Claims And Lawsuits: Understanding the Difference

Defining a Claim

A claim and a lawsuit may sound like similar concepts, but they are distinct in their meaning and implications. To add to the confusion, the term “claim” carries different interpretations depending on the context.

Pre-Litigation Claim

If someone else’s actions cause you harm or injury, you have the right to seek compensation. This initial step is known as a claim, and it occurs before any legal proceedings take place.

You can make a claim informally by directly contacting the responsible party, or you may opt to make a claim through their insurance provider. For instance, let’s say your neighbor Tom asked for your help in moving a picnic table from his freshly power-washed deck. While carrying the table down some stairs, you slip and break your ankle. In this scenario, you can ask Tom to reimburse your medical expenses. This is a pre-litigation claim, which involves negotiating with Tom and his property insurance company to reach a settlement.

Claim in a Lawsuit

In most cases, personal injury claims like the one involving your broken ankle can be resolved without resorting to a lawsuit. However, if Tom and his insurance company refuse to provide a fair settlement, you may consider filing a lawsuit against them.

In this situation, your lawsuit will incorporate your personal injury claim. It serves two primary purposes: (1) to present a concise statement detailing your entitlement to relief, and (2) to demand the specific damages sought, typically in monetary form.

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Defining a Lawsuit

In contrast, a lawsuit is a formal legal process designed to adjudicate your claim or claims.

The stages involved in a lawsuit are as follows:

  1. Complaint: The plaintiff’s attorney initiates the lawsuit by filing a complaint. This document outlines the alleged wrongdoings of the defendant, describes the plaintiff’s injuries, and enumerates the damages suffered.

  2. Answer: The defendant responds to the complaint by filing an answer.

  3. Discovery: To effectively litigate a claim, both parties usually require more information. This process is known as discovery and involves collecting evidence through methods such as written interrogatories (questions), requests for document production, and depositions (sworn testimonies obtained by opposing counsel).

  4. Dispute resolution: The legal system encourages parties to resolve their differences before trial to avoid the expenses and time associated with litigation. Informal settlement discussions and formal mediation play crucial roles in this stage. If a settlement remains unachievable, the court acknowledges that a trial is necessary.

  5. Trial: This stage involves jury selection, opening statements, the presentation of witness testimonies and evidence, closing arguments, jury instructions, and deliberation. Once the jury reaches a unanimous decision, the foreperson announces the verdict, which can take hours or days to reach.

Pros and Cons of Claims vs. Lawsuits

Choosing between pursuing a claim or filing a lawsuit can be a complex decision. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages.

Resolving a claim without involving the courts offers several benefits. First, it saves you money on attorney fees and court costs. Additionally, you are likely to receive compensation faster.

However, there are drawbacks to consider. You may have to deal with an insurance company that may not prioritize your best interests. They may attempt to minimize the compensation they offer.

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On the other hand, filing a lawsuit by initiating a claim has its own set of benefits. The primary advantage is the impartiality of the court. You may also receive more substantial compensation as the jury, rather than the defendant’s insurance company, determines the outcome. In certain cases, punitive damages may be awarded if the defendant’s conduct is particularly egregious.

Nonetheless, there are also disadvantages. The length of the litigation process is a significant consideration. It can take several years for your claim to be fully litigated, for a jury to reach a verdict, and for you to receive payment from the defendant’s insurance company.

Don’t Face It Alone

Whether you are pursuing a pre-litigation claim or a claim within a lawsuit, the ultimate goal remains the same: obtaining the compensation you deserve for your injury. Whether you choose to contact the defendant’s insurance company directly or file a lawsuit, our team of experienced personal injury attorneys at Garrity Traina is here to support you every step of the way. Visit Garrity Traina to learn more about how we can assist you.