Claim vs. Lawsuit
If you’ve searched for legal information online, you’ve likely come across the terms “claim” and “lawsuit.” Often, these two terms are used synonymously.
Although they share some similarities, claims and lawsuits are not the same thing. They are different types of legal actions for recovering compensation after an injury or accident.
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What are Claims?
Often, the first thing people do after they are injured in an accident is file an injury claim with an insurance company. If someone files a claim, they are informing the insurance company of their injury and the insurance company’s responsibility to pay for their damages.
An injury victim might file an insurance claim after a car accident, truck accident, slip and fall accident, dog bite, medical malpractice incident, or another injury-producing event. In most cases, the victim will file their injury claim with the at-fault party’s insurer.
Insurance claims are generally handled outside of court. If you make an insurance claim, there are a few people you might deal with: an insurance adjuster, a defense attorney, and others that minimize risk and payouts for the insurance company.
Insurance adjusters will examine and investigate your claim to determine how much money they think you deserve for your accident. In many cases, the insurance adjuster will propose a low initial settlement offer to begin the negotiation process.
Your personal injury attorney will likely counter the offer with a higher proposed settlement. The insurer’s job is to limit your payout; your attorney’s job is to make sure the settlement fully compensates you for your injuries and losses after the accident.
If you are unable to reach an agreement in a claim, then a lawsuit will likely need to be filed.
Why You Should or Shouldn’t File a Claim After an Accident
There are several reasons why you should or shouldn’t file an insurance claim after being involved in an accident. The more straightforward your case is, the easier it should be to deal with the insurance company. The main objective of a claim is to show the insurance company that they will likely lose if you file a lawsuit.
Some reasons for filing a claim over a lawsuit include:
- Lower court fees and costs
- Lower attorney fees
- Faster case processing
- Fewer unknowns
With an insurance claim, you might be able to recover your economic damages and non-economic damages more quickly than in a lawsuit. You could receive compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering in relatively short order. However, your compensation could be affected by insurance coverage limits.
Some reasons for filing a lawsuit over a claim include:
- Lawsuits require an insurance company to participate
- Failed negotiations while making a claim
- A judge or jury will decide your case
You might not need to file a lawsuit for your injuries and may be able to get your compensation through an insurance claim. However, once you settle with the insurance company, you release them and the at-fault party from liability for your claim. You cannot recover any further damages if you suffer further losses or injuries in the future due to the accident.
What Are Lawsuits?
If negotiations for your insurance claim break down, then you will likely need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party to recover your damages. To win your lawsuit, you will have to prove to the court that the other party caused your accident and you deserve compensation for your injuries.
Most personal injury cases are brought under negligence, while a small number are brought under strict liability and other causes of action.
The main difference between a lawsuit and a claim is the decision-maker. In an insurance claim, the insurance company makes the final decision whether to award you money. In a lawsuit, that decision is made by a judge or jury.
Why You Should or Shouldn’t File a Lawsuit
Typically, a lawsuit will follow a failed attempt at an insurance claim. One of the big differences here is timing. It is common to file a lawsuit after trying an insurance claim, but you won’t be successful in filing a claim if you don’t like the result of your lawsuit.
Sometimes, it becomes apparent that an insurance claim is a waste of time, and accident victims skip right to the lawsuit stage. Important reasons for filing a lawsuit over a claim include:
- You don’t trust the insurance company
- You are eligible for greater damages than the insurance company is willing to give
- You can recover non-economic and punitive damages
A lawsuit can help you recover all your damages after an injury accident. Insurance claims might limit your payout to only economic damages. Likewise, coverage limits might preclude you from getting everything you deserve.
There are also some situations where you might choose a claim over a lawsuit; they include:
- Higher expenses for lawsuits
- The final result is not guaranteed
- Slower case processing
Insurance companies don’t have to work with you if you make a claim with them. In a lawsuit, they will be forced to answer your complaint and appear in court. A lawsuit puts pressure on the insurance company to settle or risk an unpredictable jury decision.
Make sure that you understand the difference between a claim and a lawsuit when deciding your next steps.
How an Experienced Attorney Can Help You Decide What to Do
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you decide what the best move is in your case so you can get the compensation you deserve.
Other ways that a personal injury lawyer can help you include:
- Investigating your case to gather evidence for your claim or lawsuit
- Calculating the full extent of your damages
- Working with experts to strengthen your case
- Negotiating with insurers and at-fault parties for a fair settlement
- Litigating your case in court if negotiations fail
An experienced attorney can also help you compile all of the necessary evidence in your case. If you have legal questions, you should call an Oklahoma City personal injury attorney for help.