Many people injured in an accident or other personal injury incident often use the words “claim” and “lawsuit” interchangeably. Yet, there is an important distinction between the terms.
For one, you must have a legal claim to have a lawsuit. In that same vein, you cannot have a lawsuit without first having a claim. Continue reading for further insight into the differences between a claim and a lawsuit in the personal injury context.
What Is a Personal Injury Claim?
A claim is a set of operative facts that creates a legally enforceable right in court. Operative facts are relevant facts that establish a relationship between the parties. A claim is necessary to prove the first element of a personal injury case: duty of care.
Without a duty of care, a party does not owe the injured victim an obligation to act in a certain manner. A duty of care is the first element of a negligence claim. So, the injured party must establish a duty of care before they can move forward with proving a party breached the duty of care and caused their injuries and damages.
The term “claim” generally refers to insurance claims after an accident or injury. The injured party files a claim with the insurance provider seeking compensation for their economic and non-economic damages.
The insurance company investigates the claim to determine if its insured is liable for the damages. If so, the insurance company should make an offer to settle the claim or review and respond to a demand letter making an offer to settle the claim.
There are definite pros and cons of settling your personal injury case without going to court. Some advantages of settling a personal injury claim without going to court include:
- Claims are generally settled faster than a lawsuit
- You can receive your money faster for a claim than for a lawsuit
- It costs less to settle a claim than to file a lawsuit
However, there are some disadvantages. You might have received more money if you had taken the case to court instead of negotiating a settlement. You might also have received punitive damages if you filed a lawsuit, though they are only awarded in rare cases.
What Is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A lawsuit is based on a claim. It is a formal legal proceeding through a civil court. The injured party (plaintiff) files a lawsuit with the court and serves a copy of the person who caused the injury (defendant).
Generally, the insurance company for the defendant hires a defense lawyer to respond to the complaint and handle the court case. The lawsuit proceeds through several phases, including discovery, pre-trial motions, settlement negotiations, and trial.
At the trial, both parties present evidence that supports their allegations. The jurors can believe or disbelieve any evidence presented during the trial. Juries are the trier of fact.
The advantages of going to trial include having the case judged by a neutral third party (the jury) instead of an insurance company determining liability. You could also receive a higher amount for damages and possibly punitive damages.
However, taking a personal injury case to court has disadvantages over settling a claim. For instance, you have no guarantee of an outcome. It is impossible to predict what a jury might decide.
Typically, it is also more costly and time-consuming to go to trial. It could take more than a year for your case to go to trial after you file a lawsuit.
The defense could appeal the jury’s decision if the jurors decide the case in your favor. An appeal lengthens the timeline before you receive any money for your damages. You might have to take the case back to court if the defense wins the appeal.
How Can a Dallas Personal Injury Lawyer Help You With Your Personal Injury Case?
Knowing whether you should accept a settlement offer or proceed with a lawsuit can be difficult. A personal injury attorney assesses your case based on the facts and evidence. Then, the lawyer tells you their opinion and the basis for the opinion.
Hiring a lawyer means that you know how much your damages are worth. Many people are unaware they could receive more money than they think their case is worth. The insurance adjuster will not tell you if you are accepting a settlement offer that is much less than you should receive for your case.
A personal injury attorney also has the skills and resources to investigate a claim. You must have sufficient evidence to prove that the other party caused your injury. If not, you cannot legally force the other party to compensate you for your losses and damages.
When you hire a personal injury lawyer, the attorney handles all aspects of your case. The attorney gathers evidence, documents damages, and calculates the value of your case. In addition, an attorney protects you from bad-faith insurance tactics and fights to recover a fair amount for your case.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a Dallas Personal Injury Lawyer
Our legal team fights to get you the money you deserve after an accident or other personal injury. Contact our law firm Anderson Injury Lawyers at (214) 327-8000 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Dallas personal injury attorney.