How Do I Open a Personal Injury Claim
Opening a personal injury claim is a relatively simple matter and begins with a phone call to either the insurer for the motorist who caused your accident if an auto accident, or to your own insurer if you live in a no-fault state to obtain your PIP, or personal injury protection benefits, such as medical expenses and lost wages.
For other types of accidents, you will need to call the store owner or manager to get the insurance information if a premises liability matter, or possibly the manufacturer if its product caused your injuries.
While opening a personal injury claim may be a phone call away, preparing for it is quite different and involves more work on your part.
Steps Before Filing
Here are some things you should do before you open your claim to ensure a smooth process and a quicker resolution:
- Gather and provide all insurance information from the other parties involved, including policy number, name and address of policy holder, and address of insurer.
- Write down how the accident occurred, including the speed at impact if the accident occurred while moving, description of the accident site or intersection, the other vehicle's license plate number and model, weather and road conditions, and so forth.
- Take photos of the damage to your vehicle, the accident scene, product, and of yourself if you have visible signs of injury.
- Provide names and addresses of witnesses.
- Get an estimate for your property damage.
- Arrange to get the traffic accident report.
- Promptly get medical treatment.
- Document all your out-of-pocket expenses.
- For other types of accidents, include all identifying information about the item, if applicable, that caused your injury including where you bought it and when and how it was used by you.
It is important that you open a personal injury claim promptly. Otherwise, you could experience delays in handling your claim along with possible skepticism from an insurer. For auto accidents in no-fault states, your medical bills and lost wages are paid from your own insurer, so you should make a claim for your PIP benefits at your earliest opportunity.
You have a time limit on filing a lawsuit for personal injury compensation. While you do not have to file a claim before filing a complaint in court, you are making it more difficult to collect compensation by delaying since the attorneys for the defendant and insurer will have to start from scratch, and you could lose valuable evidence that a skilled accident attorney will know how to preserve.
Hire an Attorney
Personal injury attorneys collect their fees on a contingency basis and are only paid when your claim settles or you receive a court judgment. If you call an attorney and retain one soon after your accident, he or she will file your claim for you and handle all administrative and other tasks necessary to prepare a well-documented demand once your claim is ready for settlement. In any event, following the above steps will give you a welcome advantage when you retain an attorney.