Claim vs. Lawsuit: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve been injured in an accident, a malpractice incident, or another unexpected event, legal routes are available to ensure that you receive rightful compensation from the responsible party.

It is common to see the terms “lawsuit” and “legal claim” used interchangeably, especially when researching your options for a personal injury case. But although they share some similarities, it is essential to understand the difference between claims and lawsuits – particularly if you are preparing to take legal action.

Our personal injury attorneys at Springer & Steinberg in Denver can provide you with legal advice pertaining to your specific situation, so you can decide whether a claim or lawsuit is the best-suited option.

In this guide, we’re providing a clear-cut explanation of the topic – answering essential questions such as:

  • What is a lawsuit?
  • What is a legal claim?
  • What does filing a claim mean? A lawsuit?
  • What is the process for filing a lawsuit? A claim?

What is a Claim?

A claim is a request for damages (financial compensation) specifically made to an at-fault party that is to be held responsible for causing injuries and/or damages to another person.

It is possible to make an informal claim directly to the person who is responsible for your injuries. But in most cases, you will submit a claim to their insurance provider.

When You Should or Shouldn’t File a Claim

Typically, filing an insurance claim is ideal when the circumstances and facts of an accident case are straightforward. In situations where it is unlikely that an insurance adjuster will attempt to argue its liability, claims can be a relatively uncomplicated approach to compensation for injuries and/or damages.

You might opt to file a claim rather than a lawsuit if your priorities include the following:

  • Minimizing the cost of court fees and legal expenses
  • Resolving the situation as rapidly as possible
  • Avoiding stress

However, there are other scenarios where filing a lawsuit is the best course of action. For example, a personal injury lawsuit may be the right choice if:

  • You need to prompt the insurance company to take quick action
  • Negotiations are falling through
  • You prefer that a judge, not the insurance company, decide your case

Sometimes, a claim is sufficient to recover fair compensation for expenses after an accident. But in other cases, a lawsuit becomes necessary for one reason or another.

Understanding the Claims Process

If you are filing a personal injury claim, you will generally be dealing with the responsible party’s insurance company, attorneys, and any other individuals acting on their behalf. The process is sometimes referred to as a “pre-litigation claim” because it takes place outside of court.

During the claim process, both parties attempt to negotiate an acceptable settlement. Ultimately, the goal is to work out an arrangement in which the insurance company provides sufficient coverage for expenses associated with your medical care, damaged property, and any other damages. Exactly what does filing a claim mean? Essentially, you are stating that you were injured as a result of another party’s actions and that they should be held liable for some or all of the costs you have incurred.

If a solution can be reached, a claim for compensation can be resolved without ever needing to go to court. However, if both parties are unable to come to a fair settlement agreement, the situation can progress into a lawsuit.

What is a Lawsuit?

claim vs lawsuit differencesA lawsuit is a claim brought to a court of law, making it a civil action taken by one person (the plaintiff) against another (the at-fault person or entity known as the defendant).

In a lawsuit, you will need to prove that the defendant is liable for your injuries and that you are entitled to financial compensation (damages). You will also need to be prepared to demonstrate the extent of your financial and/or emotional losses resulting from the incident.

Why You Should or Shouldn’t File a Lawsuit

If claim negotiations are unsuccessful, or it is determined that legal action is the best option, you can file a lawsuit. Sometimes, it is ideal to skip the legal claims process and move directly to a lawsuit instead.

Some reasons to file a lawsuit rather than a claim can include:

  • You may be able to receive a higher amount of compensation (damages) in court
  • You prefer to trust a judge/jury rather than an insurance company
  • You may be eligible for punitive and/or non-economic damages

In certain situations, a claim is preferable, including if:

  • You aren’t sure what the final outcome of your court case might be
  • You want to avoid the time and stress of a court case
  • The expense of a lawsuit outweighs the potential benefit of higher damages in your case

One of the biggest advantages of filing a lawsuit is that it requires the liable insurance company to respond to you – they have no obligation to answer your claim submission.

Understanding the Lawsuit Process

Working with a knowledgeable lawyer will make the lawsuit process far easier to understand.

There are several key stages in a lawsuit:

  1. Complaint: First, your lawyer files a legal document that alleges who is at fault, how they are liable, how you were injured, and what damages were suffered.
  2. Answer: The defendant will then file their response (answer) to the complaint.
  3. Discovery: In this stage, both the plaintiff and defendant gather as much information as possible to support their cases. Common forms of discovery include depositions (when each party is questioned by the opposing counsel under oath), requests for production (of documents and other evidence), and interrogatories (answering written questions).
  4. Dispute resolution: In the interest of enabling the involved parties to reach a resolution without litigating in court, they are highly encouraged to attempt to resolve the issue prior to trial. It is required that both parties participate in formal mediation in good faith, only moving to trial after a reasonable attempt has been made.
  5. Trial: Finally, the lawsuit will go to trial, it can take a day or even weeks. A jury will be selected, then opening statements, witness testimony, and evidence will be presented. After closing arguments, the jury will deliberate on your claim. Once they reach an agreement, the verdict will be announced.

Get Help with Your Legal Claim or Lawsuit

If you’re still uncertain about the advantages of a claim vs. lawsuit in your specific situation, the experienced attorneys at Springer & Steinberg in Denver can provide personalized guidance to help you make an informed and confident decision. Using our extensive expertise, we will assist you in navigating the legal process and advocate for your rights every step of the way.

Both lawsuits and legal claims can be complex, involving many different negotiations and/or litigation phases. In order for you to achieve the best possible outcome – and avoid undue stress in the process – partnering with a trusted personal injury attorney is key. With decades of experience, a proven track record, and unparalleled dedication to our clients, our Denver lawyers are here for you.

For more information about the differences between a lawsuit and a legal claim, contact us online or at (303) 861-2800 today.

Image credits: smolaw Ulf Wittrock / Shutterstock


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