The #1 Personal Injury Guide

How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim

After your injury: Settle your claim the right way

Handle any kind of injury claim yourself and get a fair (and fast!) settlement with this plain-English guide.  How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim guides you through the insurance claim process step-by-step.

Learn how to:

  • protect your rights after an accident
  • put your best case together, and
  • avoid the insurance company runaround

See below for full product details.

  • Product Details
  • When you’ve been hurt in an accident, the prospect of dealing with insurance companies and lawyers can feel daunting. But armed with the right strategy, you can handle a claim yourself—and save thousands of dollars in the process.

    How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim guides you through the insurance claim process, step by step. After almost any kind of accident, you’ll learn how to:

    • figure out what your claim is worth
    • gather the right medical records and accident reports
    • prepare an effective demand letter
    • counter insurance company delay and other common tactics
    • negotiate your way to a full and fair settlement, and
    • stay on top of your case if you hire a lawyer.

    This completely updated edition of How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim includes the latest state-by-state lawsuit filing deadlines and small claims court limits.

    “Finally a book that takes the mystery out of personal injury claims….”—Los Angeles Times

    “An essential purchase.”—Library Journal

    Number of Pages
    Included Forms
    • Accident Claim Worksheet
  • About the Author
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction: Your Personal Injury Companion

    • Automobile, Cycle or Pedestrian Accidents
    • Slip or Trip and Fall Accidents
    • Home Accidents
    • Miscellaneous Accidents

    1. Handling Your Personal Injury Claim

    • Why You Often Can Handle Your Own Claim
    • When You Might Need a Lawyer

    2. Whose Fault Is It? How Legal Responsibility Is Determined

    • Basic Rules of Legal Responsibility
    • Liability in Specific Types of Accidents

    3. Initial Steps in Settling Your Claim

    • The First 72 Hours: Protecting Your Rights
    • Getting a Claim Started
    • Special Rules for Accidents Involving the Government

    4. Understanding Insurance Coverage

    • Motor Vehicle Insurance
    • Nonvehicle Liability Insurance
    • Your Own Health Coverage and Accident Claims
    • No-Fault Laws: State Summaries

    5. How Much Is Your Claim for Injuries Worth?

    • The Damages Formula
    • How Injuries Affect Compensation
    • Demonstrating Pain and Suffering
    • Lost Income
    • Property Damage
    • Arriving at a Final Compensation Value
    • Examples of How Much Different Claims Are Worth

    6. Processing Your Claim

    • Collecting Information
    • Preparing a Demand Letter
    • Sample Demand Letters

    7. Property Damage Claims

    • What Type of Claim to File
    • Amount of Compensation
    • Processing Your Claim
    • Negotiating a Settlement Amount

    8. Negotiating a Settlement

    • Adjusters: Who They Are and How They Work
    • How the Negotiation Process Works
    • Conducting Negotiations
    • The Subjects of Negotiations With an Adjuster
    • What to Do When You Can't Get a Settlement
    • State Statutes of Limitations

    9. Finalizing Your Settlement

    • Confirming the Offer and Acceptance
    • Formal Settlement Document
    • What to Do If the Check Doesn't Arrive
    • Liens on Your Settlement Money
    • Taxes on Your Settlement Money

    10. The Last Resorts: Lawyers, Arbitration, and Courts

    • Small Claims Court
    • Arbitration

    11. Working With a Lawyer

    • Reasons to Use a Lawyer
    • Finding the Right Lawyer
    • Paying the Lawyer
    • Managing Your Lawyer
    • Trial


    • Accident Claim Worksheet


  • Sample Chapter
  • Handling Your Personal Injury Claim

    The world’s most solitary tree is located at an oasis in the Tenere Desert in central Africa. There is no other standing tree within 31 miles. In 1960, a Frenchman accidentally rammed into it with his truck.

    In 1896, there were only four automobiles registered in all of the United  States. Two of them ran into each other in St. Louis.

    Walking up and down stairs is not usually considered tricky. Yet every year thousands of Americans are injured falling on stairs, often from defects in the stairs that they never noticed before the fall.

    In this crowded, hectic, and increasingly distracted world, no matter how careful you are, the odds are still great you’ll be injured in an accident caused—at least in part—by another person’s carelessness.

    And what happens after the accident can often be as exasperating as your injury. A whole lineup of profiteers lies in wait to make sizable gains from your injuries. First and foremost is the insurance industry. With their tentacles wrapped around every inch of our lives, the virtually unregulated insurance companies take 12 cents out of every dollar you earn, whether or not you are ever in an accident. Part of the insurance stranglehold comes in the exorbitant rates charged for car, home, business, and health insurance. Then, after a claim, insurers bulldoze over people who stand in the path of their profits by denying as many claims as possible and paying as little as they can get away with on the claims they are forced to honor.

    The health industry joins in to increase the financial pain of an injury. Medical care is controlled by a corporate health industry creating wildly expensive medical treatments and contributing greatly to outrageous health insurance costs.

    The lack of protection for lost work time also hikes up individual losses. Employers permit very limited paid time off. Americans average fewer than 11 paid nonmedical days off per year, by far the fewest of all the major industrial nations of the world. The Netherlands, for example, averages 32 days off per year; Germany, 30; and Japan, 24. And as anyone who has ever been off work for any length of time knows painfully well, the American government provides precious little backup for lost days and lost jobs.

    Finally, our legal system twists rather than straightens an injured person’s road to compensation. The legal system provides few alternatives for obtaining compensation outside of the lawyer-dominated claim and lawsuit system. And when lawyers are involved, they take 33% to 40% of a person’s injury compensation—and run up sometimes staggering costs that come out of the injured person’s pockets.

    Settling Claims Is Cheaper for  Insurers

    An insurance company’s willingness to settle your claim quickly has nothing to do with fairness and everything to do with the company saving money in the long run. It’s simply cheaper for it to pay you than to prolong the fight.

    In the first place, insurance companies must spend money to fight. The longer an adjuster works on a claim, the more money the company is spending on that claim. If lawyers get involved, the company’s expenses become steeper. And if the claim actually goes to court, costs skyrocket. Therefore, once an insurance company knows it is likely to have to pay somewhere down the line—because you understand how much your claim is worth and will not drop your claim without a settlement—it makes financial sense for the company to pay sooner rather than later.

    The cost of fighting claims is so great for an insurance company that it will often pay a claimant at least a small amount—what is called “nuisance value”—even if the odds favor the insured if the claim went to court. In other words, if it costs an insurance company several thousand dollars in legal costs to fight a claim in court, and there is any chance the company might lose, it is statistically much cheaper for it to pay a quarter or a tenth of that as nuisance value compensation to settle the claim early. (See “Nuisance Value,” in Chapter 5.)


    Why You Often Can Handle Your Own Claim

    Few people realize that, after an accident, it is often possible to get around some of these roadblocks to fair compensation. With basic information about how the accident claims process works, a bit of organization, and a little patience, you can handle your own injury insurance claim without a lawyer—and without the insurance company unfairly denying or reducing your compensation. In fact, you may be able to get more compensation for your injury and a faster resolution to your claim by handling it yourself instead of hiring a lawyer and paying attorneys’ fees. And you can certainly receive more than you would if you submitted a claim yourself without knowing how insurance companies and their claims processes work.

    The Claims Process Is Simple

    Despite what the insurance industry and some lawyers would like you to think, settling an injury claim with an insurance company is often quite simple. Most claims involve no more than a few short letters and phone calls with an insurance adjuster who has no legal training and no more information than you’ll find in this book. You don’t need to know technical language or complex legal rules. Your right to be compensated usually depends on nothing more than commonsense ideas of who was careful and who was careless.

    You Know Your Claim Best

    You know better than anyone else—insurance adjuster or attorney—how an accident happened. You were there, they weren’t. And you know best what injuries you suffered and what your physical condition and other circumstances have been since.

    The Compensation System Is  Structured

    The amount of fair compensation in any given case does not come out of a crystal ball that only lawyers and insurance companies know how to read. Rather, a number of simple factors—type of accident, injuries, medical costs—go into figuring how much any claim is “worth.” The amount an insurance company will be willing to pay usually falls into a fairly narrow range, whether a lawyer handles your claim for you or you handle it yourself. An insurance adjuster who learns that you are organized and that you understand the claims process will usually settle the claim with you right away, and for virtually the same amount as if you had a lawyer.

    Save Money on Legal Fees

    If you hire a lawyer to handle your claim, the lawyer will take a fee of up to 40% of your recovery—and charge you for “costs” that seem to appear out of thin air and can quickly run into hundreds of dollars. Yet, except in serious or complicated cases, a lawyer can usually gain for you, if anything, only an extra 5% to 20% above what you can obtain for yourself once you understand the process. Subtract the lawyer’s fees and costs from the extra amount of the settlement, and you can actually end up losing more than a third of the money to which you are entitled.

    When You Might Need a  Lawyer

    Sometimes, the skills of an experienced personal injury lawyer, or at least the threat that such a lawyer presents to an insurance company, are worth the money you have to pay that lawyer to represent you. You may need a lawyer because of complex legal rules involved in your claim, because your injuries are so serious that the potential amount of your compensation might vary greatly, or because an insurance company refuses to settle the matter with you in good faith.

    Hiring a lawyer later in the process. If, after you have presented your claim and negotiated with an insurance company as explained in this book, you do not feel the insurer is offering a fair settlement, you can retain an attorney to finish the process for you. Or you may be able to consult an attorney on an hourly basis to see if they can spot a particular legal argument that might help you to nudge the insurance company toward a more reasonable offer. (See Chapter 11.)

    There are no hard and fast rules about when you do and do not need to hire a lawyer. Much of the decision has to do with how you feel things are going as you attempt to settle your claim on your own. At some point, you may feel overwhelmed—by too much work, or by some obscure legal rule the insurance company decides to throw at you. Or you may be stonewalled by an insurance adjuster who blusters that the company does not have to honor your claim at all, or who offers you only a piddling amount to settle it. In these situations, you may want to consult an attorney for advice, and perhaps have him or her take over the claim. These situations are discussed in detail in Chapter 11.

    There are some injuries and accidents that almost always require a lawyer’s expertise and experience. Let’s look at a few.

    Serious Long-Term or Permanently Disabling  Injuries

    Some accidents result in injuries that permanently or for a long time—more than one year—seriously affect your physical capabilities or appearance. Figuring out how much such a serious injury is worth can be a difficult business that may require an experienced lawyer. Even if you decide to handle the matter yourself, an injury with a long period of recovery or a permanent physical effect really requires that you consult a lawyer for an hour or two to make sure you have covered all the bases in your claim.

    Severe Injuries

    The amount of your accident compensation is mostly determined by how severe your injuries are. And the severity of your injuries is measured by the amount of your medical bills and your lost income, as well as the length of time you remain in pain or disabled. Once your medical and lost-income figures begin to rise, not only does the amount of compensation increase, but it becomes more difficult to gauge the range of fair compensation an insurance company is willing to pay. And once these figures get high and the range gets broad, it may be worth it to have a lawyer handle your claim.

    In Chapter 5, we explain how to gauge how much your claim may be worth. In a less serious case, with medical costs and income loss of a few thousand dollars, it is rarely worth your money to hire a lawyer.

    EXAMPLE: Your medical costs and income loss are $2,500 and you fully recover from your injuries in a few months. Applying the damages formula (discussed in Chapter 5), you know that your compensation will be between $5,000 and $10,000—no lower and no higher. Therefore, you can negotiate within that range to get the highest possible amount without worrying that you might instead have received $20,000 or $30,000 if you had hired a lawyer to negotiate for you. Also, you know that even if you got $7,500 on your own and a lawyer could have obtained $10,000, the lawyer’s fee and costs would have reduced your actual compensation to less than $7,500, anyway.

    But when the injuries are severe and the medical costs are high—over $10,000 or so—the range of potential compensation can become very wide—from $20,000 to $100,000. Because the difference between the low end of this range and the high end is so great, it may be a good idea to take advantage of the experience of a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to ensure that you get the highest possible amount, even taking into account that the lawyer’s fee will eat up a significant part of your final award.

    EXAMPLE: Your medical bills are $15,000 and you are able to get a settlement offer of $50,000 by yourself, but a lawyer might be able to get $75,000 to $100,000 for you. Even after the lawyer takes one-third as a fee, you would be left with between $50,000 and $67,000—up to $17,000 more than you obtained on your own. And the lawyer will have done the work.

    Finding the Right Lawyer

    Deciding that you want to consult with or hire a lawyer is one thing, and finding the right lawyer is another. Not all lawyers are experienced in personal injury claims. And if your claim were simple enough for an inexperienced lawyer to handle, you would be handling it yourself. It is important to find a lawyer who can handle your particular kind of claim, and also to find one with whom you are comfortable. (See Chapter 11.)


    No fixed cutoff point in medical bills and lost income determines when you should consider hiring a lawyer. Some people feel more comfortable hiring a lawyer as soon as their bills reach a couple of thousand dollars, regardless of any other factors in the case. Other people would handle a similar claim on their own and avoid the lawyer’s fee, even if their medical bills reached $10,000 and their potential compensation $100,000.

    The only way to know whether you feel comfortable handling your own claim is to understand how compensation amounts are calculated and apply those criteria to your situation to get a rough idea of what your claim might be worth. (See Chapter 5.) Then decide—either right away or after negotiating for a while with the insurance company—whether to continue handling the case on your own, consult with a lawyer on an hourly basis, or hire a lawyer to handle your case. (See Chapter 11.)

    Medical Malpractice

    If you have suffered an injury or illness due to careless, unprofessional, or incompetent treatment at the hands of a doctor, nurse, hospital, clinic, laboratory, or other medical provider, the complexities of both the medical questions and the legal rules involved almost certainly require that you hire a lawyer experienced in medical malpractice matters.

    Toxic Exposure

    We sometimes become ill because of exposure to chemicals in the air, soil, or water, in products we use, or in food we eat. Even some naturally occurring molds can cause severe health problems. Claims based on such exposures are difficult to prove, however, and often involve complex scientific data. Because the chemical and other industries have erected a huge wall to protect themselves from legal exposure while they continue to expose us to chemicals, the required evidence is very hard to come by. As a result, fighting a claim for toxic exposure requires the services of a lawyer experienced in such cases.

    When an Insurance Company Refuses  to  Pay

    In some instances, regardless of the nature of your injury or the amount of your medical bills and lost income, you will want to hire a lawyer because an insurance company or government agency simply refuses to make any fair settlement offer at all. This is often referred to as “stonewalling,” because negotiating is like talking to a stone wall. An insurance company may stonewall by denying that its insured is at all responsible for the accident, or that the insured was covered for the type of accident that happened. You can also run into stonewalling when your claim is against a governmental body that argues it is immune—legally protected —from responsibility for the accident. These situations are discussed in detail in Chapter 11.

    Don’t Be Shy—You’re Entitled to Compensation

    The insurance industry spends fistfuls of money each year on well-placed “news” stories to create the impression that most people who file personal injury claims are trying to cheat defenseless insurance companies. These stories often depict people grossly exaggerating their injuries or fraudulently staging fake accidents. As a result, many people are too embarrassed to file legitimate claims, or they accept far less than they are entitled to when an insurance adjuster takes a high-and-mighty tone.

    The insurance industry collects vast sums of money in premiums to provide protection for every aspect of our daily lives: car, home, and business. And that money—minus the industry’s huge profits—is specifically intended to compensate people injured in accidents. Injured people are not being greedy when they make insurance claims, and insurance companies are not being kind or generous when they pay them. Instead, injury compensation is exactly what we have all been paying for when we hand over our insurance premiums, month after month, year after year. So, if you have the misfortune of being injured in an accident, don’t hesitate to pursue your claim vigorously. You’ve paid for it.

    If, after repeated efforts, you are unable to obtain a fair offer, you might be forced to see whether an attorney can do better for you. In these cases, something—what the lawyer can get minus the fee charged to get it—is almost certainly better than nothing.

    We hope you enjoyed this sample chapter. The complete book is available for sale here at


10 Reviews
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star

Easy Reac

By Matt K.

I needed to write a demand letter to an insurance company and wanted to avoid the high cost of a lawyer. This book was full of sample letters and was exactly what I needed.

Posted on 10/11/2021

You Can't Go Wrong

By Helen E.

Amazing book that is everything I needed to present my claim to AAA for an auto injury caused by their client. Originally, I was going to consult an attorney first; however, this book is set up in a way that it was easy to locate the specific information I needed and provided sample Letters of Demand that I used to create the one I presented last week. I especially appreciated learning what was going to be going on when the claims adjuster received my letter. The book explains how to negotiate and what to expect from the insurance company. First, I ordered an ebook on line, but it was much larger than I wanted to print out. Therefore, I checked it out of the library and kept it through 3 renewals because I wanted to return to different sections as I prepared my demand letter. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has been injured and needs to deal with an insurance company.

Posted on 10/11/2021

Great Book!

By Michael A.


Posted on 10/11/2021


By Ray T.

Received very quickly.

Posted on 10/11/2021

Book size format too small

By Elliot M.

I have bought and recommender various Nolo Press legal books for over 20 years. It had been a few years since I needed to buy another and was both surprised and disappointed to realize that the book size format had shrunk in physical side. It makes it harder to read and the need to enlarge on a copier the reference filing papers. I am assuming that some “Bright MBA Type” said that they could save some printing cost by reducing the size. The content quality appears to be as good as the old days. Just my opinion

Posted on 10/11/2021

Before you see a lawyer, but this from NOLO

By Jon T.

The information in this product is very compressive and very useful. It is going to be very helpful. I recommend this particular product, and one can not get the information at a better price.

Posted on 10/11/2021

Not for large claims

By Carol H.

Ok But good advice for only small claims. Less than 10K

Posted on 10/11/2021

I'm not a lawyer but I'm fighting a multi million dollar case, without council using this book.

By Not smarter than a 5th grader

This book has all the info you need to go hard on your personal injury claim. I have history with winning court cases based on facts. I'm expecting the same result this time. 33 &1/3 or 24.99 u do the math. Thanks Nolo

Posted on 10/11/2021

Great Information!!!

By Anonymous

Great product. VERY helpful, especially during the first few weeks of my injury. The book helps you understand how they system works and gives you the confidence to tackle it on your own. I did not ever receive my paper copy in the mail as promised (hence the 3 stars) and paid. Not sure what happened there...

Posted on 10/11/2021


By Anonymous

I highly recommend this manual for everyone who's been in any type of accident. Its complete from soup to nuts. Perfect for modeling and structuring my Demand Letter. Now I'd wish the lawyers from the associated 1-800 number would stop calling twice a day since September..

Posted on 10/11/2021

View More Reviews

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought