As Los Angeles personal injury attorneys, one of the most common questions we are asked is whether or not a personal injury claim should be filed after an accident or injury and what to expect. In this article, we provide our readers with insight on what steps should be taken immediately after an accident, when they should file a personal injury claim, what they can expect if they do file a claim, how fault is established and what goes into estimating how much a claim may be worth. Taking the proper steps after an accident can help support your case and protect your legal rights.

When to file a personal injury claim?

injured women filling out personal injury claim

If you have been in an car accident or suffered an injury due to the negligence of another person or business, then you have the right to file a personal injury claim and be compensated for damages. The time limit from the date of the incident to when a lawsuit must be filed is known as the Statute of Limitations. Each state is different. For instance, in California, the statute of limitations for an injured victim to file a lawsuit in a personal injury case is two (2) years from the date of the incident. It is important to work with an attorney because if you do not file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations then you are forever barred from pursuing your legal claim.

What to do immediately after an accident or injury?

  • Take Notes

One of the most important things you can do after an accident is to take detailed notes on everything about the accident including:

  • Pain and injuries

  • How the accident happened

  • Date and time

  • Any information that you can gather about the parties involved and witnesses
  • Conversations with witnesses

  • What you were doing

  • Where you were headed

Taking detailed notes will help you establish your case and be useful later when dealing with medical doctors, insurance adjusters, and attorneys.

Two drivers arguing after traffic accident
  • Preserve Evidence

The first couple of days after an accident are the most important for gathering and preserving evidence. The more evidence you have the stronger your personal injury claim will be. You should take the time to return to the scene of the accident as soon as possible. Take photographs from different angles and talk to anyone who may have witnessed the accident. Also, take photographs of your injuries. This preparation can directly result in larger settlements from insurance companies when they see how prepared you are to make your case.

  • Gain access to your medical records

You will need access to your medical records if you file a personal injury claim. You may need to prove that your injuries are the result of the accident and not a previous medical condition. Also, there may be a disagreement about the severity of your injuries. In many cases, medical records are a key component of the case.

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives patients the right to acquire a copy of their medical records from any medical provider.

How much your personal injury claim is worth depends on damages.

When it comes to personal injury claims, how much your case is worth depends on damages. Damages are decided by how much the injuries cost physically, mentally, and monetarily. Damages are paid to the plaintiff by the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company. The plaintiff is the person who filed the claim and the defendant is the person or company who is legally responsible for the accident. Some damages are easily quantified, like medical bills and property damage. Other damages, like pain and suffering or any limitations caused by the injury, are more difficult to accurately assess. The most common types of compensation in personal injury cases are:

  • Income

  • Medical treatment

  • Property loss

  • Pain and suffering

  • Emotional distress

  • Loss of enjoyment

  • Loss of consortium

  • Punitive damages

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