If another driver causes your car accident and you're entitled to compensation for your injuries, you may believe that filing “claim” or “lawsuit” refers to the same thing.
However, a claim and a lawsuit are two different stages in a car accident case.
What Is a Claim?
When you're seeking injury compensation after a car crash, the first step is almost always to file a claim with the liable party's insurance company. Ideally, you'll retain an experienced car accident attorney to help. He'll send a demand letter outlining the other motorist’s negligence, your injuries, and the amount of compensation necessary for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Once the insurance company receives the demand letter, the insurance adjuster and your lawyer enter into negotiations to settle your claim. These discussions are conducted outside the court system, and no judge is involved. Only you, the adjuster, and your attorney engage in the settlement process. While many cases are resolved without the need to file a lawsuit, you and the insurer aren't required to settle your claim in this fashion.
What Is a Lawsuit?
A lawsuit begins when a civil complaint is filed with the court against the at-fault party. Your case is then litigated and overseen by a judge. You could need to file a lawsuit in these situations:
- An insurance company doesn't offer you a fair injury settlement.
- The statute of limitations, or time period for filing a lawsuit, will expire soon. It's critical to bring a lawsuit before this deadline or your complaint may be dismissed.
- A third party, such as a manufacturer or trucking company, is also found negligent in the crash.
Most cases are settled during the litigation process. If not, your case goes to a jury trial.
Another way a lawsuit differs from a claim is if your case goes to trial, the jury decides what—if any—settlement amounts you're entitled to receive. This decision is final unless you chose to file an appeal, which is costly and difficult to do in most cases.
Whether you're filing a claim or a lawsuit, you need the skills of a car accident lawyer to protect your legal rights and fight for the compensation you deserve. If you or a loved one was injured in Missouri or Kansas, our experienced car accident lawyers are ready to help right away. Contact us online, or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.