After you’ve been in an accident, one thing my clients always want to know is, when are we going to court? It’s estimated that unintentional injuries, such as those from a car accident, are the third leading cause of death and over 30 million people who are injured require medical care for their injuries. Of those National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports an estimated 5.5 million car crashes each year in the US with about 3 million reported injuries and 400,000 fatalities. So, what happens when you get hurt in a accident, and require medical treatment, will you go to court? According to a 2005 study by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics about 60% of lawsuits filed are related to a personal injury with 52% of those being car accidents. That being said, Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that of these of all these car accidents, and all the lawsuits filed, only about three to four percent of tort cases actually go to trial. What happens with the other cases?
The majority of cases are settled in the claims stage. Once you hire a lawyer, they will set up a claim with the insurance company for the person who hit you, or the business where you fell. This is called an insurance claim, and what happens to the other percent of cases that don’t go to trial. What’s the difference between a claim and a lawsuit? Both an insurance claim and a lawsuit are processes whereby you can recover for your damages, which basically means your losses. In most cases, your losses include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, and property damage. When a lawyer opens your insurance claim, they request the insurance company pay you, and compensate you for these losses. However, if the insurance company doesn’t do so, you may want to file a lawsuit. That’s an action against a person or business, or other entity asking the court to award you those losses, and most likely a jury. While the insurance company may defend the person or entity you’ve sued, your case is against another person or business.
Why would you opt to file a lawsuit instead of settling during the claims process? There are many reasons, but mostly that an insurance company has not offered an amount that is fair, or makes you whole. Why would you opt to settle over filing a lawsuit? Either the insurance company has offered a fair amount, such as the policy limits for the other party, or the idea of going to court is a long drawn out process that could take years to complete. Whatever you do, make sure your lawyer is one who goes to court when the insurance company doesn’t want to make you whole, or pay your damages.