How To File A Personal Injury Claim In Most States – Step by Step Process
Knowing if You have a Valid Claim
There are steps in filing a personal injury lawsuit that can help to determine whether you have a viable injury claim in most states. When you or a loved one has suffered injuries due to the reckless or negligent actions of another individual or entity you may have the legal right to seek damages. Recovering damages is a monetary court award or settlement for injuries sustained and property damage, this includes compensation for medical expenses, loss of wages, pain and suffering, along with other damages related to the incident.
The family members of the injured victim because of negligent actions by another party may have a claim for damages, which is referred to as consortium claims. If the person harmed is fatally injured the family may bring a wrongful death lawsuit, which includes consortium claims. These types of claims help the family recover damages for the loss they suffered, such as loss of services, loss of companionship and other losses.
Negligence is a term used for when an individual, company or other entity does not use the duty of care that others would ordinarily exercise under the same circumstances, but instead have acted careless or recklessly. In some situations the negligent actions may be an omission that resulted in harm when there was a duty to act that could have avoided harming an individual. Recklessness or carelessness is when a person behaves in a manner without considering the consequences of safety for others. They may not have actual intent to cause harm to another individual, but their actions result in bodily harm and possible property damage.
In many personal injury claims it may involve an insurance company that is responsible for paying for damages caused by a policyholder, such as a motor vehicle crash. Caution should be used when dealing with the insurance company settlement, since they may not offer what your claim is worth. It is essential to seek legal and medical advice to ensure the offered amount will cover the losses and damages. Accepting a settlement from the insurer will result in forfeiting the right to file a personal injury lawsuit at a later time, if the settled amount does not cover all of the damages.
Gathering evidence is important and can help to determine the potential damages in a case. The documentation essential to collect for a personal injury case include:
- Medical Expenses: Medical bills whether they are paid by an insurer, another party or out-of-pocket.
- Police Report: A copy of the police report from the incident resulting in harm can prove negligence by the defendant (Read More.)
- Witness Affidavits: While the affidavits are not admissible in court, they are important for a witness testifying to refresh their memory if necessary since time may dim their recollection of the incident.
- Employment Records: Employment records supporting loss wages.
- Physical Evidence: This is evidence including photographs and videos of the accident scene, property damage and even location.
- Estimates: In the event property was damaged in the incident estimates for repairs or replacement are essential.
- Pain and Suffering: While it is difficult to put a price on pain and emotional suffering an amount must be considered when filing the claim.
- Punitive Damages: Punitive damages can be sought when the negligence was egregious, but does not apply in every personal injury claim.
- Other Evidence: Any other type of evidence that supports the claim should be gathered to be used in the lawsuit to prove negligence.
Filing the Claim
When filing a claim there may be more than one legal option to choose, such as the court that will hear the case. Not all courts will be able to hear a case and the goal should be to choose the courts that would be most receptive to the plaintiff with the kind of personal injury claim you are pursuing.
Attorneys generally learn within the first year of law school which courts are the proper jurisdiction for specific cases, but it takes an accomplished and experienced personal injury lawyer to be confident in the most favorable courts for the plaintiff.
Drafting a Personal Injury Complaint
One of the steps in a personal injury lawsuit is drafting a complaint, which is a legal document filed to begin the litigation process. This complaint will include the reason for the lawsuit, an outline of the facts of the case and why the plaintiff is entitled to be compensated. The defendants name and any alias or fictitious names of the defendants and additional parties that may be liable but their names may not be known at the time the complaint is filed. This will allow the plaintiff to hold other liable party’s accountable at a later time.
The complaint must contain the elements required in personal injury law to recover compensation damages. In the event the complaint does not have the necessary elements the case may be dismissed. There is a fee that is required when filing a legal complaint in a personal injury case and vary from one jurisdiction to another. The cost which can be hundreds or even thousands will depend upon the type of case, the location, whether it is an individual claim or class action lawsuit and other factors. In some cases where the cost may be a hardship on the plaintiff the court may waive some of the filing fees.
Statute of Limitations
In personal injury claims there is a statute of limitations, which is a time limit in which the legal complaint must be filed with the court. If the time limit has expired then the lawsuit will be barred from being filed with the court. The statute of limitations applying to a personal injury claim will depend upon the type of case and the negligent defendant, since government, state and local entities generally have a shorter time limit than a private individual or company and the time limit can vary by state.
Generally the time limit begins running from the date of the accident resulting in harm, but in some cases, such as mesothelioma the statute of limitations does not start at the time of exposure, but at the time of diagnosis.
Complaint Summons to the Defendant
When a lawsuit is filed against a negligent party usually, but depending on the state laws a summons and a copy of the complaint must be provided to the defendant or their legal representative by someone other than the plaintiff. The court clerk can provide the information about serving the summons and whether the sheriff will deliver the documents or if other arrangements must be made in that jurisdiction.
Legal Representation Leaves You Free to Heal
Our attorneys at PI Warriors are nationally recognized to be be able to take care of all the legal challenges, while letting you have time to heal and continue with daily activities. They are dedicated to provide you the best possible legal representation and protect your rights to give you peace of mind and recover monetary compensation leaving all the stress to our seasoned lawyers, so you can concentrate on the business of recovering. Learn about your rights by perusing our state by state directory and reach out to one of us.