What is the difference between a personal injury claim and a personal injury lawsuit? As an injury lawyer in central Illinois, I work with people who have been injured in all sorts of accidents. And this is a question I often discuss with clients who have never been through this process before. These phrases tend to be used interchangeably, but they’re really two different parts of the injury claim process.
At the beginning of the personal injury process, we typically open a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. We will send a letter to that company, and we’ll open the claim. Then, when our client is done with medical treatment and has recovered from their injuries, we will put together something called a demand letter that has a lot of supporting documentation — like photos of the vehicles involved, police reports, all of our client’s medical bills and records, documentation to support a wage loss claim and other evidence that can help the insurance company understand the impact of the incident on our client’s life.
Next, we send the demand letter and supporting materials to the insurance company to begin the negotiation process. Our materials are designed to arm the insurance company with all the information they should need to be able to offer our client a fair amount of money to resolve their claim. After the insurance adjuster reviews our materials, we attempt to negotiate a resolution to the injury claim, talking through each offer and counter-offer with our client, in hopes of obtaining an outcome that will make our clients happy and provide fair compensation for their losses. This is the personal injury claim portion of the process. In most cases, we are able to achieve a settlement for a client in the claim part of the process.
Unfortunately, some of the time, the insurance company might come back with a dispute about what happened. Or in some situations, the insurance company simply has a business model where no matter how much support we provide for our client’s claim, the insurance carrier will not offer fair settlements to injured people. And in those cases, when we can’t obtain a fair settlement in the claim phase of the case, the best option that the client has is to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party, then that party’s insurance company will have to hire a lawyer to defend them in the lawsuit. It is important to keep in mind that negotiations can continue in order to try to settle the case even after the lawsuit is filed. So the “injury claim” with the insurance carrier stays open throughout the process.
Again, the key distinction is that the personal injury lawsuit typically only happens if the claim cannot be resolved successfully through negotiation in the first phase of the personal injury claim process. And if it can’t, then that is when we take the steps to file a lawsuit.
Now the good news for our clients is that in most cases, we can resolve the claim for them without ever filing a lawsuit. And there are some advantages to resolving things in the claim process.
Three Advantages of Pre-Lawsuit Resolution of Claims:
First, a pre-suit resolution gets the case done a lot faster, so you can get your medical bills paid, stay out of collections, and receive financial benefit of your injury settlement without having to go through protracted litigation.
The second advantage of resolving a case during the claim process is certainty. If a case is resolved through negotiation, both sides have come to an agreement on the value of the claim. If it were to go all the way to a trial, the value of the case will be whatever the 12 folks from your county may decide the case is worth. This creates risk for the insurance carrier, but it also creates risk for the injured person.
A third advantage is the cost. If a claim can be resolved at the claim phase before a lawsuit is filed, the costs to the client will be much lower than if a lawsuit is filed and litigation costs are included. If we have to pay experts and engage in a lot of depositions, the litigation costs can grow and at the end of the case, those are reimbursed from the total recovery. Potential litigation costs should be considered by both sides when considering settlement offers.
If you have any other questions about the personal injury claim or litigation process or if you’re seeking compensation for yourself or a loved one, please don’t hesitate to reach out. An experienced car accident attorney can help you through the injury claim process and if necessary file a lawsuit on your behalf to protect your interests. For help with your case, reach out today for a free case review.