A personal injury claim is the legal process for restoring your losses after your body is injured. Unlike property damage claims, (cars and houses), personal injury claims address a person’s physical injuries.
You can bring a personal injury claim on three grounds.
The first is negligence. It is the most common personal injury claim is one where the defendant (A) owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, and (B) failed to exercise due care, resulting in injury to the plaintiff. For example, stores have a duty to not let heavy merchandise fall on their customers. When they breach that duty, they are liable for customer injuries.
The second is strict liability. In this type of claim, the injured plaintiff need not prove that the defendant was negligent. For example, defendant owned a dog that bit plaintiff. They didn’t necessarily do anything wrong in these cases, but the law imposes liability upon the dog owner, making the owner legally responsible for the plaintiff’s injury.
The third is intentional wrongdoing. This type of claim covers battery, assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other intentional acts which cause personal injury.
What Is the Personal Injury Claim Process?
If you have been injured, the civil court system offers your best chance at receiving the reimbursement you are rightly owed. Navigating the civil court system without seasoned counsel is a fool’s errand. Your time is better spent concentrating on healing, which is why we recommend starting the personal injury claim process by hiring a personal injury attorney.
Step 1. Hire Injury Attorney
Less stress. A faster outcome. A better chance at receiving a larger settlement. A fighting chance against large insurers and well-funded teams of legal professionals. You give yourself several crucial advantages when you hire a reputable and competent personal injury attorney. And as we work on a contingency basis, you will only have to pay your attorney an agreed upon percentage of your eventual settlement.
Step 2. Write Demand Letter
Once an attorney has determined whether their client has a claim with merit, they will gather the medical and damage evidence. Once the prognosis for the injury is clear, the attorney prepares a demand letter. This letter outlines the plaintiff’s dispute with the defendant, supports their claim of injury, and demands that the defendant pay an amount of compensation the plaintiff deems fair. The defendant, (or more accurately the defendant’s insurer) is sent the demand letter to commence settlement negotiation.
A demand letter is not the start of litigation. The vast majority of plaintiffs who send them would prefer to settle out of court. That’s why a demand letter must painstakingly detail the plaintiff’s argument. Part of its purpose is to convince the defendant’s insurance company that going to court wouldn’t end in their favor.
Step 3. Negotiate
The defendant can respond to the demand letter by paying the full amount, offering to pay a lesser amount, or refusing to pay outright. The latter two cases are more likely.
If the lesser amount satisfies the plaintiff, the personal injury claim process ends then and there. Alternatively, the plaintiff may request their attorney to negotiate for a higher amount. If they are successful, the plaintiff concludes the process with a higher settlement. But if the defendant’s offer is too low or nonexistent, it is time to commence litigation in civil court.
Step 4. File Complaint
By serving a complaint, the plaintiff’s attorney gives official notice they are filing a lawsuit to both the defendant and the court. A formal complaint includes pertinent details to the case, including the plaintiff’s legal claims and facts and evidence that support them. The complaint also states the amount of compensation the plaintiff seeks to be made whole.
In Minnesota, the plaintiff is required to serve the defendant. This entails handing to the defendant, in person, copies of the Summons & Complaint. Once the defendant has been made aware that they are being sued, they have 21 days to serve an answer to the complaint. If they fail to answer within that timeframe, the court may award a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff.
Step 5. Discovery
Attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendant both complete the discovery process before the case proceeds to trial. The plaintiff’s attorney looks for evidence that supports their client’s claim; the defendant’s attorney looks for evidence that refutes it. Police reports, witness statements, medical records, and medical bills- all these and more provide invaluable information to both sides.
Step 6. Negotiate Again
The discovery process yields a clearer picture of events surrounding the dispute, which is why it precedes yet another round of (generally court-ordered) negotiation.
Evidence is a two-way street. When it strengthens the plaintiff’s claim, their attorney may negotiate for a settlement which is higher yet still preferable to going to trial. If discovery produces evidence which weakens the plaintiff’s claim, the defendant’s attorney may make use of it while negotiating for a lower settlement than initially offered.
Step 7. Go to Trial
Negotiation is often successful at resolving disputes between two parties. Of all the personal injury claims filed in the United States each year, only 3% progress to the trial stage.
Why are personal injury cases so seldom resolved at trial? Because trials require time and money that both parties would typically rather avoid spending. But when the plaintiff continually refuses settlement offers – or the defendant refuses to offer one – a trial is the next and final step to resolving the personal injury claim. The court (usually a jury) may find that the defendant is liable and determine what they owe; or, alternatively, find that the defendant isn’t liable and dismiss the case.
Either party may file an appeal after the court has rendered its judgment. If the appeal is successful, the case will return to trial court for additional proceedings.
If you have become the victim of an injury in the state of Minnesota and believe you are owed compensation for your pain and financial losses, then we welcome you to contact Kiernan Personal Injury Attorneys today for a free, zero-obligation consultation. We fight for our clients’ rights every day!