What is the difference between a car accident claim and lawsuit?

Car With a Wrecked Front End After a CollisionThe terms “claim” and "lawsuit” are often used interchangeably in a car accident case. However, they are very different processes for obtaining compensation from a negligent driver if you suffered injuries in a collision that he caused.

What Is a Claim?

A claim is often the first step in seeking compensation for your injuries. It is filed directly with the negligent driver’s insurance company. There is no court involved in the process of filing and settling a claim. It is an out-of-court settlement. However, you should still retain an experienced car accident attorney to negotiate your settlement with the insurance adjuster so that you receive what you deserve and your legal rights are protected.

What Is a Lawsuit?

A lawsuit is the filing a complaint for damages against the negligent driver and litigating your case in court. You could need to file a lawsuit if the insurance company denies your claim or does not offer you a fair settlement.

You should also file a lawsuit if the statute of limitations will soon expire. This is the deadline you have to file a civil complaint. If you fail to do so within this time limit, your case would be dismissed. In Virginia, the statute of limitations to file a car accident lawsuit is:

  • Personal injury. Two years from the date of the accident.
  • Property damage. Five years from the date of the accident.
  • Wrongful death. Two years from the date of the victim’s death.

If you must file a lawsuit, this does not mean that you will not reach a settlement with the insurance company. Many of these cases are resolved at some point in the litigation process before being decided at a jury trial.

Were you or a loved one injured in a car accident in Virginia? Our experienced car accident attorneys are here to file your claim and a civil lawsuit if this becomes necessary. We will aggressively fight for the compensation that you deserve and are not afraid to take your case to jury trial if this is in your best interests. Call our Norfolk office to schedule your free consultation today.