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What is the Difference Between a Personal Injury Claim and a Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?

injury claim versus lawsuit - picture of legal gavelIf you suffered a personal injury due to negligence, you may be eligible to seek compensation. If you have a case, do you know what legal process to use? Should you file an injury claim or a lawsuit in Pennsylvania? What is the difference between the two?

Schmidt Kramer discusses the difference between an injury claim and a lawsuit, including the key elements and potential outcomes of each.

Injured due to the negligence of someone else? If so, you may be eligible to seek compensation. Contact our law offices to discuss your situation with one of our experienced Harrisburg-area personal injury lawyers. We have a history of proven results handling all types of personal injury claims.

Call 24/7 to request your FREE case review today.

Who May Be Eligible to File an Injury Claim or Lawsuit in Pennsylvania?

To be eligible to seek compensation after a personal injury, you or your attorney must establish certain elements exist, including the following:

  • Another party owed you a duty of care
  • That party breached that legal duty by doing something or failing to do something
  • That breached duty led to an incident that caused you harm
  • You suffered injuries as a result of that incident
  • Damages, such as medical costs, lost wages and property damages, occurred

If these elements cannot be established, then there is no negligence. If there is no negligence and no injury, you do not have a case and cannot pursue an injury claim or lawsuit against the other party.

However, if you or your attorney establish there was negligence, you will need to notify the appropriate insurance company.

What is an Injury Claim?

An injury claim in its simplest form is the act of filing an insurance claim. The type of insurance company you file with depends on the type of accident that injured you. For instance, a slip and fall in front of someone’s private property might result in a claim against that individual’s homeowner’s insurance.

If you are injured as the result of a car crash, however, you must always file through your insurance company first, regardless of fault. This is due to Pennsylvania’s choice no-fault insurance laws. Medical costs after a crash initially fall under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage. Once your PIP coverage is exhausted, you may have other legal options for seeking compensation. However, it largely depends on whether you have a limited tort or full tort policy.

If you are working with an attorney, he or she can help you understand your legal options.

Next Steps of a Personal Injury Claim

Once you file your accident claim and get the legal ball rolling, you can expect the insurance company to do a few things:

  • Investigate the incident to determine what occurred and who may be at fault
  • Investigate the extent of your injuries and other damages
  • Contact you to get a statement from you
  • Request certain documentation from you, such as your police or accident report. They may also ask you to see your medical records.
  • Make you a quick offer to settle your claim

The insurance company takes these steps for a certain reason. It is not because they are planning to pay you full and fair compensation for your damages. Rather, insurance companies always protect their bottom line. In short, they look for reasons to pay you as little as possible.

Negotiating Your Settlement

Once you reach your maximum medical improvement (MMI), your attorney can begin to negotiate settlement terms on your behalf.

During the personal injury claims process, you and/or your attorney negotiate with the insurance company to settle your claim. Having someone manage your case who will protect your best interests is important. It is also vital that your attorney is a skilled negotiator who knows how to accurately determine the value of your claim.

What Are Some Common Ways Personal Injuries Occur?

Personal injuries can occur anywhere, at any time and in any location. The most common ways people may suffer a personal injury due to negligence are:

  • Passenger car crashes or collisions with other types of vehicles
  • Bicycle crashes
  • Slip and fall incidents
  • Motorcycle crashes
  • Semi-truck accidents
  • Dog bites
  • Defective products
  • And more

What Are the Pros and Cons of Filing an Injury Claim Over a Lawsuit?

Seeking compensation for your damages through either legal process has significant benefits. However, there are disadvantages too.

Pros and Cons of Seeking Compensation Through an Injury Claim

The biggest benefit of filing an injury claim is that you get the money you need faster. You also avoid a lawsuit, which means you do not have the added expense of a court trial.

Generally speaking, the insurance company also wants to avoid a lawsuit. In part, this is due to the extra costs involved, but also because the jury may end up awarding even more money than they would have to pay in a settlement. That said, they will still try to negotiate a lower settlement agreement. Insurers know they have a chance of getting away with paying you less, especially if your attorney is not one who takes cases to court.

Pros and Cons of Filing a Lawsuit to Recover Compensation After an Injury

One of the benefits of a court trial is that your injury case is heard by a neutral jury. Unlike a criminal case, your attorney only has to prove the defendant was more likely than not to have caused your injury. If the jury is sympathetic to your case and finds you credible, this could result in you getting significantly more money than you would have gotten through a settlement.

That said, the extra cost for the trial is deducted from the total amount of compensation you are awarded. If the award is significant, then it is worth it. However, there are no guaranteed outcomes with a jury trial. This means that you could end up with significantly more, significantly less or no compensation at all if the jury sides with the defendant.

What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

If negotiations fail and the insurance company does not agree to an acceptable offer, then you have the option to take the next step in the legal process. That step is to file a personal injury lawsuit.

It is worth mentioning that most injury cases do not go to trial. Sometimes just filing a lawsuit can be enough to get the insurance company to increase their offer. This is especially true if your attorney has a history of going to trial.

While your attorney can navigate the complicated legal process of a personal injury lawsuit, there are a couple of critical things you should know:

Deadlines Apply

Better known as the statute of limitations, Pennsylvania injury victims have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. If you miss that deadline, you will not be able to seek any compensation for your injuries.

Lawsuits Have Multiple Phases

There are multiple phases in a lawsuit, which is just one reason why this legal process can go on for months or even years.

For starters, once the attorney files the motion, each side will investigate the incident fully. This phase is called the discovery process, and it gives both sides an opportunity to gather evidence and other documentation, do witness interviews, take depositions and more.

Throughout the discovery stage, your attorney can continue the negotiation process. However, if there is still no agreement by the time the discovery phase concludes, the case will go to trial. This is the stage where both sides have an opportunity to present their side to the judge and jury.

When Should You File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

If you hire an attorney, which we strongly recommend, he or she will recommend this step and handle it on your behalf. However, most personal injury claims settle before that point.

Call to Discuss Your Personal Injury With a Qualified Attorney at Our Firm Today

If you were injured due to the negligence of another individual or party, you may be eligible to recover compensation for your damages.

Most people are unsure whether they may have a case, but we can help determine your legal options at no cost or risk to you. Simply contact our law offices anytime, night or day, and request your free case review. If we validate your case and you choose to hire our firm, there are no upfront costs to pay.

Experience Matters. Call (717) 727-1403 today.