Filing a claim and filing a lawsuit for compensation for your injuries in a car accident are not the same. Discover how they differ here.

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



When you are hurt in an auto crash caused by another driver, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. You usually receive this through a settlement with his insurance company. When describing the process, you may hear or use the terms “filing a claim” and “filing a lawsuit” interchangeably. However, they are not the same thing, and it is important to understand the differences.

What Does it Mean to File a Claim for Compensation Following a Car Accident?

When you file a claim, you are doing so with the negligent driver’s insurance company. You are notifying them that you were injured in an accident with their insured and are entitled to compensation for your injuries. It is best to retain an experienced car accident attorney to file a claim on your behalf.

Filing the claim is usually the first step in seeking compensation for injuries in a motor vehicle wreck. During the claim process, the insurance adjuster will investigate your accident and injuries. Your lawyer would send a written demand for what you should receive in your settlement and documents that support your claim. Then the adjuster and your lawyer will engage in negotiations in an effort to resolve any disputes so that a settlement can be reached. Claims are handled without involving the court system, and in some cases, a claim is settled without the need to go to court.

What Is a Lawsuit?

A lawsuit is a civil complaint against the negligent driver that is filed with the court. You may need to file a lawsuit in these situations:

  • The insurance company denied your claim.
  • The insurance company will not offer you a reasonable settlement.
  • The statute of limitations to file your complain will expire soon.

Once you serve the complaint on the negligent driver, he will file an answer to it. Then the parties, through their attorneys, engage in a lengthy discovery period where written questions may need to be answered, documents may need to be produced, and depositions of the parties, witnesses, and expert witness will be taken. Many cases will settle at some point in the litigation process. If not, the case would be scheduled for a jury trial where the jury would decide what amount, if any, you are entitled to.

If you need assistance filing your claim or lawsuit in the Seattle area, our experienced car accident attorneys are here to discuss your options and to answer your questions. Just call our office to schedule a free consultation today.