Making an Insurance Claim vs. Filing a Lawsuit
You have been injured in a car accident, in a slip-and-fall incident, or perhaps while walking, jogging, or riding your bicycle. So long as someone else was at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, you are entitled to recover compensation from the at-fault party. Virginia is an at-fault state that holds negligent parties financially responsible for the damages they cause to others.
You have two ways to pursue that compensation. You can file a claim against the at-fault party’s liability insurance policy, or you can file a personal injury lawsuit against them in the Virginia court with jurisdiction. Which course of action is better?
At Blaszkow Legal, PLLC, we have been helping personal injury clients in Alexandria, Manassas, Fairfax, Arlington, and Woodbridge, Virginia, find the best way to pursue compensation for 35 years. Here is what you should know about making an insurance claim vs. filing a lawsuit.
Insurance Claims vs. Lawsuits
Filing an insurance claim involves working with the at-fault party’s insurance company to negotiate a third-party claim against their bodily injury liability coverage. That coverage could be included in an auto insurance policy, homeowner’s or business insurance policy, or an umbrella policy. You should work with an experienced personal injury attorney in filing a claim because they know what evidence you need to support the value of the claim you are making, as well as how to negotiate aggressively with the insurance company.
Filing a lawsuit involves the plaintiff’s filing of a complaint in the Virginia civil court with proper jurisdiction over the case. Once the complaint is filed, the defendant files an answer to it. Then, the parties begin the discovery process and prepare the case for court. The defendant’s insurance company will provide a defense for their insured.
When Should You File an Insurance Claim?
There are some advantages to filing a third-party liability claim against the at-fault party’s insurance. For one, you will know what the bodily injury liability limits of their insurance policy are. So long as your economic damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages, exceed $12,500, the insurer must disclose policy limits to you. Because they do, you will know whether the policy has sufficient limits to compensate you.
Filing an insurance claim usually requires less preparation than trial, keeping attorney’s fees and case expenses lower. Moreover, negotiating settlement of a claim typically takes less time than lawsuits do.
Although these are advantages to filing an insurance claim over filing suit, those policy limits may not be enough to fully compensate you. In addition, the two-year statute of limitations in Virginia for personal injury claims means you have only two years from the date of the injury-causing incident to settle your claim. If you file suit, the statute of limitations clock effectively stops ticking.
When you attempt to settle a claim with the insurance company, you are at its mercy. It decides what the value of your damages is and offers as little as possible to make your claim “go away.” At a certain point, the insurer will make its final offer and if you don’t accept it, you will need to file suit.
When Should You File a Lawsuit?
Filing suit provides some obvious advantages. First, it stops the statute of limitations from expiring. Second, it offers a way to take the insurer out of control by forcing them into the courtroom to defend their insured. Instead, a neutral party (judge and jury) will decide how much the defendant and their insurer must pay you. That means you can end up with a larger settlement than the insurance company was willing to pay you. In fact, you might be able to garner an award in excess of the limits of the insurance policy, putting the defendant on the hook for payment of compensation from their personal assets.
Of course, there are also disadvantages. You don’t know what the judge and jury will decide. You don’t know what value they will place on your damages or what fault they may assign to you which reduces the amount you receive.
Taking a case to trial not only takes longer, which means you may not receive a settlement within two years, but it is also much more expensive. Case expenses will include expert witnesses, trial exhibits, depositions, and other significant costs. Although our attorneys will front those expenses until the verdict, they will be deducted from your settlement. Moreover, the fee percentage your attorney charges will also likely be higher because taking a case to trial is significantly more time- and resource-intensive.
How Legal Counsel Can Help
The wisest decision you can make after being injured in an accident is to hire a personal injury attorney to represent you. Your attorney can provide all the information you need to decide whether you want to file an insurance claim or file suit. In many cases, injury victims do both. They first file an insurance claim, then file a lawsuit when the insurer refuses to settle for a fair amount or because they delay settlement and force you near the two-year statute of limitations.
Your attorney’s ability to investigate the accident, gather evidence of liability, document the value of your damages, negotiate from a position of strength, and prepare your case for trial may force the insurer to settle for just compensation. Many times, the insurer will settle after a suit is filed but before a trial begins because the insurance company wants to avoid the cost and time of going to trial.
Tough Negotiators and Trial Attorneys
At Blaszkow Legal, PLLC, we are dedicated advocates for our clients, whether we are negotiating with an insurer or presenting a case in the courtroom. We are driven to do what is needed to obtain fair compensation for your harms and losses.
If you live or were injured in or around Alexandria, Virginia, call to schedule a free consultation. Time is short, so call our office now.