When someone conducts an activity that could result in a physical injury to someone else, their liability insurance policies are how they can compensate the injured party for the expenses and impacts experienced due to their careless or reckless actions.
This includes car accident injuries that exceed the limits of the claimant’s personal injury protection (PIP) policy or occur in a state where PIP policies are not required, as well as slip and falls and other types of accidents resulting from a property owner’s negligence, dog bite injuries, the harm resulting from a medical provider’s error, or from the manufacture of defective or dangerous products made available to consumers.
If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by another person’s careless or reckless actions, you can seek compensation through the personal injury claims process. This process involves filing a bodily injury claim against the at-fault party’s relevant insurance policy, such as auto liability insurance or a property insurance policy. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.
If the insurer who services that policy fails to compensate the claim by either paying it outright or engaging the claimant in an out-of-court settlement, the claim can be filed as a lawsuit in civil court so that a judge or jury can make determinations about liability and compensation.
Here is a look at the process used to claim bodily injury from an accident and the importance of having an experienced attorney to assist you as you navigate this process.
Why You Need an Attorney When Claiming Bodily Injury
There are several common misconceptions about the types of attorneys that assist those who have suffered bodily injury due to another’s carelessness or recklessness. One misconception is that having an attorney is an option you can use if you don’t feel like undergoing the claims process on your own.
The truth is that unless you have education and experience in personal injury law, the claims process will likely overwhelm you, as it requires:
- An understanding of the types of expenses and impacts you can include when determining the value of your claim
- The ability to quickly obtain the documents and evidence needed to both prove fault for the accident that caused your injury as well as to show the reason for your claim’s value
- Experience in dealing with insurance claims adjusters and the tactics they use to devalue or even eliminate the claim.
- An understanding of the formalities and procedures of the court to have a successful trial if the at-fault party’s insurance provider fails to compensate your claim
The second misconception involves how the bodily injury claims process generally occurs. In television shows and movies, nearly every type of legal dispute involves an intense courtroom battle in which both the claimant and the defendant (as well as other important characters in the show) have the opportunity to deliver big, important speeches while on the stand. In truth, studies indicate that around 95 percent of all personal injury claims will resolve through a settlement, before a trial on the matter even begins.
Determining the Value of Your Claim
Your personal injury lawyer will wait until your injury has stabilized and then determine your claim’s value. Bodily injury claimants can typically receive compensation for both the costs of their injury and how the injury affected their quality of life.
These two forms of compensation are economic (expenses) and non-economic (impacts) damages. Some of the expenses and impacts most commonly included in bodily injury claims are medical costs, wage loss, property damage (such as damage to a vehicle that is incurred in a car accident), lost earning capacity when permanent injuries are present, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of the enjoyment of life.
Because the amount of compensation that is available for your claim depends on the limits of the at-fault party’s insurance policy, and the value of the claim includes impacts you have experienced in addition to the expenses, determining a value does not merely consist of adding up the expenses of your medical treatment and property damage.
Instead, lawyers consider several factors when valuing a bodily injury claim, including:
- The policy limits for insurance policies that the claim is filed against. This can include the at-fault party’s insurance, as well as auto or health insurance policies that you have that can also come into play in certain types of accidents.
- The severity of the injury, with more severe injuries, generally results in higher medical expenses and more profound psychological impacts from the injury.
- The presence of permanent injuries will result in the need for compensation for lost earning capacity and future medical expenses.
Communicating With the At-Fault Party’s Insurer
Insurance companies are far more interested in collecting premiums for the policies their insured need than providing coverage through those policies.
To protect their bottom line, these companies hire claims adjusters who evaluate the claims that are made in order to determine:
- Was the insured liable for the claimant’s injury?
- Does the policy that the claim was filed against cover the type of accident in which the claimant was injured?
- What is the minimum amount of compensation the insurer must provide to compensate for the claim?
To reduce the cost of paying out on claims resulting from the liability of their insured, claims adjusters will commonly offer a quick and unreasonably low settlement, convince the claimant to give a recorded statement they can pick apart for inconsistencies, or even use the claimant’s social media posts as evidence that their injury was not as serious as they claimed.
While these tactics commonly work on claimants who do not benefit from an attorney assisting them through the process, they do not work against attorneys who understand the legal requirement insurance companies have to provide the coverage their customers are paying for through premiums.
Obtaining Evidence to Prove Who You Can Hold Liable for Your Accident
In bodily injury claims, proving that someone else was liable is a required part of the process.
Liability is generally proven by showing evidence that proves the following three elements:
- The at-fault party had a duty in a specific circumstance to take reasonable actions to avoid harming others. For example, drivers on public roadways are required to operate their vehicles safely and in accordance with state and local traffic laws. Property owners who allow others on their property are expected to ensure that the property is free of hazards that could cause injuries to guests.
- The at-fault party violated that duty to care, such as by violating traffic laws or failing to perform inspections of their property that would reveal hazards.
- The breach in the duty resulted in an accident that injured the claimant. The claimant’s injury caused them expenses and negatively impacted their quality of life
Gathering evidence is often more challenging than it would seem. Certain types of evidence, such as video surveillance, must be secured to be available for trial.
Obtaining Documentation to Justify the Value of Your Claim
A successful bodily injury claim is not simply a matter of producing evidence showing who the at-fault party is. Claimants must also justify the value of their claim by providing documentation that shows the expenses they incurred and information that proves the impacts that the sufferer has already experienced or will likely experience in the future.
This includes information about the claimant’s diagnosis, testimony from the claimant’s employer about their rate of pay and the earnings they lost due to missed time from work, and even testimony to family or friends about changes to the claimant’s behavior that were observed after the injury.
Providing the Guidance You Need to Make Decisions About Your Claim
A personal injury attorney not only has the education and experience needed to navigate the personal injury claims process but also to guide the claimant in understanding the process, how their claim is valued, and what constitutes a fair settlement. This guidance is essential, as the attorney does not ultimately decide whether a settlement offer is reasonable; the claimant does.
Filing Your Claim in Court
Personal injury claims come with deadlines, and failing to adhere to this deadline—known as the statute of limitations—will almost always result in losing the claimant’s ability to receive compensation through the claims process.
The statute of limitations sets the amount of time that parties involved in a legal dispute have to file a legal complaint (lawsuit) in court. Most personal injury statutes of limitations provided through state laws range from one to six years after the injury.
In spite of the fact that the vast majority of bodily injury claims are resolved through settlements instead of litigation, the statute of limitations is every bit as crucial in personal injury cases as it is to any other type of legal matter.
Allowing the statute of limitations to expire not only prevents the claimant from seeking compensation through the court system but also will result in an insurer who will not entertain settlement negotiations because they’re no longer legally required to compensate the claim.
Preparing for the Trial
Settlements can occur anytime between when the insurer receives the bodily injury claim and a judge or jury renders a verdict on the lawsuit. Most will occur before the trial begins. However, while your attorney will still work on settlement negotiations, once they file your claim in court, they must manage several other tasks, including obtaining evidence and testimony held by the defense through discovery, as well as filing and responding to motions in court and attending pre-trial hearings. They will also build evidence exhibits and prepare opening and closing statements as your trial date nears.
Helping You Collect the Compensation that Was Awarded to You
After the claim, the compensation awarded to you will be sent directly to your attorney. They will help you settle any liens placed on the award by your creditors, deduct the fee for their services, and provide the remainder of the compensation to you.
Affording Your Attorney’s Services
Personal injury attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, meaning their payment depends on their ability to obtain compensation for your claim. You do not have to pay for their services if you lose your case. If you win your case, the payment for your legal team will be a percentage of the overall compensation you received.
After an accident injures you, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more about your rights and the claims process.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.