Personal Injury Claim v. Lawsuit: What’s the Difference?

An accident caused by someone else’s negligence can leave you with serious injuries. Medical care is not cheap. And your injuries might require you to miss extended periods of work, meaning you might not have the income to cover all your expenses. Fortunately, personal injury laws allow you to seek compensation from the at-fault party for damages you suffered.

To pursue financial recovery, you can file a personal injury claim or lawsuit. But what’s the difference between the two?

With the claim, you seek a settlement through negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance company. With the lawsuit, you have a judge or jury decide whether compensation should be awarded.

Whatever path your case takes, it is in your best interest to have a personal injury attorney guiding you through each step.

Contact Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP at (800) 462-7160 to learn how our Los Angeles lawyers can help you.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim

After an accident, whether an auto collision, slip and fall, or any other incident resulting in injury, you may first pursue compensation by filing a claim with the responsible party’s insurance company. You must do this as soon as possible after being hurt. Many insurers have a 24- to 48-hour deadline for filing claims. Waiting to get started could jeopardize your case.

The insurance company will investigate the accident. The investigation aims to determine how the accident happened, who was at fault, and the extent of damages.

An insurance adjuster may:

  • Review the police report,
  • Examine photos or videos you or their customer took of the accident scene,
  • Go over medical records, and
  • Speak with you, their customer, and witnesses about the incident.

With this information, the adjuster will make a valuation of your case. In other words, they are trying to determine how much money (if any) the insurance company should pay you for damages.

The insurance company could make a low initial offer or deny your claim outright. In either situation, your case is not over. You and your attorney can negotiate with the carrier to seek a settlement you believe is fair.

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Your other option for pursuing compensation after an accident is a personal injury lawsuit. You would file your case with a court. Generally, you take this course if you cannot settle your claim with the insurance company.

In California, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is 2 years after being injured. If you miss the deadline, the court may dismiss your case, meaning you won’t have a valid legal claim to financial recovery from the at-fault party.

When you bring your case to court, you must prove that:

  • The at-fault party owed you a duty of care,
  • They breached their duty,
  • Their breach caused an accident,
  • You suffered injuries in that accident.

The defendant will raise arguments to counter your claims.

The judge or jury will weigh the arguments from both sides to determine whether compensation should be awarded.

Should You File a Claim or Lawsuit?

If you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault, it is important that you exercise your rights to seek compensation. Financial recovery can ensure that you have the funds to take care of damages you sustained.

Your case will more than likely start with a personal injury claim. Whether you must also file a lawsuit will depend on what happens when you attempt to get a settlement from the insurance company. Most cases are resolved outside of the courtroom, which means it’s possible yours won’t move onto the lawsuit phase.

Speak with a Member of the Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP Team

Your personal injury case can take a couple of different directions. Each is highly complex and requires a thorough understanding of the law and your rights. That’s why it’s crucial to have an attorney help navigate the processes.

Our Los Angeles lawyers can evaluate and investigate to determine your case’s worth and negotiate with the insurance company to seek a just settlement. If the matter can’t be resolved out of court, we’re prepared to present your case before a judge or jury.

Please call us at (800) 462-7160 or submit an online contact form to learn more about your options.