Legal procedures tend to be very formal and unforgiving when it comes to deadlines and various other specifications. As such, they can be frustrating to deal with, especially if you’re lacking the necessary knowledge to handle them yourself. Most often then not, you’ll still be in the process of recovering from your injuries, which adds an extra layer of challenge on top.
To address your concerns, we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide on everything you need to keep in mind when filing a personal injury claim, so things will be at least somewhat more manageable for you:
Set your expectations straight and know what you’re entitled to
The total height of the compensation you can expect for your injuries depends on where you live, the severity of your injuries, and other case specifics. In most cases, there is an upper limit, though. In Canada, for example, the amount is capped at $350,000 (for the most serious of injuries).
Keep in mind this is true for injuries only – you can also decide to seek reimbursement for other costs incurred, such as medical bills and transportation costs. Since you’re going to need to prove them, it’s best to start gathering proof in the form of invoices, tickets, etc.
In most cases, you’re also eligible to receive compensation for lost wages, so it’s best to seek out an attorney, explain the specifics of your case, and receive the most accurate guidance for the state or region you reside in.
There’s a psychological side to every injury
When filing a personal injury claim, keep in mind that it’s not just your physical body that’s in a state of shock; your psyche has sustained a hit as well. Mental illnesses such as depression and insomnia can often occur as a direct result of your physical injuries, so you can file for those as well. After all, your concentration and work capacity can effectively be lowered by having to go through all of the trauma, so you’re within your rights to seek compensation for it as well.
Educate yourself on the different phases of filing a personal injury claim
– The first step is to issue your claim at court. Expect to be required to give a statement describing the events.
– Then, the defendant will give their own statement, explaining their own version of the events that transpired and led to you being injured.
– After both of these statements are ready, it’s time to present the evidence. Here’s where a doctor will make an assessment of your injuries.
– The next step is optional, but in practice, it’s seen quite commonly – at this point, one of the parties will attempt to settle outside of court. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the case can proceed to court.
Did a person cause your injuries or is there an entity behind it and what constitutes negligence?
There’s an element of negligence that must be involved in order for you to have a case. If a person or an entity has acted in a manner that is determined to be negligent, that person or entity will be held liable for the damages.
But what exactly is negligence in legal terms? To sum it up, the law sees it as the failure to behave with a reasonable amount of care in a given situation. As you’ve probably guessed, it’s the plaintiff’s role to establish that the defendant has acted negligently by presenting the needed arguments and supporting it with evidence.
It’s important to understand that the defendant has a legal duty to behave in a certain way in a given set of circumstances. If the defendant breaches that, the plaintiff can seek monetary compensation for the defendant’s actions.
There are deadlines you need to keep in mind
When filing a personal injury claim, it’s important to keep in mind there’s a set limit of time to do it. Obviously, there’s enough of a leeway to get it sorted out later and tending to your injuries first. After all, your health should remain your first priority.
All in all, you have 6 months from the date the injury occurred to take action and file a notice of claim, which should be more than enough for you to be able to handle when well-rested and at least somewhat recovered. This lets the court know that you’re going to be bringing a claim against the defendant, and government entities require to know that you’re going to be taking legal action against them before you actually do.
This is very important – if you don’t file a notice of claim in the period of 6 months from the point of your injury, you won’t be able to sue a government entity at all. Some people shy away from doing this if they aren’t certain that the government agency or one of its employees may be responsible for their injuries. The trick is to file a notice immediately, even if you aren’t going to be suing!
The importance of hiring an attorney to represent you
Even if you know your rights, it’s still better to hire an attorney and not try to fight your legal battles alone. The reason being is that you are likely still recovering from your injuries. Besides, an attorney’s knowledge is always kept up to date with the constantly changing laws and regulations, and by choosing to work with one, you can save yourself the costly mistake of counting on something that might not even be true.
Making a mistake early in the process can compromise the final outcome
Make sure to consult your attorney before every step you take. For example, if you don’t assess your injuries correctly early on, you could potentially be robbing yourself of the height of the compensation you could be receiving by requiring the defendant pay less than what is appropriate.
Another mistake that could end up costing you the case is if you aren’t documenting as much as possible and not gathering the necessary evidence. Usually, a doctor will give you a transcript of the conversation and a document signifying the extent and state of your injuries as well as the treatment prescribed. This is an important piece of evidence so make sure to save it someplace safe and make as many copies of it as necessary.
It’s best not to discuss your case with anyone
This includes your friends, if at all possible. The thing is, everything you say and do could jeopardize the case and if one of your acquaintances has malicious intents, it could end up harming you.
It’s also best to avoid using social media during the legal procedure (or at least not mention anything even roughly related to the case). For example, you may be trying to prove that your quality of life has gone downhill as a direct result of the injuries you’ve sustained. But if your Facebook page suggests otherwise, you can bet the opposing side will try to use that as evidence against you and downplay your claims.
Fighting on your own could end up costing you more than you’re trying to save
Many people are trying to find as many ways of saving money as possible, but a personal injury case is not the smartest of times for that, nor is any other type of case, unless, of course, you’re a qualified lawyer yourself with all the needed experience.
For example, you may be too eager to receive a compensation as soon as possible, which often leads to agreeing to settle out of court for a lower total amount than what you could receive if you let the case go to trial. An experienced attorney knows the standard practices and can give you a rough estimate on how much you are likely to receive.
There’s also the argument that most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency basis. This means that you’re only going to be paying a fixed percentage in case your attorney prevails in court, so you won’t have to worry about paying them by the hour. Therefore, your upfront costs will be exactly zero.
Know your payment options if you decide to settle
Finally, you should familiarize yourself with all the payment options at your disposal.
– An interim payment is receiving some of the compensation money in advance. When your injuries are so severe that the case is clear or when the defendant openly agrees with you that you should be compensated for it and that the fault lies on their shoulders, this is usually where you can expect one. In certain cases, the defendant is looking to settle as quickly as possible, and this is another case when an interim payment could be discussed.
– A lump size payment or structured settlement. You can discuss this option if you’d prefer that the compensation is paid out to you over time. The minimum duration of the period is 5 years, but it can be longer.
Again, your lawyer is the best source of information regarding this and will help you choose the most suitable option.
For the most part, this is pretty much it. Of course, a single article (even of such length) can simply never be enough to cover everything there is to know about filing a personal injury claim – a whole book could probably be written on such an extensive subject. Alas, it covers the most important aspects you should know. For further information, you can either ask your lawyer directly, do a targeted search in Google, or preferably both.