Can You Represent Yourself in a Car Accident Case?

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After a car accident where you have no doubt about the at-fault party, you may consider handling your legal case by yourself. Maybe you feel it makes little sense to pay a legal representative to prove what you already know and can prove yourself. Before you make a mistake that could cost you more than you realize, understand when and whether you should represent yourself in a car accident case.

Facts To Consider About Handling Your Own Case

Before tackling your legal claim, you deserve to have the full picture of what awaits you. Self-representation works most favorably when you have a strong desire to represent yourself, not just a fleeting thought. It may take more time and energy than you realize to build your case and research the law. If you have injuries or other obligations to tend to, you may not have much time or energy left over to represent yourself. 

Do you have what it takes to learn how personal injury claims work? It may take between six and eight hours for you to gather enough knowledge to negotiate a car accident settlement. If you feel you may have better luck with your case in small claims court or mediation, that could mean putting in three to five more hours of legal research. Could going to a traditional court get you the results you desire? If so, prepare to spend a lot more time learning about how personal injury law works. Note that all these hours only represent preparation time. To put your newfound knowledge into action, you must devote even more time to your endeavor.

If the other driver’s insurance provider accepts fault, you need only supply enough evidence to prove the extent of your injuries. Even then, you may have better luck letting an experienced legal representative gather all the proof you need to get the compensation you deserve. Insurance companies often only look out for their own interests, so they may offer you an insignificant settlement that does not represent everything you deserve. If you do not have experience negotiating with insurance companies, you may not recognize a terrible settlement.

When It May Be OK To Represent Yourself

There are some instances in which you may be alright in representing yourself. For instance, if your doctor checks you and says you do not have permanent or severe injuries, you may not have much to lose in representing yourself. When diagnosed with a herniated disc, broken bones or anything more severe than a tissue injury, turn your case over to an experienced personal injury attorney. You do not want to risk losing a thousand- or million-dollar case.

Another instance in which you may be OK to represent yourself is when self-representation presents your only option. You may not have luck finding a legal representative willing to take on your case, or perhaps your case does not amount to much of a settlement. Rather than drop your claim, you may feel you have no choice but to roll up your sleeves and represent yourself.

Injured car accident victims who live in no-fault states may not sue at-fault parties if their injuries do not exceed a specific amount. Drivers in these states have limits on how much they may recover in damages from their own personal injury protection coverage. That means it may not make much sense for them to hire a personal injury attorney. 

What an Experienced Attorney Does For Your Case

Perhaps you hesitate to hire a personal injury attorney because you do not want to “waste” money on legal fees. Once you understand how legal representatives help their clients, you may not feel like you throw away money when hiring an attorney. 

Claim Investigation and Demand Letter

One of the first things attorneys do for their clients is to investigate their cases. That means gathering essential documents, such as police reports, medical documents, medical treatment history, witness statements, official government reports and surveillance footage. With sufficient evidence, a legal representative may send a demand letter to the at-fault party’s insurance company. The letter notes your legal arguments and includes a demand for damages to settle your claim.

If the insurance company agrees to pay damages and makes an offer, your attorney may review the offer to help you cultivate a response. Remember that the first settlement offer rarely represents the final offer. Your legal advocate may want to wait to see whether you incur future medical expenses and if you may earn a living while recovering.

Litigation

The at-fault party’s insurance company may not agree to the settlement amount your attorney feels you deserve. If not, the next step is to start the litigation process. This involves filing a complaint that breaks down your legal argument, your evidence and your relief demands. Once the other party receives the complaint, she or he submits a response.

After the complaint letter, you move on to the discovery phase of the litigation process. This is where you and the at-fault party exchange details that may become evidence in a trial. Usually, discovery includes document requests, depositions and submitting written questions. Your attorney could file pre-trial motions after discovery, but rarely do personal injury suits go to trial. Instead, the plaintiff and defendant often reach a settlement.

Damages Assessment

Your lawyer also helps you determine which legal damages your claim qualifies you for. Special compensatory damages cover financial costs you endured because of the car accident. Such costs include loss of future earnings, medical bills, loss of earnings, cost of future health care and household expenses.

If you incur non-financial damages because of your motor vehicle accident, you may qualify for general compensatory damages. Examples of such damages include loss of partnership or consortium, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.

When car accidents result in death, surviving parties may qualify for wrongful death damages. These damages cover expenses such as pre-death medical care, burial and funeral expenses, loss of financial contribution, emotional distress, loss of services and support, and loss of companionship.

When defendants display reprehensible or disgusting wrongful behavior, plaintiffs may qualify for punitive damages. Examples of such behavior include fraud and spiteful actions, such as sexual assault and aggravated battery. Punitive damages serve as a punishment to at-fault parties and a warning to others who may engage in similar malicious behavior. 

No matter which damages your claim qualifies you for, the defendant may not have the financial means necessary for you to collect your money. Or, the defendant may flat-out refuse to pay. Either way, your legal representative may work to uncover undisclosed assets, garnish the defendant’s wages or place liens on real estate property. It usually works in the defendant’s favor to pay damages sooner rather than later, as most unpaid damages accrue interest until paid in full. Sometimes, defendants have liability insurance that helps them with owed damages.

Schedule a Consultation Today

Before navigating your personal injury claim alone, do yourself a favor and at least consult with an experienced legal representative. The professionals of the Mike Morse Law Firm stand ready to help you assess your case and protect your rights if you want us to handle your claim. You cannot afford to take chances with your legal rights on the line. Call us at 855-645-3946 or submit a Contact Us form

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