If you've been injured due to another's negligence you deserve to receive compensation for your expenses and suffering. To do so, you will need to file a personal injury claim, which notifies the liable party or their insurance company of your injuries and the damages caused. A personal injury claim can result in a settlement, where both parties agree on an acceptable amount of compensation. It also may take the form of a lawsuit, where you will present your case before a judge, and a jury will decide the outcome. But before all that happens, how do you begin? What are your next steps to take? Worry not—our Rhode Island injury attorneys are here to explain the steps you'll need to take to complete your claim.
STEP 1. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION
You've been injured, so the natural first step is to seek medical care. Even if you feel you're well enough to delay care, don't—your initial examination and treatment will play an enormous role in your claim. Your post-accident results can be compared to your previous medical records to establish how much you were injured and will establish your baseline condition before treatments begin. Request a copy of all results, records, imaging tests, and treatment instructions, and start a file of your treatment. It's worth noting that delaying medical care, not accepting treatment, or not taking prescribed medications may cause the liable insurance company to argue that your injuries are less serious than claimed. For this reason, it's important to follow all medical instructions.
Step 2. Get Legal Assistance
From a legal standpoint, this step is optional. But if you want your case to have a better chance of prevailing, and to do so with less effort on your part, an attorney is mandatory. Not enough can be said about the benefits of having the experience, insight, and knowledge of a skilled personal injury attorney at your side. Choose a lawyer with a good record of success, but also who you feel meshes well with you and will be comfortable to work with. They will investigate your claim fully, gather evidence, consult expert witnesses, and discover who may be liable for your injuries if you did not already have that information.
STEP 3. START A FILE
Keep a neatly organized file of all related documents, bills, photographs, imaging results, and other paperwork. Your claim will generate a lot of documentation, so it's important to start organizing it early for an easier time when you file your claim. Label all photographs clearly, and organize things in chronological order.
STEP 4. GATHER ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE
Did you know that your medical bills are a primary form of evidence for your claim? This is why you should hold onto them to track what's been spent on your care. They aren't the only evidence you need though. To file your claim, you'll need to prove not only the damages you've sustained from the accident but also how the liable party directly caused your injuries.
Evidence of your damages can include:
- Medical bills
- Ambulance or airlift bills
- Medication costs
- Previous pay stubs to demonstrate your lost wages and expected future income
- Therapist or counseling costs
- The costs of transportation to and from appointments
Evidence of your injuries and fault:
- Photographs of the accident scene
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Statements made by the at-fault party
- Your personal statement to the police or to an insurance company
Your attorney can help you understand what types of evidence to collect and file for your claim.
STEP 5. BEGIN YOUR CLAIM
Now that you've completed all the preparation you need to file your claim, it's time to contact the liable party and inform them of your claim. This can be done through a demand letter if you're seeking to settle, or a lawsuit, if you'd like your case to be litigated or feel your settlement negotiations would be ineffective.
If you wish to settle, you will begin by sending the liable party a packet that includes several pieces of your claim. You will enclose a demand letter, which will outline the events of the accident, the injuries you sustained in the accident, and the damages you have accumulated due to the accident. It will end with a proposed settlement amount. This file will also include evidence to support all your claims. It is highly likely that the insurance company or liable party will offer you a lower amount, thus beginning the process of settlement negotiation. Your lawyer will handle negotiations on your behalf and advise you as to what is a fair settlement amount.
If you wish to litigate your case or haven't been able to make any progress with settlement negotiation, filing a lawsuit is the next step. Your attorney will complete the necessary paperwork and locate the best court in which to file your lawsuit petition. Litigation is a complex process, but you and the liable party, called the defendant, will each have a chance to present your side of the case. Often, expert witnesses are called in to offer testimony, as well as any witnesses to the accident. A jury will determine a fair amount of compensation to award with the verdict. Lawsuits can be effective to compel a stubborn defendant to work with you, but they can be risky. If you lose your lawsuit, you lose your ability to seek compensation.
Litigation can also be used to scare reluctant defendants into settling your case. A settlement can occur at any time between the time the claim is filed and the time when the verdict is handed down. Even if you've started a lawsuit, you may still be able to settle your case.
THINGS TO REMEMBER
Personal injury law is a complex, frequently changing area of the law. It's important to remember these factors when pursuing compensation for your claim:
- The statute of limitations, or time limit, on personal injury claims is 3 years from the date of the accident. After that time, you will not be able to file a claim for compensation.
- Rhode Island is a comparative negligence state, which means you may be held partially liable for your injuries. Your claim amount will be reduced by the amount you are found to be liable. For instance, if you are 30% liable for your claim, and your settlement amount is $10,000, you will only receive $7,000 of compensation. This rule applies to any amount of fault, even if you were found to be more than equally liable. If you were 90% liable for your claim, and the claim was valued at $10,000, you could still claim $1,000 of compensation.
- Dog attack injuries do not work with comparative fault, however. These cases use strict liability, which means the owner is liable for the dog's behavior, regardless of any responsibility of the injured person for their own injuries.
Injured? There's no time to lose. Our Rhode Island personal injury attorneys are here to assist you in your injury claim. We will work tirelessly to pursue compensation for you, and our team at Inman & Tourgee is known for our compassion, professionalism, and track record of success. Schedule a free consultation to discover your legal options.
Contact our team today. Call (401) 823-9200 to get started.