer may include:

  • Medical & rehabilitation expenses
  • Home care & retrofit modifications
  • Adaptive technology
  • Lost wages (current and future)
  • Quality of life adjustments
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage

If you have suffered any of the above injuries in an accident, then you should consider filing a personal injury claim.

Things To Know Before You File a Personal Injury Claim

If this is the first time you are filing a personal injury claim, it may appear difficult to comprehend. You also may not know what to expect. Here are some details to review before you file a claim.

1. Personal Injury Lawsuits Were Made To Protect You

After you suffer an injury, there are many things that you will be faced with: medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more. Personal injury lawsuits were created to protect the rights and financial hardships that injury victims face. With the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer, you may be able to obtain compensation through a settlement with a defendant or even at trial.

2. Call Sooner Rather Than Later

An experienced personal injury lawyer will help protect you from making expensive mistakes like exposing too much information to an insurance claim adjuster or failing to record an injury you have suffered. The right lawyer can assist you in navigating the complicated legal process as well as communicating with the insurance carrier for you. Also, the quicker you contact a legal professional, the more likely you are to recall specific details about your injury, including any witness information, relevant invoices, and any other evidence.

3. Injury Victims That Hire An Attorney Recover More Punitive Damages

According to the Insurance Research Council, those that hire a lawyer, on average, obtain 3-3.5 times more money than those that try to settle a claim on their own. Personal injury lawyers understand how to correctly value claims and understand what it takes to negotiate a successful settlement. If the insurance carrier refuses to negotiate fairly, your lawyer can present your case in the best way to a judge and jury.

4. Refrain from Signing Anything Before Consulting An Attorney

There is a chance that an insurance adjuster will try to persuade you that a lawyer is not necessary. However, it is important to bear in mind that insurance carriers usually have only their best interest in mind, not yours. Lots of insurance carriers would rather work with you directly in hopes that they can settle for less than what your case is worth. This is why it is crucial not to sign anything until you talk with a personal injury lawyer, as doing so might keep you from obtaining the compensation you actually deserve.

5. You Have Limited Time to File a Claim

Each state has a statute of limitations (a limited time frame for filing a personal injury claim against a defendant). These statutes vary depending on the state, so it is crucial to hire a personal injury attorney sooner rather than later so that you don’t miss the deadline for filing in your state. 

6. Establishing Negligent Behavior Is Of Greatest Importance

In order to initiate a personal injury claim, it is vital to prove that your injuries are the direct result of another individual's negligence or failure to exercise reasonable care for your injuries. If another individual or entity acted negligently and caused your injury, they will most likely be held liable for any damages that follow the accident. These damages can consist of lost earnings, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more.

7. Personal Injury Claims Can Be Cumbersome

These cases are extremely complex; therefore, settlements and trials (in the circumstances your claim leads to a trial) can take many months, if not years, to end. To make matters worse, insurance carriers, in some cases, try to lengthen the process in hopes that you will give in and settle for a lesser offer. It's vital to remember that you should never settle for less than your claim is worth. Our experienced personal injury lawyers are devoted to resolving your case as quickly and efficiently as they can, leading to the best possible outcome for you.

8. It’s Hard to Value a Claim Without Examining the Facts

Numerous factors will influence a claim's value, such as the severity of the injury and the events leading up to the accident. It is challenging to determine the value of a claim without first analyzing all of the facts of the case. However, our experienced personal injury lawyers have a history of success and understand just how to value a claim.

9. A Case Can Be Won Two Different Ways

Personal injury lawsuits can either be settled out of court or ruled on a trial. Settlement is an agreement between the plaintiff and defendant on how much compensation the plaintiff will obtain. On the other hand, a verdict is a decision made in court by a judge or jury. This means that if a settlement is not agreed upon, your lawyer can still recover the payment you deserve.

Now that you understand the important aspects of a personal injury claim let's take a look at a detailed guide on how to file a personal injury claim below.

How To File a Personal Injury Claim

It is essential to keep in mind that no two cases will follow the same course or timeline. Personal injury law covers a broad range of incidents, so it is not so much dependent on the kind of event that took place as much as it is the seriousness of the resulting injuries, the clarity of particular problems, who was at fault, and whether an insurance policy covered the incident.

The fundamental concept of filing a claim is extremely simple: to notify the court and the defendant (the person that is being sued) of the foundation of your case within a reasonable time. Although the court you pick and the state you are in may change the finer details of the case, the standard concepts of a personal injury case are universal. 

The most important part of any accident case is your health. Prior to doing anything, seek the medical attention you need. Then, when you are ready, start thinking about pursuing a personal injury claim for your injuries.

Step 1: Seek Medical Treatment

As discussed above, the most important thing to do right after being hurt in an accident is to seek medical treatment. Sometimes people may think that because they do not feel any discomfort immediately following the accident, there is no reason to get looked at. Although you may not experience any discomfort or pain instantly or even shortly after your accident, you could potentially find yourself in serious pain a year or more later.

Not to mention, refusing medical treatment will only hurt you in terms of being compensated for any injuries you do experience. The responsible person or party's insurance company may use the fact that you did not seek medical treatment after the accident against you and call into question the seriousness of your injuries and your claim for settlement.

Step 2: Consult A Knowledgeable Personal Injury Attorney

In certain small personal injury claims, it is possible to settle on your own. For example, if you are involved in a minor car accident and you are either not hurt, or your injury only requires a one-time visit to the hospital.

However, if you have been involved in a serious accident and the treatment for the injuries you suffered are continuous or involve numerous visits to the doctor and/or hospital, then you most likely need a personal injury attorney to help you obtain compensation for your medical treatment.

Even if you choose not to hire an attorney, we still recommend you consult one to discuss your claim. There are numerous requirements that you may not know about, like the statute of limitations. No matter how minor you believe your accident or injury was, you may come to find that your claim is a bit more complex than you thought.

Step 3: Set Up Your Claim

Once you have gotten in touch with or hired a personal injury lawyer of your option, it is time to begin filing a personal injury claim. During this process, you or your attorney's job is to inform the person or party who is responsible for your injuries and their insurance carrier that you intend on filing a claim. Doing this can sometimes assist in settling your claim quicker.

Step 4: Collect Detailed Information and Get Treatment for Your Injuries

After you have notified the correct parties, you need to continue to get medical treatment and obtain as much information about your injuries and any other damages as you can. In layman's terms, this is when you want to obtain all medical records and invoices from your physician, communicate with your physician to understand the full extent of your injuries, gather receipts and get estimates of any personal property or vehicle damage, record any lost income, etc.

Step 5: Negotiating a Settlement

Your lawyer can make a demand for settlement to the responsible individual or party, or their insurance carrier, before or following filing a suit.

Negotiating a personal injury is not like negotiating with an automobile salesperson. Each party has an idea of what the claim is worth. You, the plaintiff, know how much you will accept, and the insurance carrier understands how much or little they want to pay you. However, neither party knows what the other is thinking.

In order to end up at an amount that both parties agree on, the "back and forth" process will start. This process consists of offers and counter-offers until one party compromises or a lawsuit is filed, and the case goes to trial.

Step 6: A Settlement is Agreed Upon or a Lawsuit is Filed

When your negotiation finally reaches a settlement that you are pleased with, you and your lawyer will accept the offer. However, if the defendant does not respond with an acceptable offer, you can choose to file a lawsuit to seek the amount of compensation you deserve.

Keep in mind that there are legal limits (statute of limitations) in respect to how long you can wait to file your personal injury claim. If you miss this window of time and do not file a claim before this statute of limitations ends, you will never have the ability to file an accident claim for this particular accident and will lose your chance of obtaining compensation for your injuries and any losses sustained. 

Step 7: Filing a Lawsuit

There are many personal injury claims that never see trial due to the fact that each party reaches an agreement prior to a trial being necessary. However, if you follow the previous six steps and it still does not result in a settlement, a lawsuit will be necessary. If a lawsuit is required, understanding the trial procedure prior to going to trial will help you in making better decisions and increase your possibility of achieving success in your personal injury lawsuit.

The process of filing a lawsuit is as follows:

  1. A lawsuit starts by filing a set of documents (a complaint) with the court, including your claims and how much money you are looking to obtain a settlement. The complaint is a formal legal document determining the legal and factual basis for your personal injury lawsuit. Once these are written, they are served to the defendant.
  2. When the litigation period starts, information is exchanged between each party in the claim. During this time, you will often be required to provide a deposition, which means testifying under oath about your injuries and having it recorded so that it can be used later on in the trial.
  3. After the case goes to trial, the evidence will be presented to the court, and the jury will weigh contested issues of fact and decide which pieces of evidence they find feasible. It is not unusual for a personal injury case to last a number of days.
  4. Lastly, if you are successful, the judge or jury will identify how much settlement you will be granted. It is a typical misconception that when a personal injury claim is filed, the judge decides your case. However, unless your case is tried in a "bench trial," it is usually the jury who decides if you succeed in your claim and the amount you will be compensated.

Although filing a claim can sound frightening, preparing yourself for what is to come can make it less nerve-racking. And you don't have to do it alone. If you have been injured due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another, please contact our experienced injury lawyers today. Our lawyers have what it takes to assist you in navigating the claims process and help fight for the settlement you deserve during this unfortunate time.

Why Choose The Cochran Firm 

Johnnie Cochran had long dreamed of creating a national law firm of men and women from all races, religions, creeds, and backgrounds to show how well we could all work together to make the world a better place. When Mr. Cochran started The Cochran Firm, his mission was “a journey to justice.” Today, with more than 35 offices across more than 20 states, the attorneys at The Cochran Firm work every day to fulfill that dream and continue that mission by working for our clients with the same work ethic and dedication to justice exemplified by Mr. Johnnie Cochran himself. 

The Cochran Firm is a diverse group of highly skilled and experienced lawyers that are dedicated to bringing high-quality representation to injured people and their families. The personal injury attorneys at The Cochran Firm are among the nation’s most recognized and successful attorneys in the country. When navigating through the legal process, you deserve to have an experienced attorney by your side. Our personal injury attorneys at The Cochran Firm know how to fight for you. 

Here at The Cochran Firm, our experienced personal injury attorneys are ready to help victims of accidents obtain the maximum compensation and financial recovery for all types of personal injuries that resulted in injuries. Our attorneys work closely with each of our clients using pooled resources and their access to legal expertise to ensure the most effective legal representation available is provided. 

You need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney who has proven successful results in other similar cases to guide you through the process and help you to receive the monetary damages you are entitled to under the law. Our attorneys have won over $30 Billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients. At The Cochran Firm, we have the offices, the experience, the results, and the resources to aid clients throughout the United States.

If you’re looking for an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you pursue justice for your medical costs, lost work, lasting injuries, and more, please contact our attorneys at The Cochran Firm today for your free, no-obligation initial consultation today. We serve the entire country with offices in many major U.S. cities.

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