If you’ve been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence or recklessness, it’s possible that you have legal grounds to file a personal injury claim. But with so many different steps involved in the process, it can be difficult to know what to do next.
6 Steps To Filing A Claim
Nobody ever wants to file a personal injury suit. It’s not something that you wake up excited about doing. However, sometimes it is necessary in order to cover your medical expenses, bills, and other consequences. With that being said, the steps below will help you file a claim.
(Note: Every state and jurisdiction has slightly different rules. Make sure you study these rules carefully and hire an attorney to walk you through the process of filing a claim.)
1. Make Sure You Have A Case
Just because you’re hurt, doesn’t mean you can bring a personal injury case against an individual, business, or group. There are certain elements that must be satisfied in order to move forward:
According to Matthews Injury Law, “A personal injury case should also meet three criteria: 1) a defendant who faces liability, 2) damages, such as medical expenses or lost wages, and 3) the ability to collect a payout from the defendant. If you’re not sure whether your case satisfies the above criteria, consult a personal injury attorney.”
You can think of an injury claim as a stool. If one of these legs is missing, it can’t stand up. You need all three “legs” in place to have a strong case.
2. Determine Insurability
If you think you have a case and someone else is legally responsible, the next step is to make sure they have the proper insurance coverage to cover your claim. In other words, if you’re injured in a car accident, you’ll want to make sure the driver has adequate car insurance coverage. Or if you’re hurt slipping down wet stairs in an office building, you’ll want to know that the property owner has liability coverage.
Believe it or not, if the defendant doesn’t have the right insurance, it’s entirely possible that you won’t be able to collect on the judgment (even if one is awarded in your favor). At this point, you and your attorney will have to figure out the best course of action. (Sometimes it makes sense to go ahead and file the claim, while other times you’ll want to think twice.)
3. File The Right Documents
Any personal injury lawsuit starts with filing a set of documents. More specifically, you’ll need to file a complaint (also known as a petition in some courts). This is a legal document that identifies the factual basis for your personal injury lawsuit. It identifies the plaintiff (that’s you), the defendant, and the court in which you’re filing the suit.
The complaint document can take some time to fill out. While you can always do this yourself, it’s highly recommended that you let your attorney handle this. You’ll be required to fill out numerous sections about the case, negligence, facts, etc. You’ll also have to quantify what kind of relief you’re seeking and how much money you’re demanding.
After filing a complaint, most jurisdictions will require a summons to be filed. This document identifies all of the parties involved and tells the defendant that they’re being sued.
4. Pay The Appropriate Fees
When filing a personal injury summons and complaint with the court, you’ll be required to pay some accompanying fees. Depending on the location, court, and other factors, these fees are usually between $100 and $400.
5. Serve The Defendant
Once filed, you’ll need to serve the summons to the defendant and ensure they receive a copy of the documents. Most people hire a professional process server, court official, or law enforcement officer to serve a summons, but it can technically be anyone other than a minor or someone involved in the lawsuit.
6. Wait For A Response
The next step is to wait for the defendant to respond to the complaint and summons. This can happen in a couple of ways. The first response comes in the form of an “answer” to the complaint. If the defendant chooses this route, they’ll respond to each allegation and admit or deny fault. The second type of response is a motion to dismiss. If granted by the court, the entire complaint (or just part of it) may be thrown out entirely.
Putting It All Together
If you’re dealing with the aftermath of an injury that was caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, it’s important that you hold them accountable for their actions. These steps show you exactly what to do, but you don’t have to execute them alone. We recommend hiring a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney to represent your case!