The Target of Personal Injury Claims
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
When people think about lawyers, they often have a vision of lawyers representing them in lawsuits against those that have wronged them. However, in personal injury claims, the target is rarely the person who actually hit you. In most cases, a personal injury lawyer will pursue compensation on your behalf from the insurance company that covers the person that hit you, as opposed to encouraging a lawsuit against the individual themself.
Settle or Pursue a Lawsuit
When going through a personal injury claim, you have to make a choice to pursue one route or the other: accept a settlement from the insurance company or pursue a personal lawsuit.
Most times, a personal lawsuit is much more risky since it is uncertain what assets they may have available to cover the damages they caused. Injuries can last weeks to months to even years, and you don’t want to be left carrying the financial burden of recovery on your own. By pursuing insurance, it is much more likely that you can get the payout you deserve for the injuries sustained.
Verify Coverage With the Responsible Party
The personal injury claims process with insurance comes with a few different options depending on the circumstances. No matter what, the first step is to determine if the person that hit you has insurance. The at-fault party is the one you want to start with since they are responsible for covering the accident.
A personal injury lawyer serves as the go-between during the claim to ensure that the insurance company does not try to pay out less than what you have incurred or will incur financially because of your injuries.
Utilize Your Own Insurance Coverage
In some claims, there can be a question of responsibility and fault for the accident, even if all of the evidence is pointing to the other person. This can cause serious delays in the payout process with a claim as the insurance company goes back and forth on the evidence.
Rather than waiting around for the other party to take responsibility, you can pursue your own insurance for compensation if you have the right coverage. On an auto insurance policy, there are two primary coverages that can be used to begin covering yourself. Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, provides medical coverage right away for you and your passengers for injuries up to a certain limit. In short, anyone hurt in the accident can get their medical bills covered immediately for up to either $10k or $35k. This can be a huge benefit, especially since there is no deductible.
Understand Uninsured Motorist Coverage for Excessive Claims
The other coverage is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage, also called UM. This coverage acts like liability coverage but instead of paying for damages you cause to others, it covers damages done to you. It pays for property damage to your vehicle as well as personal injury to cover medical bills and expenses incurred to treat you after the accident.
This coverage is in limits similar to liability coverage and typically matches what you carry for others. While Uninsured Motorist is subject to a deductible, it is usually a reduced amount compared to your property damage deductible. The insurance company then pays for your claim as if they were the at-fault party and will then seek reimbursement from the responsible insurance company.
It is highly advisable to never waive Uninsured Motorist, not just for the sake of speeding up the claims process, but primarily to protect you in the event you are hit by someone with little or no insurance. Many drivers carry the Washington state minimum liability limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 max per accident for injuries. In a moderate to serious accident, this money doesn’t go nearly far enough to reimburse you for the costs you will accumulate. By carrying Uninsured Motorist, you can cover yourself in case someone doesn’t have enough insurance to properly reimburse you for your injuries.
Be Prepared in a Hit-and-Run Auto Accident
Another benefit of UM is that it can cover you in the event someone flees the scene of an accident before you can collect their information. Hit and runs unfortunately leave you with the burden of the expenses regardless of the person’s actual insurance status. If the person sticks around and has no coverage at all, your best course of action is against UM on your own policy. Although it may feel unjust to not go after the responsible person, a personal lawsuit is rarely advisable in this situation simply because it is unlikely you will be able to receive the compensation you deserve. An uninsured person either doesn’t carry insurance because they can’t afford it, or because they have nothing of value to protect. Either way, it is low odds that a personal lawsuit will give you the payout you're looking for.
Always Protect Yourself
There may be times when a personal lawsuit is the only course of action, but overall, it is much more purposeful to pursue reimbursement through an insurance company rather than an individual person.
Since you cannot control how those around you insure themselves, it is strongly recommended to take matters into your own hands by purchasing the right insurance coverage for yourself so you can be covered no matter what. In any case involving personal injury, a personal injury lawyer can help support you and ensure you are treated fairly in your claim.
Talk to Hohaia Law to learn more about how to properly protect yourself in the event of an accident.