Being injured in an accident can give a person a long list of unexpected challenges. While trying to recover physically and emotionally, the victim is also faced with bills to pay and a legal process to look into. The road to recovering all possible damages from the responsible party is a process called making a personal injury claim. Whether you have been injured in a car accident by a distracted or drunk driver, or have fallen on the unsafe property of a business, you deserve fair compensation from the responsible party.
Making a Personal Injury Claim
A personal injury claim is the process of formally demanding compensation from the responsible party. In this process, the injured party is referred to as the plaintiff and the responsible party is referred to as the defendant. The plaintiff must make the personal injury claim within the statute of limitations for the state in which the incident occurred. In New Mexico, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is three years from the incident. While this process can be complicated and lengthy, it can also be summarized in several steps.
Step One: Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
While a personal injury claim can be made without an attorney, an attorney can ensure that every step of the process is handled properly and fair compensation is received. Without legal counsel, the injured party may fall victim to a low settlement from an insurance company, or fail to properly execute a step in the process.
Making a personal injury claim is an important step in getting your life back together after an accident. Sanchez and Piñon are seasoned personal injury attorneys in Rio Rancho who understand every aspect of making a personal injury claim. You deserve personal injury attorneys who will make the process as smooth as possible, while fighting for your compensation. They will provide you with compassionate and fair representation that is as personal as your case.
After hiring a personal injury attorney, the next step is to send a demand letter.
Step Two: Send a Demand Letter
A demand letter is a formal document sent to the responsible party (defendant) where the injured party (plaintiff) explains why they deserve compensation from their insurance company for their injuries. The letter explains all of the circumstances around the accident and any evidence in favor of the defendant’s culpability. It also lays out all possible recoverable damages including:
- physical injuries
- medical expenses
- pain and suffering
- lost wages
- the cost of household help needed due to the injury.
The insurance company of the defendant will then respond in one of three ways:
- The insurance company may decide to accept the claim and pay the plaintiff what they have asked for.
- The insurance company may decide instead to propose a counteroffer in hopes that the plaintiff will compromise.
- The insurance company may choose to completely deny the claim.
If the insurance company chooses to deny the claim, then the next step taken by the plaintiff is to file a complaint to the court.
Step Three: File a Complaint
Filing a complaint involves letting the court know that the plaintiff is going to pursue legal action against the defendant, in the form of a lawsuit. The complaint contains the information previously written in the demand letter, but differs in that it involves the court’s jurisdiction. The defendant must receive notification of the complaint within 30 days of its being filed, and must respond to the complaint within 30 days. Once the defendant has responded to the complaint, both sides begin preparing for a potential trial.
Step Four: The Discovery Process
During the discovery process, lawyers from both sides will gather information about the accident. They want to discover anything and everything that will support their side of the case and prepare them to appear before the court.
The process of discovery involves obtaining records such as:
- medical bills
- police reports
- insurance reports
- eye-witness statements
Eye-witnesses will be asked to give statements under oath, in a process called a deposition. The plaintiff and defendant will also each give their official version of the accident while under oath. After the discovery process, the case usually goes one of two ways: a settlement or the trial.
Step Five: The Settlement
The settlement is often the the final step of the personal injury claim process with the majority of cases never reaching a trial. Trials are time consuming and are often costly for both parties involved.
In a settlement, the defendant and their insurance company usually decide to compromise. They agree to pay an amount of what the plaintiff was asking for. This is done with an agreement that the plaintiff will drop the lawsuit, and pursue no further legal action. If the plaintiff agrees to the amount offered, then the case is formally dropped and they receive their compensation.
Step Six: The Trial
If a settlement is never reached then the case proceeds to trial. During the trial, both lawyers present to the court all of the information they gathered during the discovery process. It is then in the court’s hands to either decide how much the defendant must pay the plaintiff, or decide that the defendant is not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries and dismiss the case.
No matter the court’s decision, either side can choose to appeal the case. Appealing means that the party believes the court made an unfair decision. They ask that the case be looked at again by a higher court. If no appeals are filed, then the court’s decision is final and the personal injury claim process is concluded.
Have you recently been injured in an accident? Are you looking for legal representation for your personal injury claim? Sanchez and Piñon serve the people of Rio Rancho and the surrounding area with a personal level of representation. Contact Sanchez and Piñon, Rio Rancho’s injury attorney’s today for a free consultation, obligation free, where we can discuss how to get you the compensation you deserve.