If you’ve been poking around legal sites recently, chances are, you’ve stumbled across the phrase “legal claim” in a law dictionary or two. But it can be hard to decipher a concise answer to what is a legal claim and what lawyers mean by “asserting a claim.” Today, we’ve got you covered with the official legal definition of a claim and how it could impact your personal injury case.
What is a Claim in Law?
When you ask, “What is a claim in law?” you have to specify which type of law you mean. The legal system is broken into several branches, and each one tackles different types of crime and injustice. Aside from family law and labor law, some of the more common specialties of civil procedure include:
- Tort Law — Compensates victims of wrongful acts, including personal injury accidents such as a car accident or slip and fall
- Criminal Law —Punishes individuals who commit crimes, such as battery or robbery
- Intellectual Law — Enforces legal rights to inventions, designs, and artistic works
The definition of “claim” in the legal dictionary relies on the type of civil procedure in question.
Legal Definition of Claim for Tort and Criminal Law
Within the legal dictionary, the definition of claim is similar for both tort and criminal law. As a verb in tort law, “claim” means to put forth a formal demand for payment that is due as a remedy for an injury. As a noun in tort law, “a claim” is a written demand for something due. In other words, claims in tort law help grant victims compensation.
In criminal law, a claim is still a demand for something a victim is owed. However, instead of just a monetary demand, the victim of a crime can also demand justice. A victim can sue to obtain the enforcement of rights against another party, to obtain real estate, or to obtain a sum of money. In this type of case, their claim is essentially a set of facts sufficient to justify a right to file a suit.
Legal Definition of Claim for Intellectual Law
The legal definition for a claim is a bit different in intellectual law. Intellectual law protects the rights of creators and innovators. Specifically, patent law is a branch of intellectual law that deals with new inventions and breach of contract.
In patent law, a claim is a technical description of an invention’s novel elements. Each element requires an additional claim. The majority of patents include multiple claims. The first claim is a general description of the invention in the broadest terms allowed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Subsequent claims describe how each element of the invention gets created in great detail. In this type of case, these claims protect the propriety of a product and ensure no employee or business partner can replicate its features.
What is a Claimant in Personal Injury Law?
When wondering, “What is a legal claim?” you’ll likely end up with a whole other question: what is a claimant? In reality, a claimant isn’t a what; it’s a who.
In a law dictionary, a claimant refers to an individual responsible for filing a claim. It can also refer to an individual “claiming” damages. In personal injury law, the claimant is the injury victim. The claimant will also act as the plaintiff if the case goes to trial. The alleged at-fault party will act as the defendant.
How Do You Assert a Claim in Personal Injury Law?
Once a claimant has a claim, what do they do with it? They assert it! To assert a claim in personal injury law means to file a case with the insurance company demanding compensation for damages, like medical bills or lost wages. You can also assert a claim by filing a lawsuit against the individual responsible for your injuries.
When asserting legal claims, evidence and documentation are required by law to prove the defendant’s wrongdoing. For instance, consider an auto accident victim who sustained back injuries, including whiplash and a herniated disc, in a crash they didn’t cause.
First, a personal injury attorney analyzes the facts of the case, such as the car accident report and witness testimony. Then, the attorney gathers evidence to discover the primary cause of action or proximate cause of the accident.
The attorney finds the proximate cause of the accident was the defendant failing to stop for a traffic light. The attorney concludes the defendant was at-fault for the accident, so they file a claim with the defendant’s insurance company for a certain amount of money. By asserting a claim with the insurance company, the victim can receive compensation for their damages, including medical bills, pain and suffering, and more.
What is the Nature of a Claim?
State law requires a claimant to file a written request with the insurance company outlining details of their claim. This request must include the subject matter of the case, including the injuries the claimant sustained and why the other party is liable. Continuing with the example above, the plaintiff would send medical proof of their herniated disc and whiplash injuries, as well as evidence the at-fault driver failed to stop for a traffic light.
Once the insurance company receives this request, they have 60 days by law to provide the defendant’s coverage amounts. The provided coverage amounts should clearly define each item of the defendant’s insurance policy, including excess or umbrella insurance, and the limits of the coverage. This is called the nature of a claim.
The nature of the claim is essentially a written agreement between the claimant and the defendant’s insurance company. It encompasses evidence of why the claimant is demanding payment, as well as whether or not the defendant has adequate insurance to cover the payment. The nature of the claim provides an unbridled look into a defendant’s insurance coverages, safeguarding the insurance company from fraudulent cases and preventing the victim from being short-changed.
What Happens After You File a Claim?
After you file a claim, your attorney files a demand letter that specifies the amount of money you expect and why.
The opposing party can agree and disperse the demanded funds, which would be the end of the settlement timeline. Alternatively, the opposing party can disagree and offer a rebuttal, counterclaim, or cross-claim.
If you and your attorney do not agree to the counterclaim or cross-claim, you can issue a revised demand letter. In some cases, litigants exchange letters back and forth until a settlement is reached. But if both parties cannot come to an agreement within an appropriate period of time, the claim can escalate to trial court. The case then enters the discovery phase to uncover further details about the accident. There, a trial judge will issue a verdict.
Speak with a Personal Injury Law Firm to File a Claim
Legal terms (and state law in general) can be confusing—that’s what a trusted personal injury law firm is for. Reach out today for a free case evaluation to determine if you’re within your right to file a legal claim.