What You Need to Know About Making Personal Injury Claims: A Guide

Every year, there are millions of accidental injuries in the US and unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 1 and 44. Many times, these injuries are caused by others—either through their negligence or intentional wrongful acts. 

If you have experienced a personal injury that was caused by someone else, you should consult with an attorney to determine if a personal injury claim is the right choice for you. Read on  to learn more about personal injury cases.

There Is a Statute of Limitations

Every state has a statute of limitations when it comes to personal injury cases. This is the amount of time you have from the date of the accident or injury to file a claim. Once the statute of limitations runs out, you no longer have a valid legal claim. 

The statute of limitations varies depending on what type of case it is and there are some exceptions where the statute of limitations is shorter or longer. In general, you have two years to file a personal injury claim in the state of California. If you don’t discover the injury right away, the statute of limitations is one year from the date it was discovered.

Because you have a limited amount of time to file a claim, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible to determine if you have a strong case. 

The Insurance Company Wants You to Settle 

It is in the best interest of the insurance company if you settle. Insurance companies want you to settle as quickly as possible and for as little money as possible. If you refuse to settle, they spend money and time on legal fees and often end up paying you more. 

They also want you to settle before you hire an attorney. Most plaintiffs actually get a larger settlement when they hire an attorney, so it is in the insurance company’s interest to settle with you right away before you hire an attorney.  

Many insurance companies will make you a lowball offer quickly after you file a claim, hoping that you will accept it. Once you accept any settlement offer, you can’t change your mind, so don’t sign anything unless you are sure that’s what you want to accept. 

Your Medical History and Personal Life Are Fair Game 

Unfortunately, many insurance companies will comb through your medical records and personal life to find evidence that your injuries aren’t as bad as you say they are or were caused by something other than the accident.

Social media profiles are often targeted by insurance investigators, who are looking for photos of you engaging in risky behaviors or activities that may suggest that your injuries aren’t serious. The goal is to paint you in a bad light so they can question your credibility. 

If they can show a pattern of behavior or injuries, they can use that information to argue that their client was not at fault for the accident or injury, but that it is your fault due to your behavior. 

Personal Injury Cases Are Lengthy

Be prepared for your case to take months or even years to wrap up. If you can reach a settlement agreement with the insurance company, your case will conclude sooner, but it will still take quite a bit of time. This can be difficult if you are having trouble affording your medical expenses, can’t work, and can’t support your family. 

It may be tempting to accept a settlement just so you can get some financial relief, but if you can see the case through, you almost always end up with a larger settlement that better meets your long-term financial needs.

If the case goes to trial, you can expect to wait up to a year or longer, depending on how complex it is. During this time, you also may be approached by predatory lending firms that claim to give you an advance on your settlement.

The problem with these lenders is that they end up taking a large portion of your settlement once you get it in exchange for this advance. These are similar to payday lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates because people need immediate financial relief. Don’t fall prey to these lenders.

You May Have To Go to Trial

While a settlement that you, the insurance company, and your attorney thinks is fair is the most ideal outcome, this is not always how personal injury cases proceed. In some instances, the insurance company will not agree to a settlement that you accept. If this occurs, your case will go to trial where a jury will decide if the defendant is liable or not and will decide on your settlement amount. 

When you are considering attorneys to hire, make sure that the one you select has trial experience. You don’t want to find out that your attorney doesn’t have experience trying cases before a jury after you’ve spent months working with them.

Don’t Settle Until You Reach Maximum Medical Improvement 

If you settle too soon, you may find that you have large expenses later on in your recovery that you didn’t expect. Instead, wait until you reach something called “maximum medical improvement.” This is the time when you have completed the treatment plan for your injuries and your doctor can tell you when this occurs.

By waiting for maximum medical improvement, you can better assess how much your future medical bills will be based on how much you have recovered from your injuries. 

Personal Injury Claims

Personal injury claims are complex and are best handled by an experienced attorney. A personal injury lawyer can assess how strong your case is, help you build a strong case, negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, and help make sure that you get the compensation that you deserve. 

At Sweet Law, our attorneys specialize in personal injury claims. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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