Is Your Case a Personal Injury Claim or a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
To start, lets define each scenario. Is your case a claim or a lawsuit?
Personal injury Claim - a personal injury claim only involves you, the person or entity responsible for the injury or their insurance company. It does not involve the court system.
Personal injury Lawsuit - a personal injury lawsuit involves taking a defendant to court because they won't give you a fair or satisfactory settlement. A person will use a lawsuit to help force a payment. Just because you take a defendant to court doesn't mean that the court will find the defendant liable nor does it guarantee you compensation.
Your case begins when you get injured. This relates to the area of law called Tort Law.
Tort - Tort is a civil wrong, or the area of law involving civil wrongs (Tort Law). Tort law deals with situations when a person's actions has unfairly caused someone else harm or suffering. A tort does not have to be an illegal act; however, the act must have caused harm. A claim in tort may be brought by anyone that has suffered loss.
After being injured, you or your attorney will make a claim against the defendant. Typically, the claim is made through the defendant's insurance company. In essence, you're asking the defendant to take responsibility for my injuries and compensate you for damages.
The insurance company will process your claim. They will obtain the background information relating to the accident and the injury such as police reports, medical records, and interviews. Once they gather and review the information, the insurance company will make a decision on whether you have a valid claim or not.
Upon their decision, the insurance company will decide on whether or not you'll receive a settlement and if so, how much you'll receive. Whether or not the insurance company settles; does not mean that your claim is or isn't legitimate.
In many cases, your attorney will help negotiate with the insurance company so that you receive a more appropriate settlement for your injuries. If both you and the insurance company agree to a settlement amount; then they pay you and the process ends. No courts are involved in this scenario.
If you both sides cannot reach an agreement than a tort lawsuit can begin. You'll sue them in court to recover damages. To help establish a guideline for personal injury cases, many states, such as New York, have instituted a "Serious Injury Threshold".
Examples of circumstances that would meet this threshold are experiences like a broken limb or permanent disability.
Besides a threshold that must be meet to constitute a valid personal injury lawsuit, you should also be aware that there's a Statute of Limitations on personal injury cases in all states! Usually it's 2 or 3 years.
Be sure to find out your state's limitation statute. Ask an attorney about your states limitations in relation to your circumstance. The laws can be confusing and a good lawyer will help explain everything to you in full detail. Remember, if you don't file your lawsuit in court within your states required time period, you will lose all your rights to recover damages.