When it comes to a personal injury, there are often more questions than answers. Should I file a claim? How long will it take to resolve? Should I accept the insurance company’s offer to settle? If you are like most people, the answers to these questions can lead to confusion and frustration – that is, unless a knowledgeable Bucks County personal injury attorney helps guide you through the process of filing a personal injury claim.
At Cordisco & Saile LLC, we are dedicated to helping personal injury victims down the road to recovery, and will offer sound advice and wisdom all along the way. What follows is a basic overview of the personal injury claims process in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and we encourage you to contact us right away to review the specific aspects of your claim.
What is the first step in filing a personal injury claim?
In the days and weeks following a harrowing personal injury experience, the first questions are usually “where do I file?” or “how do I get started?” In cases involving auto accidents and certain types of personal injury cases, the road to financial recovery begins by contacting the insurance company covering the each of the parties involved. In many cases, the victim will begin by contacting the other party’s insurer to make a claim under his policy for bodily injury.
However, if the responsible party is underinsured – or carries no insurance at all – it may be necessary to make the initial claim for recovery under the injured party’s own insurer.
The steps required to make a claim will vary from insurer to insurer. Policyholders may make a claim by contacting the insurance agency directly over the phone – which may help to expedite the response time. Alternatively, some carriers allow policyholders to make claims from an app on their phone.
How do I prove my injury is the other driver’s fault?
Another common initial inquiry by injury victims is whether they will need to prove anything prior to receiving financial compensation for their injuries. When working with an insurance company, the claims adjuster will collect as much information as possible concerning any property and physical damages that occurred, including:
- Police reports
- Medical reports
- Recorded statement detailing the incident
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Proof of lost wages/missed time from work
Filing a personal injury claim under the legal doctrine of negligence will require the plaintiff to prove the following four elements:
- Duty: The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care at the time of the accident.
- Breach: The defendant’s action breached that duty.
- Causation: The breach caused the resulting injury.
- Damages: The plaintiff is injured or harmed in some way.
A personal injury attorney can help gather the required evidence to help bolster the victim’s claim and maximize recovery to the fullest extent possible.
Do I really need a lawyer?
In today’s culture, many injury victims do not think they need a personal injury lawyer and decide that the process will be over faster if they represent themselves. From the insurance company’s perspective, this is a great idea. However, from a victim advocacy perspective, rushing to recovery can result in minimized recovery and underpayment of rightful claims.
To avoid this, be sure to contact a personal injury attorney at Cordisco & Saile LLC before signing any settlement agreements with the insurance provider. This way, you can be sure you are receiving a fair and adequate settlement offer that fully reflects the true value of your injuries.
That said, it is important to involve a lawyer as soon as possible following the accident, particularly in light of state statutes of limitation. A statute of limitations is a mandatory time limitation on the filing of personal injury claims, and can act as a bar to recovery against any claim filed too late. In both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, an injured victim must make a claim within two years of the date of the injury. With regard to property damage, however, New Jersey plaintiffs have six years to recover, whereas Pennsylvania plaintiffs have just a two-year statute of limitations.
How much can I recover?
Determining a likely recovery amount will depend heavily on the specific facts of the case. Of course, the more severe the accident, the higher the likely compensation amount – particularly if a victim is left permanently disabled and unable to return to work. In auto accident cases, compensation will also depend on the extent of the liable party’s coverage, as limited tort policies do not provide recovery for pain and suffering – unless the victim can prove a “serious injury” as defined by the policy language.
Other factors that affect recovery include:
- The extent of lost wages and future earnings
- Property damage
- The severity of the injury
- Whether the other party acted egregiously in causing the injury (which could lead to punitive damages)
Lastly, injury victims often inquire as to how much they will be required to pay their attorney for representation in the case. As explained above, working with an attorney can be invaluable, and we believe in a fair and ethical approach known as the Client First Fee Agreement. Unlike the traditional 35%-45% contingency fee common in personal injury cases, we charge our clients a lower percentage rate for cases that settle quickly or are relatively straightforward. Moreover, we do not require any up-front fees for clients working on a contingency basis – making representation all the more affordable.