A personal injury can upend your life in more ways than you may anticipate immediately following the accident. The injury itself is typically the catalyst for more harms to follow, such as ongoing medical expenses, lost wages, personal care devices and other damages. Fortunately, the legal system accounts for these ongoing indemnities by allowing injured parties to pursue compensation via personal injury claims and lawsuits.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Following a Personal Injury Claim
As with all things insurance, the personal injury claims process may seem overly complicated and confusing at first glance. However, once you break down the process into easily digestible steps, you will discover that it is not so bad after all. An experienced lawyer can make the process even easier on you by helping you fill out the claim, advising you on what documentation you need to support your assertions, educating you on important deadlines and, when necessary, taking over the legal aspects for you. That said, below are the five steps involved in the typical personal injury claims process:
Submit the Claim
The first step in any personal injury claims process is the submittal of the claim. Even though Albuquerque is a fault state — meaning, the at-fault party of a car accident must cover the cost of damages — you may need to file a claim with both your insurance company and the other party’s insurer. An experienced lawyer can assess your damages and review your insurance policy to determine what, if any, costs it will cover before you file a claim against the at-fault party.
Once you file a claim, the insurance company will appoint an adjuster to investigate it. Not only will you need to provide proof of your injuries and damages but also, you will need to prove that the other party was, indeed, at fault. Depending on the extent of your injuries and damages, it could take significant time to gather the evidence necessary to give the adjuster a complete picture of your situation and to validate your claim.
Assess Your Settlement Offers
It is in this stage that working with an experienced personal injury attorney is particularly helpful. If the insurance adjuster determines that your claim is, indeed, valid, it will offer you a settlement. In most cases, it is unwise to accept the initial settlement. Insurance adjusters will lowball claimants in the hopes that they accept — which is usually the case when claimants proceed without the help of a lawyer. A lawyer, on the other hand, can give you an accurate idea of what your case is worth and ensure you do not accept anything less. It is at this point that negotiations begin.
Negotiate a New Settlement
If you reject the insurer’s initial offer, your claim will move into the negotiation phase. During this stage, the adjuster and your lawyer will attempt to reach a fair settlement offer without going to court.
Take Your Case to Court
If you, your lawyer, and the adjuster cannot agree on an offer, the next step will be to file a personal injury lawsuit. Your attorney should advise you on the risks of doing so, as well as help you weigh the costs of going to court with your potential settlement. If, after considering all possible risks and outcomes you still decide to file a lawsuit, you have two years from the date of the accident to do so.
Get the Help You Need
The process of filing a personal injury claim is fairly easy and straightforward. However, it’s what comes after filing — such as the investigation, fact gathering, negotiations and possibly litigation stages — that could prove costly if you attempt to go through them on your own. If you sustained significant damages in your accident, and if you hope to recover full and fair compensation, the best thing you can do for your case and recovery is to retain the help of a skilled personal injury lawyer.