It can be daunting if another person’s negligence causes you harm and leaves you with costly medical bills and other damages. When seeking compensation to recover those losses, however, the legal process is rarely straightforward.
Should you file an injury claim or a lawsuit? Are these legal processes one and the same? In short, they are not, but many people get confused by these legal terms and what they mean. There are critical differences to each process that are helpful to understand.
Below Greg Monforton & Partners discuss the differences of injury claims vs. lawsuits, why they matter, and the pros and cons of each.
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When Would Someone File an Injury Claim?
If you have been injured by another’s negligence and you have a valid case, you will need to take legal action to recover compensation for your losses. The first step in the litigation process is to file an injury claim against the auto or other appropriate insurance policy of the liable party.
Medical bills, car repair costs and other damages can quickly mount up after a serious personal injury. If someone else caused the accident and your injuries, you should not be the one to foot the bill.
When is a Personal Injury Eligible for Compensation?
A personal injury, in legal terms, is one that occurs when another person violates a duty of care owed to someone else.
For instance, a driver has the legal duty of preventing harm to others. If that driver gets behind the wheel while intoxicated and causes a crash, he or she has breached that duty of care. A victim who sustains injuries and damages because of that crash may have a valid compensation case.
Personal injuries are typically the result of human error, reckless behaviour or some other type of negligent action, resulting from:
- Car crashes
- Bicycle accidents
- Motorcycle crashes
- Truck accidents
- Dog bites
- Slip and fall incidents
- Defective products
- And more
What is the Legal Process of an Injury Claim?
An injury claim is initiated by the plaintiff (injured victim), or his or her attorney. In essence, it is a legal demand against the policy of the defendant (at-fault party) for payment of the damages he or she caused.
If you are working with a lawyer, which we strongly recommend, he or she will investigate your accident and determine who is liable for your damages. Compensation you may be able to recover includes:
- Lost wages if you missed work while recovering
- Reimbursement of all necessary and reasonable medical costs
- Compensation for your pain and suffering damages
- Property damage reimbursement
- Compensation for loss of household services
In addition to determining the at-fault party, your lawyer will guide you on what to do throughout the legal process. This may include continuing your medical care, documenting your injuries and more. He or she will also gather evidence that supports your claim, calculate the full value of your damages and begin negotiations for a settlement with the liable party’s solicitor.
The process may sound simple, but it can take months or longer to either reach a settlement agreement or determine a lawsuit is necessary.
The Insurance Company Will Not Make it Easy to Get Compensated
Be forewarned that once you file a claim, the liable party’s insurer will look for reasons to shift blame from their client. Insurance companies use many tactics to try to devalue a claim or discredit an injury victim. Their end goal is to pay out as little as possible to you.
That said, if negotiations are successful and both sides agree on a settlement amount, then the court system is not involved.
When is it Necessary to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If a settlement cannot be reached between the injured victim and liable party, then it may be necessary to seek compensation through a lawsuit. In this legal process, your claim is heard in court and decided by a jury.
There are several steps to a personal injury lawsuit, which includes:
The Plaintiff’s Complaint
This initial step is the legal document filed by your solicitor. It includes the defendant’s alleged negligence that resulted in your injuries and other losses.
The Defendant’s Answer
The law provides an opportunity for the defendant (liable party) to answer your allegations.
This is an opportunity for both sides to gain more information about the accident and resulting damages, such as:
- Interrogatories (written questions)
- Request for additional documentation
- Depositions (each side may get questioned under oath by opposing counsel)
Everything gathered during this phase should be to help a claim move forward in a productive manner.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative dispute resolution is another means for parties to settle their case without having to go to court. Mediation is not an option in Ontario and parties must complete this process before the court will give them a trial date.
If a lawsuit does end up in court, there are several steps involved. A trial includes jury selection, opening remarks, testimony from the witness, relevant exhibits, and closing arguments.
After these steps have concluded, the judge will address the jury, instructing them about the law and their duty. At the conclusion, the jury will deliberate on the claim before giving a decision. This decision is announced by the appointed foreperson of the jury.
What Are the Pros and Cons of an Injury Claim vs a Lawsuit
There are advantages and disadvantages, regardless of whether you seek compensation through an injury claim or a lawsuit.
Pursuing compensation through a claim is a simpler process. While it can take some time to reach a settlement, it saves both parties time and money.
That said, the downside to filing a claim is that you will have to try to convince the insurance company to compensate you fairly for your damages. Insurers are for-profit businesses, so they do not have your best interests in mind. Attempting this legal process without a lawyer is often not optimum.
Filing a Lawsuit
Most people do not want to go to court. It is intimidating and it is expensive. The advantage is that your case will be heard by a neutral jury. If they decide in your favour, you could receive more compensation than you might have gotten through an injury claim. However, there is no guarantee of that, and if the jury decides for the defendant, you could receive nothing.
Having an experienced lawyer on your side may greatly benefit your case and help to ensure you recover maximum compensation for your damages.
Injury Claim or Lawsuit? Our Firm is Prepared to Help
Whether you are seeking a settlement through an injury claim or lawsuit in court, we are always ready to help. Our knowledgeable Sarnia auto accident lawyers have recovered over $300,000,000 million for our clients.
Not sure if you have valid case? Call our firm to learn more about your legal options today. We have the knowledge, resources and staff to get results.
Experience matters. Call 866-320-4770