Claim vs. Lawsuit
The terms “claim” and “lawsuit” are sometimes used interchangeably in legal contexts. Nevertheless, they are not the same. The majority of personal injury claims are settled without a lawsuit, but most lawsuits are based on a claim.
How Do Personal Injury Claims Work?
A claim is a legal demand for compensation. In the case of a personal injury, a claim is a request for money from the person who is legally responsible for the harm. This person is typically the party who injured the victim. The majority of accident victims submit insurance claims, especially after car accidents.
What is a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
A lawsuit is a formal, public filing where a judge looks at the claim and decides whether or not it is valid. The court will also determine how much money to give the claimant if they prove their case. The Georgia Rules of Civil Procedure and the Georgia Evidence Code are two strict sets of rules you must follow during the many steps of a lawsuit.
Steps for Filing a Personal Injury Claim
Personal injury claims usually start with the injured person’s lawyer sending a demand letter to the insurance company. For instance, if a patient suffers a medical malpractice injury, the doctor’s malpractice insurance company may receive a demand letter.
The demand letter outlines the claim and provides an explanation of the insurance company’s liability, along with a request for payment. A demand letter may or may not mention an exact dollar figure. The insurance provider will send a reservation of rights letter in response to the demand letter, stating that they reserve the right to reject the claim if it is unjustified.
In the bargaining phase of settling a personal injury claim, the parties exchange offers and counteroffers. The negotiation process could conclude with an acceptable compromise for both parties.
The claimant has the right to sue at any time, but doing so does not automatically put a stop to talks. Even after the claimant files a case, negotiations might continue until a jury renders a decision. Courts encourage parties to settle disputes to clear their overflowing dockets.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
ADR covers a wide range of inventive dispute resolution methods. Despite the fact that negotiation is by far the most common ADR method, most people who use the term ADR do not mean negotiation.
- In arbitration, the parties engage a private court to impose a decision on them
- In mediation, a third party persuades the parties to settle
Parties sometimes use more innovative ADR strategies, such as simulated trials. ADR typically saves time and money.
The Settlement Agreement
You should never resolve a dispute without a properly designed settlement agreement. Your attorney can draft a settlement agreement, but if the other party does so, your attorney should review it carefully before you sign. Usually, a settlement agreement puts an end to a claim. You can sue the at-fault party if they don’t pay after agreeing to a settlement.
The Litigation Process
Most often, parties will file a lawsuit as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted or (more frequently) as a negotiating tactic to obtain an edge. Alternatively, if the statute of limitations is approaching, you may file a claim to preserve your legal rights.
A Guide To Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The claimant must complete the following actions to file a lawsuit:
- Submit a formal written complaint to the court clerk. A lawyer should draft this document.
- Pay the filing fee.
- Inform the defendant that you are suing them through “service of process.” You must comply with specific procedures.
Normally, the defendant responds to the complaint with a formal answer. If the defendant ignores the summons, the court will issue a default judgment (meaning you win).
Parties often use the following tools for acquiring evidence during pre-trial discovery:
- Depositions: Testimony given under oath outside of court
- Interrogatories: Written inquiries that the opposing party must respond to under oath
- Demands for Production: Requests to examine evidence held by the opposing side; this might include copies of documents and tangible evidence
- Admission requests: To avoid having to prove certain facts, each side will ask the other side to acknowledge them; most of the time, these facts are undisputed
During the pre-trial discovery process, evidence can break a stalemate by giving one side a key advantage that forces the other side to settle.
When a party wants to request a specific action from the judge, they must file a motion with the court.
Following are some examples:
- Motion to Dismiss: A defendant asks the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
- Motion to Suppress: One side asks the judge to throw out certain evidence, such as evidence that was taken illegally.
- Motion for a Change of Venue: A request for the judge to move the trial to another court.
A party might submit dozens of motions during a lawsuit.
During the trial, the parties cross-examine witnesses, offer evidence, and make arguments. Typically, a jury decides the case. The judge may render a decision in various instances.
Seek Assistance from a Tifton Personal Injury Attorney
If you file a claim with an insurance company, your lawyer can talk to the insurance company on your behalf. A lawyer can also draft legal documents and represent you at trial if you decide to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.