Steps in Filing Personal Injury Lawsuit
. Writing down the details is far easier -- and
more accurate -- than relying on your memory.
One of the first things you should do after you are injured
is write down everything you can about your accident,
including details of your injuries and their effect on
your daily life. These notes can be very useful two or
six or ten months later, when you put together all the
important facts into a final demand for compensation.
Having notes to remind you of the details of what happened,
and what you went through, is both easier and more reliable
than counting on your memory.
into the habit of taking notes on anything you think might
possibly affect your claim and carry it through the entire
claims process. Whenever you remember something you had
not thought of before -- while you're in the shower, just
before you fall asleep, as you're biting into a pastry
-- write it down and put it with your other notes. Here
are some specific things about which you should make notes.
As soon as your head is clear enough, jot down everything
you can remember about how the accident happened, beginning
with what you were doing and where you were going, the
people you were with, the time and weather. Include every
detail of what you saw and heard and felt -- twists, blows,
and shocks to your body immediately before, during, and
right after the accident. Also include anything you remember
hearing anyone -- a person involved in the accident or
a witness -- say about the accident.
In the first days following your accident, make daily
notes of all pains and discomfort your injuries cause.
You may suffer pain, discomfort, anxiety, loss of sleep,
or other problems which are not as visible or serious
as another injury but for which you should demand additional
compensation. If you don't make specific note of them
immediately, you may not remember exactly what to include
in your demand for settlement weeks or months later. Also,
taking notes will make it easier for you later to describe
to an insurance company how much and what kind of pain
and discomfort you were in.
addition, writing down your different injuries may help
your doctor diagnose you. For example, a relatively small
bump on the head or snap of the neck may not seem worth
mentioning, but it might help both the doctor and the
insurance company understand why a bad back pain developed
several weeks after the accident. Also, by telling the
doctor or other medical provider about all of your injuries,
those injuries become part of your medical records that
will provide evidence later that such injuries were caused
by the accident.
or Other Losses
You may be entitled to compensation for economic loss
and for family, social, educational, or other losses,
as well as for pain and suffering. But you will need good
documentation. Begin making notes immediately after the
accident about anything you have lost because of the accident
and your injuries: work hours, job opportunities, meetings,
classes, events, family or social gatherings, vacation,
or anything else which would have benefited you or which
you would have enjoyed but were unable to do because of
Make written notes of the date, time, people involved,
and content of every conversation you have about your
accident or your claim. In-person or telephone conversations
worth noting may include those with any witness, adjuster,
or other insurance representative, or with medical personnel.
2. Preserve Evidence of Fault and Damages
Act quickly to protect evidence and find witnesses who
can help you prove your case to an insurance company.
The first few days immediately following an accident are
often the most important for finding and preserving evidence
of what happened -- and documenting your injuries. You
should take the following steps as soon as you are able.
to the Scene
If an accident occurred somewhere other than in your home,
return to the scene as soon as possible to locate any
evidence and photograph any conditions you believe may
have caused or contributed to the accident. You may be
amazed to find something you were not aware of when the
accident occurred but which may help explain what happened:
a worn or torn spot on which you fell, a traffic light
that isn't working. And while looking around, you may
also find someone who saw what happened, or who knows
of other accidents that happened in the same spot.
photographs of the accident scene from a number of different
angles -- particularly your view of things right before
the accident -- to keep a good picture of it in your mind
and to give to the insurance company later on to indicate
how well prepared you are to get the settlement you deserve.
Photograph the scene at the same time of day as your accident
occurred, and for vehicle accidents, the same day of the
week, to show the appropriate amount of traffic.
Who was at fault for an accident is sometimes shown by
a piece of "physical" evidence -- something
you can see or touch, as opposed to a description of what
happened. Examples include a broken stair that caused
a fall, the dent in a car showing where it was hit, or
an overhanging branch that blocked visibility on a bike
addition, physical evidence can help prove the extent
of an injury: Damage to the car can demonstrate how hard
a collision was, and torn or bloodied clothing can show
your physical injuries dramatically. Try to preserve any
physical evidence exactly as it was at the accident. If
you can't preserve the actual object, take photographs
of it. You can later show your evidence to an insurance
company as proof of what happened.
3. Notify People Who May Be Responsible For Your
If you intend to file a claim for your injuries, it's
important to notify potential defendants after the accident.
You don't have to know who was at fault for your accident;
you must simply think about who might have been at fault.
And in the beginning, you don't have to give the people
involved, or their insurance companies, any detailed information
about the accident or your injuries. All you have to do
is notify them that there was an accident at a certain
time and place, that you were injured, and that you intend
to file a claim.
Who Might Be Responsible
Before you can notify those responsible for an accident
of your intention to file a claim, you must decide whom
to notify. Notify all those who might be responsible.
This usually depends on the type of accident in which
you were involved. For example, in a vehicle accident
you'll need to notify the drivers of all vehicles involved,
the owners of the vehicles, the employers of the driver
if the car was on company business, and your own insurance
company -- and there may be others, depending on the circumstances
each type of accident -- vehicle or slip and fall -- requires
you to notify different sorts of people. For more about
who to notify, see How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim,
by Joseph Matthews (Nolo).
Once you have determined those who might be responsible
for your accident, your next step is to write letters
telling each of them that the accident happened and that
you were injured. You may need to send more than one letter
-- for example, one letter to the business where you fell
and another to the person who owns the property.
a letter of notification even if the others involved have
assured you that they will notify their insurance companies.
Your notification should be a simple, typed letter giving
only basic information and asking for a written response.
It should not discuss fault or responsibility, or the
extent of your injuries; you will get to those things
detailed information about what to include in a letter
of notification, and sample letters, see How to Win Your
Personal Injury Claim, by Joseph Matthews (Nolo).
Delay in Giving Notice
The important thing about giving others notice and starting
your claim is to not delay too long. While you need not
give notice within any specific number of days following
an accident (except for claims against government entities),
it is always best to start early, within the first couple
of weeks after the accident.
note that filing a notice of an injury accident with people
or agencies does not obligate you to file a claim against
them. But if you do file a claim later, they will not
be able to say that the claim has unfairly surprised them.