·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

Should I Sue for a Personal Injury and Where Do I Start?

— August 28, 2020

In most situations, a lawyer can obtain a higher settlement offer than that which insurance companies would offer to a claimant without representation.

Anytime you’re involved in an accident and suffer serious injuries, you should proceed with the expectation of having to sue for damages, or compensation. Even in filing a claim with an insurance company, you’ll often need the same information and evidence that you’ll need in a personal injury lawsuit. Whether you’re involved in a car accident, slip and fall, dog bite, or medical malpractice, you should always assume you’ll need to sue.

Gather Information and Evidence

Immediately after the accident, you should begin collecting information from others involved in the incident. In traffic accidents, this includes collecting insurance information from each driver. Additionally, be sure to collect the names and contact information for anyone involved in the accident and from any witnesses to the accident. As you share this information, be sure to avoid discussing the incident, and do not admit any blame or guilt for the accident.

Additionally, you should use your phone to take pictures of the damages. In a car accident, take pictures of vehicle damage. If you were bitten by a dog, take pictures of the dog, your wound, and any barrier (fence, leash, etc.) that the dog overcame to get to you. For a slip and fall, taking pictures of the conditions that caused you to fall may be helpful. Photographs are very useful in establishing negligence and damages, so take clear pictures of anything you think may help your personal injury claim.

Obtain a Medical Evaluation

Your next step should be to obtain a medical evaluation as soon as possible. This is necessary for a couple of reasons even if you don’t experience pain right away. First, it can take days or even weeks for a serious injury to present noticeable symptoms. For example, you can suffer a traumatic brain injury and only experience slight headaches until the injury grows more severe. Similarly, neck injuries and spine damage can also be difficult to identify without a proper medical exam.

Image of a Doctor Looking at an X-Ray
Doctor Looking at an X-Ray; image courtesy of via Unsplash,

Secondly, failing to get a medical evaluation soon after your accident can hurt your claim. In the past, people would delay the medical exam as a means of allowing their injuries time to worsen with the intention of suing for a higher amount in damages. As a result, courts established penalties for contributory negligence to combat fraudulent or exaggerated claims. If you are found to contribute to your damages by failing to seek medical treatment, your negligence will be measured in a percentage and your total damages will be reduced by that percentage. For instance, if you are found 20% negligent in causing your injuries on a $100,000 claim, the most you can expect to receive is $80,000. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to seek treatment right away.

Consult an Attorney

As soon as possible, you should consult a lawyer about your accident. The easiest way to do this is to search by area, for example, you should search for something like: “personal injury lawyer Bronx NY”. Your first consultation with any personal injury lawyer will be free of charge and will help you determine the value and strength of your case. Once you hire an attorney, they will begin working for you on your behalf. Since they work for a contingency or a percentage of your total settlement, it’s in their best interest to obtain a favorable outcome for you.

Negotiate with Insurance Companies

As soon as you hire an attorney, they will help you pursue your claim with insurance companies. This is the first step, which involves negotiating for a fair settlement that will provide you with compensation for your medical care, pain and suffering, missed days of work, and other damages. In most situations, a lawyer can obtain a higher settlement offer than that which insurance companies would offer to a claimant without representation.

Most of the time, a settlement can be reached. However, if you and the insurance company can’t agree on a settlement, the case will go to court. Since you have already hired an attorney, you can save time during this phase of your case. This is important because a statute of limitations applies to how long you have to file a personal injury claim in court. Typically, you have just two to three years from the date of the accident, so having an attorney who is already informed about your case saves precious time. Your attorney will be prepared to file your lawsuit as soon as negotiations break down.

This guide has provided the information you’ll need to help your claim for damages in most situations. When you do consult an attorney, you should also follow his instructions, because he will know how best to handle your case. With your help, your lawyer can help you obtain the best possible outcome in your claim.

Join the conversation!