When you get hurt in an accident, a lot of things start happening at once. It’s really confusing, especially when the accident wasn’t your fault. You might see lots of bills coming in and wonder what to do next. One big question you might have is whether you should file a claim or a lawsuit.
People often mix up these two ideas or think they’re the same, but they’re actually different. Knowing what sets a claim apart from a lawsuit can help you choose what to do after you’ve been injured.
What Are Claims?
When we talk about “claims,” we’re referring to a request for payment or assistance due to someone else’s actions causing you harm. This is based on something known as tort law, which deals with situations where one person’s actions or failure to act leads to another person’s injury.
Often, resolving a claim can be straightforward. For example, let’s say you’re helping your friend Linda move a bookshelf in her apartment. While doing so, you trip over a loose rug and injure your knee. You might ask Linda to help pay for your doctor’s visit. Linda may be able to pay you directly or go through her homeowner’s insurance.
Sometimes, when we talk about claims, we’re also talking about insurance claims. This is common in cases where someone gets hurt, like in a car accident, and it’s another person’s fault.
Imagine you’re in a car crash and you get really hurt. Your own insurance can only cover so much, and you need more help because the other driver caused the accident. In this case, you’d file a claim with the insurance company of the driver who was at fault.
Here’s what happens next:
- Filing the claim: You tell the other driver’s insurance company about the accident and your injuries.
- Investigation: The insurance company has a person called an adjuster who looks into your claim to see what happened and how badly you were hurt.
- Negotiation: Your lawyer and the insurance company talk about how much money you should get. This is called negotiating a settlement.
If the insurance company agrees to pay your claim, you’ll get money to help with things like:
- Your medical bills
- Money you didn’t earn because you couldn’t work
- Pain and suffering from your injuries
- Any long-term problems or disabilities from the accident
- Diminished earning capacity
- Emotional stress if the accident impacted your life and happiness
But what if the insurance company says it’s not their driver’s fault, or that you’re partly to blame for the accident? If that happens, your lawyer might tell you it’s time to think about a lawsuit.
What Are Lawsuits?
A lawsuit is like a formal process where your claim or claims get sorted out in court.
Lawsuits include the following steps:
- Complaint: This is where your lawyer writes down all the details about how the other person (defendant) did something wrong, how you got hurt, and what kind of problems it caused you.
- Answer: The defendant then gets a chance to respond to your complaint.
- Discovery: This part is like gathering clues. Both sides need more information to argue their case properly. Parties ask each other questions in writing and in person, request important papers or items, and comply with requests for documents. This is all part of digging up all the facts.
- Dispute resolution: Before going to trial, there’s a big push to settle things outside court. This can happen in casual chats or more formal meetings like mediation. If the parties can’t figure things out, then it’s clear they have to go to court.
- Trial: The trial involves picking a jury, giving opening statements, presenting evidence and witnesses, and summing everything up at the end.
Each of these steps is important because they make sure everyone’s story is heard and that the decision is fair.
Pros and Cons of Claims and Lawsuits
When you’re deciding between a claim and a lawsuit after an accident, it’s important to know the pros and cons of each.
Pros of claims:
- Cost and speed: If you settle a claim without going to court, you save money on court costs and lawyer fees. Plus, you usually get your money faster.
- Less stressful: It’s often less stressful than going through a long court case.
Cons of claims:
- Dealing with insurance companies: Insurance companies might not want to give you as much money as you deserve.
- Limited control: The insurance company usually decides how much money you get, and they might try to pay as little as possible.
Pros of lawsuits:
- Fair hearing: In a lawsuit, a neutral court listens to your side of the story.
- Potential for more money: A jury decides how much money you should get, not the insurance company. This could mean you get more money.
- Punitive damages: If the other person’s actions were really bad, the court might make them pay extra money as a punishment.
Cons of lawsuits:
- Time: Lawsuits can take years before you get a decision and your money.
- Complex process: It’s a longer, more complicated process compared to settling a claim outside of court.
Deciding whether to file a claim or pursue a lawsuit can be a tough choice, filled with many important factors to consider.
Consult an Experienced Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’re feeling unsure about what’s the right step for you, Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys is here to help. Contact our Chicago personal injury lawyers for a free consultation. We can discuss your legal options and determine if a claim or lawsuit is best in your case. Call us at (312) 726-1616.