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What Does It Mean to Sue Someone?

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In the wake of an accident, you often have to navigate complex insurance terms and confusing legal jargon. This is difficult for most people but is especially challenging for those who are reeling after a crash. Before anything happens, it’s best to learn exactly what it means to sue someone.

Let’s start with the basics and work through the legal process one step at a time. Below, we’ll explore what it means to sue someone and what goes into a lawsuit.

What does it mean to sue someone?

When you sue someone, you’re bringing legal action against that person or entity. In this legal action, you’re arguing that the defendant has done something negligent and that they should pay for the harm they have caused.

In most cases when you sue someone, you’re seeking financial compensation – in other words, money. The outcome when you sue someone in a civil case – a settlement or jury award – is one of the biggest differences between suing someone and pursuing criminal charges against them. If you decide to sue someone, they won’t go to jail over your claim. Instead, they – or their insurance company – could be responsible for paying financial compensation.

Suing has been adopted as the casual verb form of the term lawsuit. The act of bringing forth a lawsuit is known as suing, or taking steps to sue someone, or as commencing litigation.

The perception of suing someone

lawyer lawsuit filing paperworkModern media has created a negative connotation around the concept of lawsuits. Perhaps what best illustrates this warped perception of what it means to sue someone is the notion that “sue-happy” people are looking for any reason to sue just to make a quick buck. Threats like “I’ll sue you!” are common in movies and other media, and this threat is, naturally, one of the last things someone wants to hear.

People often threaten to sue when they want a lot of money from a business or want to inflict financial pain on another person. You often hear about celebrities suing gossip magazines for spreading negative stories or ex-employees suing employers for poor treatment.

While these are typical examples of lawsuits, the vast majority of cases are actually claims brought to insurance companies to cover damages that arise due to an injury.

The reality of suing people for personal injury matters

There are some big differences between these examples of celebrities suing for libel and what it means to sue people for a personal injury.

For one thing, in an injury matter, the stakes are as high as your own physical wellbeing and your family’s financial future, especially if you’re out of work due to your injuries. It’s not just an intangible thing like a reputation that’s been harmed.

Then there’s the point of who you’re seeking money from when you sue someone. If you have to sue your friend for getting into an auto accident that caused your injuries, you’re not holding your friend personally responsible for paying you a settlement. Your friend’s auto insurance policy is meant to pay for the harms the policyholder causes to others. Although your lawsuit may name your friend, the claim for compensation would be directed toward the auto insurance provider.

The types of damages you can seek when you sue someone for a personal injury include medical bills, lost wages, diminished future earning capacity, and even – in certain situations – pain and suffering.

Despite the sue-happy myth, most injured victims aren’t eager to sue people. They’re not looking for a lawsuit, but they find that they need to pursue one because it’s the only way to get the compensation they deserve – so they’re not the ones footing the bill for someone else’s mistakes.

What does the lawsuit process look like?

The concept of a lawsuit is intimidating to many people, which is one big reason why they hesitate to bring a case forward. People tend to picture dramatic courtroom scenes and caustic debates over the most minor details that drag out for years upon years. But this isn’t really what it means to sue someone; this is just another myth that comes with the idea of lawsuits. Many cases look nothing like this.

More than 90 percent of lawsuits end pre-trial, typically in mediation. Your lawyer and the lawyer for the insurance company will present their offers, and both parties will work together to reach an agreement. It is only when these meetings break down and neither side is willing to compromise that the lawsuit goes before the court.

By hiring a lawyer, you can avoid a lot of the work that comes with pre-trial and trial preparation. Your lawyer and their staff will gather materials and collect information to build a case in your favor. Besides merely guiding you through the lawsuit process, your lawyer will do the majority of the work it takes to sue someone. When you enjoy professional representation by someone who has worked with difficult insurance companies before, you can focus on what really matters: your recovery.

What is your insurance designed to cover?

Not only is it important to learn what it means to sue, but it’s also important to learn how you are covered. Our clients are often surprised by the amount of money that their insurance companies are willing to pay — and not in a good way. They wonder what their insurance covers if they receive so little when they file a claim. A lawyer’s job is to work with insurance companies to make sure you are fairly compensated, and not just stuck with the first offer they send to you.

You pay into your insurance with the idea that you may need it to cover your expenses someday as well as the expenses of anyone who you may unintentionally harm. You hope that other people, drivers, and businesses do the same. No one intends to get into a car accident, but you want to be prepared in the event that it happens.

This peace of mind that there’s coverage available if something should happen may be the reason why you buy insurance in the first place, but neither your insurance company nor the defendant’s insurance company wants to pay you what you need to cover your expenses. Insurance carriers make more money when you don’t file a claim or when they underpay you. This isn’t fair, but it is, unfortunately, common. If the people involved in a car accident pay into their insurance but don’t receive compensation for medical care or car repair, then the insurance company isn’t doing its job.

Your auto insurance is designed to cover your medical expenses (in a no-fault state) and your auto repair costs. Insurance policies may also cover passengers in your car and protect you if the driver at fault doesn’t have insurance. As a result of insurance carriers stingily holding onto their money at your expense, you might not have enough money to cover your necessary costs.

People often exclude certain expenses in claims because they aren’t sure that their insurance provider covers it – not because they don’t want the expenses paid for. Having a lawyer on your side can help you make sure every accident-related expense is compensated fairly.

What kinds of lawsuits come out of car accidents?

According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), there were 273,473 car crashes in 2016. Of that total, 62,690 crashes caused injuries to the drivers or passengers, and 210,213 accidents led to property damage only. Accidents that involve physical injuries commonly lead to lawsuits. Drivers and passengers bring lawsuits pertaining to accidents when insurance companies don’t pay claims the way they should.

If you want to learn more about what it means to sue someone, lawsuits, and personal injury claims against insurance companies, contact our team at Console & Associates. We can help you learn more about your rights and help you file a claim for the compensation you deserve.