A personal injury claim is filed when you have suffered injuries at the hands of someone else. Common personal injury claims include car accident injuries, dog bites, slip-and-fall cases, wrongful death and medical malpractice. Wrongful death may be part of a car accident case if a loved one died in an accident.
Steps to Take After an Accident
One of the most important things you must do after an accident is to see a doctor. Even if your injuries are not apparent yet, the safest thing to do is to seek medical attention. Sometimes an injury will not manifest itself for hours, days or even months. Contact an attorney as soon as possible about filing a personal injury lawsuit. You need to file a case before the statute of limitations runs out. A statute of limitations represents the amount of time you have before you won’t be allowed to file a case. If the claim is against the government, you could have as little as 30 days, depending on the circumstances. To help your attorney in filing a case:
- Take pictures of the accident scene if you are able. Be sure you take detailed pictures of the damages to your vehicle and to other vehicles. You should also take pictures of your injuries if possible. If you are not in condition to do so, have a loved one or friend help you.
- Start collecting evidence: You’ll need a copy of the police report, the names, addresses and phone numbers of others involved in the accident.
- Collect contact information from any witnesses.
- At the accident, be sure to get insurance information from any other drivers involved in the crash.
- Start a diary. You should write down your recollection of the accident as soon as possible and before you forget any of the details. Keep track of doctors’ appointments, including the dates, times ,and what was discussed at each appointment. You should also write down what happened at each appointment, including any tests that were performed.
- Keep track of how many days you missed work because of pain and suffering from your injuries. Also, if you do go to work, write down tasks that you cannot complete because of the accident injuries.
- Always take notes about your conversation with other people who were involved in the accident. However, in your conversation, be sure to be careful that you don’t inadvertently admit guilt, even if you think the accident was your fault.
- Make copies of all medical bills and vehicle repair bills, even if the insurance pays for them. The attorney will need copies. In some cases, the attorney may need original documents. If so, be sure to make yourself a copy.
How to Make a Personal Injury Claim
You have three ways to make a personal injury claim. You could file a lawsuit and take the matter to court, file a lawsuit and go to arbitration, or try to settle with the others who were involved in the accident through their insurance companies. However, regardless of which way you decide to go, it’s better to retain a personal injury attorney. The laws regarding accident claims plus the involvement of at least two insurance companies’ attorneys – yours and another driver’s – make the process extensive and complicated, and usually difficult. While you might be able to negotiate your own settlement or win your own court case, you may fare better on the amount you are awarded if you have an attorney.
The Amount Paid for Pain and Suffering
The amount you may be paid for pain and suffering depends on a couple factors. First, the amount of compensatory damages such as medical bills and time missed from work are placed into a formula by the insurance company. This is the number with which an insurance company starts negotiations with. Depending on the extent of your injuries, the insurance company may use a higher factor in determining the amount you are paid over and above actual costs.
You may also be entitled to punitive damages. These damages are awarded in a civil lawsuit. Punitive damages are not available to everyone who has been in an accident. In most cases, the defendant’s action had to have negligent, such as driving under the influence, texting while driving or otherwise being distracted. The defendant also has to know that his actions could injure or kill someone, yet he or she takes those actions regardless. While you won’t be able to get an exact number, you could get a good idea of what your case would be worth by knowing how insurance companies come up with their initial offer for case settlement compensation.