5 Things to Consider When Filing a Personal Injury Claim

If you’re in an accident caused by the negligent or reckless actions of another party, you may be entitled to compensation.

But before filing a compensation claim, there are five vital considerations to keep in mind. These can impact how much you’re entitled to or if you can claim at all. Find out the top five things you should consider when filing a personal injury claim.

1. How Long You Have to Claim

After being in an accident, filing a personal injury claim might not be the first thing on your mind. Your main priorities might be to let your friends and loved ones know that you’re okay and figure out how long you’ll be out of work. If you’ve sustained severe injuries, you might be in hospital for a while or need surgery or extensive treatment before you can even begin to think about looking for the right personal injury lawyer.

But you don’t have forever to file a claim. Each state has an independent statute of limitations for personal injury. These differ from the statute of limitations for criminal actions and may even vary based on the nature of your accident. For example, some states have different statutes of limitation for medical negligence cases or car accident claims.

The statute of limitations defines how long you have to claim from the date of your accident. If the timer runs out, you release the at-fault party of any liability, which means you won’t be able to recover damages, no matter how severe your accident or its impact on your life.

For example, the personal injury statute of limitations in South Carolina is three years, while the time limit in Maine is six years. To ensure you don’t miss out, check the statute of limitations in your state.

2. Evidence of Your Injuries

Every successful legal outcome relies on evidence, and a personal injury claim is no different. To claim the compensation you deserve, you must be able to prove that your injuries happened at the time of the accident and that the actions of another caused the accident.

There are several ways to document your injuries. The more evidence you have to support your claim, the more likely you’ll secure a fair settlement or have a court case ruled in your favor — if you decide to go down the litigation route.

One of the best ways to gather evidence of your injuries is to seek medical attention as soon as possible after your accident. When you see a doctor, they’ll record and treat your injuries. This also allows you to explain how you sustained them — for example, in a car crash.

Further evidence may include photos of any bruises or cuts, medical bills (including for prescribed medication), MRI scans, X-rays, and CT scans, physical therapy assessments, and psychological evaluations that show the emotional distress you’ve experienced.

A personal injury lawyer can also seek medical experts to testify to the severity of your injuries, as well as request copies of police reports. If you’re in a car accident, this will usually include a crash report — a document an investigating officer will create to determine who was involved in an accident, what injuries they sustained, and any contributing factors that may have played a role.

3. Who’s At Fault?

The person or party responsible for your accident — also known as liability — is a crucial part of a personal injury lawsuit. Across the U.S., you must show that the other party either caused or significantly contributed to the accident. This degree of liability is governed by negligence law, and like the statute of limitations, it varies by state.

A minority of states have contributory negligence laws, which means that an individual cannot claim compensation if they are partly responsible — even if the other party was majorly negligent.

The overwhelming majority of states have comparative negligence laws, which means that a person can still claim compensation if their actions partly led to the accident. The settlement is then reduced based on their level of fault.

Some states place no cap on fault, so if you were 80% at fault for your accident, your compensation would be reduced accordingly. You could then claim the remaining 20% from the other liable party.

Other states have a fault cap in place — either 50% or 51%.

Let’s look at an example:

You’re in a car accident in South Carolina and want to file a personal injury claim. You’re within the three-year statute of limitations, but you were partly responsible for your accident. The other driver was intoxicated, but you took a sip of water moments before the crash occurred. Because of this, you couldn’t react to the drunk driver in time.

South Carolina negligence laws state that you can claim compensation if you are less than 51% at fault. A court hearing determines that you were 25% liable for your accident. Your car accident lawyer in South Carolina negotiates a $100,000 settlement for your claim. Because you were found 25% responsible, you are entitled to the remaining 75% of your settlement, leaving you with $75,000.

As you can see, liability can have a massive impact on your claim, so check the laws of your state and seek professional advice from an attorney.

4. How Much Will It Cost?

Being in an accident comes with a huge financial burden. You’ll likely have medical bills to pay for and face hefty time off work while you recover. While a personal injury claim can help you recover those costs, you might wonder how much you’ll have to pay in legal fees and worry about how you can afford it.

While some lawyers request payment up-front — for initial consultations or requesting police reports — many attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means you’ll only ever pay legal fees if your claim is successful. When your case is resolved, your lawyer will typically deduct their fees from the settlement. This provides a great option for those who can’t afford to pay upfront costs. Your personal injury lawyer might also be able to delay medical bills until your settlement comes through, so you won’t have to worry about finding additional money to pay for treatment while you’re unable to work.

5. What’s a Fair Compensation Payout?

When filing a personal injury claim, you might go into the process with an ideal figure in your mind — or you might not know how much you’re entitled to. An attorney will be able to provide you with a ballpark figure of how much your claim might be worth, but the amount you’ll receive ultimately depends on several factors.

These include:

Your injuries:

The more severe your injuries and the bigger their impact on your life, the more money you’ll be entitled to. For example, if you need surgery or are left with a permanent health condition, you’ll receive more compensation compared to breaking your arm and recovering after a few months.

Negotiations:

Part of a lawyer’s role is to negotiate with insurance companies to get you a fair settlement. Insurance companies want to pay out as little as possible and often propose low-ball offers when you are entitled to more. A quick resolution usually means compromising on your settlement, so it’s vital to consider whether your payout will cover your future expenses, especially if you need ongoing medical treatment.

Litigation:

Most personal injury claims are settled out of court, but if your lawyer believes you are entitled to more than an insurance company is willing to offer and is confident they can win your case, they may suggest litigation. As part of this process, your lawyer will prepare your case, gather testimony and evidence, and present their argument to a judge. Taking your case to court can result in a substantial payout, but there is always a risk. If the judge rules in favor of the other party, you won’t receive any compensation.

Personal injury claims can be complex and time-consuming, but the reward often makes the process worth it. With an attorney fighting your corner and an awareness of these vital considerations, you stand a better chance of winning your claim and getting the compensation you deserve.

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