Understanding the differences between personal injury claims and lawsuits can help injury victims determine which is appropriate to file. While a personal injury claim involves negotiating settlements with at-fault parties and insurers out of court, a lawsuit is filed by the plaintiff if a settlement cannot be reached with the insurance company.

The claims process is often considerably simpler than a lawsuit, and most personal injury cases don’t wind up going to trial.

How Personal Injury Claims Differ from Lawsuits

Many people often use both “personal injury lawsuits” and “personal injury claims” interchangeably, but they are far from the same. During the claims process, a claimant will file against the party responsible for an injury or the at-fault party’s insurance company. During this process, both parties involved will negotiate a settlement that compensates the victims for injuries and the damages associated with them.

In a personal injury lawsuit, a case involves the court system to reach a settlement. Lawsuits often result from claims in which the claimant was dissatisfied with the settlement amount, or if injuries and damages are severe enough to warrant a trial process.

For instance, following a car accident, victims may be able to file claims against the parties responsible, which could include liable drivers and insurers. The claim aims to seek monetary compensation for injuries, along with financial losses and pain and suffering that the injuries caused. Throughout the claims process, insurers will examine any police reports, medical records, and other evidence that help reach a settlement. Insurance companies will try to get victims to accept the lowest settlement possible. This keeps them from having to pay out larger amounts, even if the victim deserves more. In some cases, insurers may claim that victims don’t have any serious injuries and deny the claim entirely.

If claimants are unhappy with the settlement or denial and wish to continue to seek compensation, they can take the case to court with a personal injury lawsuit. It’s also possible to skip the claims process entirely and go to trial if injuries are severe enough and the damages are substantial. If a case goes to trial, it’s best to work with an experienced personal injury attorney to negotiate the process.

Several mistakes can ruin a car accident injury claim if people aren’t careful. The following are some of the biggest mistakes that individuals can make when filing a claim.

1. Failure to Fully Inform the Doctor

Following a car accident, injury victims should seek treatment as soon as possible to gauge the full extent of the injuries sustained. If any side effects, pains, or limitations don’t appear in documented medical records, claimants may not be able to recover full compensation.

2. Failing to Seek Treatment

In many cases, injuries resulting from accidents may be latent, as symptoms may not develop until weeks or even months after an accident. However, failing to seek immediate medical attention after an accident can put victims’ wellbeing at risk while undermining the severity of the injuries, which could reduce compensation.

3. Neglecting to Obtain Police Reports

If individuals involved in car accidents call 9-1-1, it’s best to request the police even if an ambulance isn’t required. It’s important to make sure that a Traffic Collision Report is filed, as this will entail gathering witness statements and other evidence that may support the claim.

4. Not Disclosing Previous Injuries

If an accident aggravated a past injury or a pre-existing medical condition, compensation may be reduced if claimants hide or otherwise fail to disclose this information to insurers, physicians, or attorneys.

5. Providing Insurers with Recorded Statements

While insurers may appear to want to help car accident injury victims, they work to reach the lowest settlement that the claimant will accept to minimize the amount the insurance company has to payout. Prior to providing insurance adjusters with a statement or agreeing to any settlement, it’s often best to consult with an attorney to discuss what to say and what to avoid saying.

6. Failure to Follow the Prescribed Treatment

If injury victims don’t attend doctors’ appointments or appear to have healed from the injuries, insurance adjusters may perceive the claimant as recovered or not seriously injured and reduce the compensation amount.

7. Having the Insurer’s Preferred Mechanic Examine the Vehicle

Insurance companies may also recommend taking a damaged vehicle to a preferred mechanic, which may provide estimates that are lower than the actual value of repairs and replacements.

Keeping these mistakes in mind may help accident injury victims avoid ruining their personal injury claims.