Abraham Lincoln once said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a lawyer for every legal proceeding. People often handle their own small claims court cases. However, most cases involve complicated facts and rules of law. People who don’t have a legal background can often miss things that a trained lawyer would quickly recognize. In any type of case, you will want to make certain that you know exactly what the proceedings entail. What are your rights? What responsibilities do you have? What exactly do those legal terms mean?
You can represent yourself in a personal injury claim. However, the truth is that representing yourself in a personal injury claim is not a good idea. You will likely be representing yourself against a trained lawyer, and that means that your opponent will have a distinct advantage.
Trying to Handle Your Own Personal Injury Case
If you are considering handling your own personal injury case, there are some things you need to consider. First, mismanaging your case can cost you drastically. If, for example, you start out handling your own case but decide to hire a lawyer later, what you have done before hiring the lawyer might complicate or compromise your case. Your opponent’s attorney may have obtained damaging admissions from you that you did not even realize could be so damaging to your case. Once your new lawyer comes on your case, there will be little your lawyer can do to repair the damage from your admissions.
Second, mishandling settlement negotiations can ruin your case. During your case, you will need to negotiate to try to obtain a reasonable settlement. Initially, your negotiations will be with insurance claims professionals. If you file a lawsuit, your negotiations will then be with a lawyer. These are people who will know how to negotiate. This might seem to be a perfectly acceptable scenario to you if you feel like you are a good negotiator. However, if you make a mistake during negotiations, there may be no way to fix t. Acceptance of a settlement offer usually means that your case is over. Most of the time, you will be required to release the opposing party from any future liability in exchange for accepting settlement money. Therefore, if you settle your case and then discover that your medical conditions are worsening or you are incurring more bills, you will not be able to get more money. You will be out of luck. If you hire a lawyer at that point, there is unlikely to be anything the lawyer can do to resurrect your claim.
Third, handling your own case will mean doing a great deal of research. You will need to verify all of the laws and procedures that apply to your case. You will also need to have a reasonable evaluation of the type of monetary damages you should be awarded for the injury you have suffered. Without experience in handling personal injury claims, these will be daunting tasks. Trying to learn everything you need to know in order to handle your own case is likely to cause a lot of stress.
Deciding to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
Hiring an attorney to handle your personal injury case will almost always be your best option. A trained attorney already understands the process and the pertinent laws associated with your case. They will be able to counsel you on the strengths and weaknesses of your case. They will be able to navigate the pre-suit claims process for you. They will be able to counsel you on who you can talk to and who you should direct to your attorney. They can also discuss the specifics of your case and give you reasonable expectations as to the outcome. One great benefit to hiring a personal injury attorney is that they are experienced in the field, so the research portion of your case is much easier for them and less time consuming than it would be for you.
Not only will your personal injury attorney understand the laws that apply to your case, they are also experienced negotiators which provides a better opportunity to obtain the best possible settlement for you. They understand the settlement process and can help guide you through the complicated details of your case. Therefore, a good personal injury attorney will often mean an increased settlement over what you would be able to negotiate without legal representation. In fact, a study by the Insurance Research Council in 1999 indicated that the average settlement is more than three times higher for those with an attorney than the settlement received by those without an attorney. For all of these reasons, it is highly recommended that you consult with a personal injury attorney if you believe that you may have a claim.