Let’s say that you were injured in a car accident or when your new cellphone exploded in your hand. Besides the pain and suffering, there will be added burdens of medical bills, lost wages and other associated expenses. There may even be the possibility that you will never be able to work again. Naturally, you will want to be sufficiently compensated for your injuries and losses. The law offers two options: negotiated settlement and lawsuit.
Should you file a claim and try to negotiate a settlement or should you sue the person or entity responsible for your injury? You should talk to experienced personal injury lawyers for advice.
Difference Between a Claim and a Lawsuit
Before you can decide the right course of action, you need to know the difference between a claim and a lawsuit.
- Personal injury claim: A personal injury claim is filed with the insurance company of the responsible person or entity. This is before considering any lawsuit. Once you have filed your claim, a series of negotiations take place between you and the insurance company. You may be asked to attend an independent medical examination (IME) to have your injuries assessed and verified. If the negotiations conclude with a mutually satisfactory settlement, then will be no need to go to the court.
- Personal injury lawsuit: If a mutually satisfactory settlement can’t be reached with negotiations, then you should consider filing a personal injury lawsuit. A lawsuit is often a complicated and lengthy process that includes a petition, discovery of harm, depositions and trial. You will be required to appear several times at the court and produce witnesses. Before your cases reaches the trial stage, your defendant’s lawyer will try to have it have it thrown out. Even after the court gives a decision in your favor, the defendant may appeal to have the decision overturned or to have the compensation reduced.
Consider the Following Before Filing a Lawsuit
If you have received an offer of settlement that you did not find satisfactory, then consider the expenses and the time needed to pursue the lawsuit to its successful conclusion before rejecting it. Even when you have a strong case, there is no guarantee that you will win or that court will award you the full amount of your claim even if you win. If you lose the lawsuit, you will not be able to recover any of your expenses.
Your lawsuit expenses may include petition filing fees, payments to law enforcement officers, costs of depositions and transcripts, costs of medical examination, travel expenses, copying costs for medical records, witness statements and police reports, and other associated expenses. Add to that the loss of wages due to time off from work and even the possibility of losing your job.
Arbitration is Often a Better Recourse
If the negotiations for settlement have failed, then you should consider arbitration as the next step. Arbitration takes place after the failure of the negotiations but before filing a lawsuit. It is the use of an independent person or a group of persons officially appointed to settle a dispute. The arbitrator listens to both sides and gives his decision. In most cases, the arbitrator’s decision cannot be appealed.
Arbitration is an excellent alternative to a lawsuit. It takes less time and the costs are much lower. There are various types of arbitrations, including one that guarantees that you will be paid at least some amount of money even if the arbitrator’s decision goes against you.
Sue Only After You Have Run Out of All Other Options
Technically speaking, you can file a personal injury lawsuit at any time you like after the accident. You can file it the same day you were injured, if you want to. But considering the complexity of the legal process once it goes to court, it is sensible to seek a negotiated settlement first. Experienced personal injury lawyers will give you the same advice. Therefore, you should consider filing a lawsuit only after you have run out of all other options, including arbitration and mediation.