A General Overview of a Personal Injury Claim

If you have been injured in any type of accident and another person/party is at fault, you are entitled to bring a claim against that person/party to recover compensation for your injuries. This is what is called a “Personal Injury” claim. The first step is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. The attorney typically will not charge you for a consultation and will not charge you any fee unless they recover something. I have found that many people attempt to handle their own injury cases by themselves without the help of an attorney. That is a huge mistake. Statistics show that an experienced attorney will recover many times over the amount that you can recover on your own. In addition, without an attorney, you may be waiving or signing away rights and entitlements to which you should have pursued.

Once you have retained an attorney, he will send what is called a letter of representation to the responsible party(s) and their insurance companies. The purpose of this is two-fold. The first is to let the other side know that you are serious about your claim. The second is to make sure that no one bothers you during your healing process.

The attorney will likely do some information gathering at that point, perhaps hiring an investigator if needed, interviewing witnesses and so on. He will not begin any real substantive settlement discussions with the responsible parties until you have fully recovered or have reached maximum recovery. It is important to wait until full recovery (or maximum recovery) because you only get one bite at the apple. What I mean is that you only get one opportunity to settle a claim, i.e. after you settle it, you cannot ask for more. Part of the way an injury claim is valued is based upon medical treatment and recovery time. It would be foolish to settle or attempt to settle a claim prematurely.

After healing is completed, your Attorney will begin settlement negotiations with the responsible party. This often can become acrimonious when the two parties place vastly different figures on the value of your claim. The two issues that are argued over in negotiations are Liability and Damages. Liability is the “who is at fault, and how much” aspect of an injury claim. You argue that the other side is at fault, and they argue that you are at fault. The Damage aspect is essentially “what is the value of these injuries?” “How much is an injury of that type worth?”. If a settlement cannot be reached, your Attorney will have to file a civil lawsuit against the responsible party. This often times is a very good thing, because it forces the responsible party (or their insurer) to retain an attorney to defend the claim. The gives for a second set of eyes to review your claim and may lead to further settlement negotiations.

Should the negotiations fail, its on to the meat of the litigation. The other side will want to review all of your medical information, perhaps schedule your deposition (a deposition is where the other side’s attorney asks you a multitude of questions about the accident, about your injuries and about your treatment). The other side may also request that you undergo an Independent Medical Examination (IME) with a doctor of their choosing to review your medical status and treatment. This will usually set forth one final set of negotiations before trial. Should that fail, its into the courtroom for a trial on the merits.

Greg Artim is a Personal Injury Attorney located in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Please visit his website at www.gregartim.com for more information on various legal topics.


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