If you’ve been injured in a car accident, then you may need to file a personal injury claim to receive compensatory damages from the person or entity responsible for the car accident.

We realize that if you’ve never filed a personal injury claim before, it can seem a bit complicated and confusing. To help you understand the process a bit more, this article will walk you through the standard timeline of a personal injury claim.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim

First, Seek Medical treatment

The most important thing to do after being injured in an accident is to seek medical treatment. Some people assume that since they don’t feel any immediate symptoms after the accident, there is no need to be examined. While you may not feel any pain or discomfort immediately following the accident, you may find yourself in serious pain a day, a week or even months later.

Furthermore, foregoing medical treatment will work to your disadvantage in terms of being compensated for your injuries. The responsible party’s insurance companies will use the fact that you did not seek medical treatment following the accident to call into question the severity of your injuries and your claim for compensation.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

For anything more than a very minor claim, it’s usually a good idea to at least discuss your situation with a personal injury lawyer.

If you have been involved in a major accident and/or treatment for your injuries is ongoing or involves multiple visits to the hospital, a personal injury lawyer will work to help you recover the entire cost of your medical treatment.

Even if you choose not to hire a personal injury lawyer, you should at least contact one to discuss your claim. There may be certain requirements that you may not be aware of, such as the statute of limitations, which limits the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. You may also have an obligation to pay back your health insurer from any settlement you receive, and an attorney can help properly coordinate your insurance benefits to your advantage. No matter how small you think your accident or injury was, you may find out that your claim will be more complicated than you thought and it’s always best to seek advice from a personal injury attorney.

Build Your Case

One of the first things your attorney will do is interview you about your injury. They will use the information you share with them to build their case for you. During your interview, your attorney will want to know everything you know about the accident, your injuries, and your medical treatment.

Next, the lawyer will get all your medical records and bills relating to the injury and will probably also get your medical records for any treatment you have ever had relating to the condition at issue in the case.

In other words, they will collect medical records and invoices from your doctors, communicate with your doctor to learn the full extent of your injuries, find out what continuing medical treatment you will require, collect invoices and/or get estimates on the damage to your personal property or vehicle, keep records of lost wages, etc.

Negotiate Your Settlement

Your personal injury attorney can make a demand for compensation to the person responsible or their insurance company before or after filing suit.

Negotiating a personal injury claim is a lot like negotiating a transaction with a used car dealer. Each side has their own idea of what your claim is worth. You (the claimant) know how much you are willing to accept, and the insurance company (the respondent) knows how much (or how little) they want to invest. But, neither of you really knows what the other is thinking. So, to arrive at an amount that is agreeable to both sides, you enter into a process of “back and forth” with offers and counter-offers until either a compromise is reached or suit is filed and the case continues to trial.

Settlement Is Reached or a Lawsuit Is Filed

If your negotiation has reached a settlement that you will be happy with, you and your personal injury attorney will accept the offer. However, if the respondent does not respond with an acceptable offer, you may choose to file a lawsuit to seek the amount compensation you need.

File a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Many personal injury cases are settled without going to trial. However, if the previous actions do not result in a settlement, a lawsuit will be necessary.

The litigation phase starts when you and your lawyer file a personal injury lawsuit in court. The filing of the lawsuit starts the clock running on when the case might get to trial. Every state’s pretrial procedures are different, but generally it will take one to two years for a personal injury case to get to trial. During the COVID era, these times have been longer so it is important to recognize when to file suit early in a case.

At Parnell, Michels & McKay we specialize in personal injury law such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, dog bites, workers compensation, social security disability, and other injuries. We also practice family law, including divorce, post-divorce, unwed custody and property division, and collaborative divorce. We have extensive experience in bankruptcy, probate, boundary disputes, estate planning, corporate formation and other real estate litigation.