Filing a Personal Injury Claim Without a Lawyer
After a personal injury accident, you have enough to worry about. Beyond any physical injuries you may have sustained, you might still be dealing with emotional stress and trauma about the situation. It is not uncommon for people to assume that hiring an attorney would be expensive and complicated; therefore, adding to the mess.
What people often don’t know is that hiring a legal professional for an injury case rarely involves financial risk, as they usually function on a contingency fee basis. In addition, lawyers can handle the case themselves, only checking in when necessary or requested. This allows you to focus solely on your recovery after the accident.
If you do choose to pursue a personal injury claim without a lawyer, you will have to put in the hours yourself for the case and potentially set yourself up for disappointment. Winning a personal injury case without a lawyer is not unheard of, but it does make things significantly more difficult and often ends in fewer benefits.
Is a Personal Injury Lawyer Required?
You are not required by law to hire an attorney for personal injury claims in the state of California. Aside from a few exceptions, you can act as your own legal counsel in any case. You assume all the responsibility for proving the other party’s fault and negotiating a proper settlement with insurance companies when you take on a personal injury claim
While it may seem like a good idea to represent yourself because you don’t have to pay any attorney fees, the amount of additional benefits earned by a lawyer typically more than justifies the cost of hiring one. This means you will probably make more money if you reach out to an experienced law firm.
Firing Your Personal Injury Attorney and Representing Yourself
If you are not happy with the services being provided to you by a lawyer, it is at your discretion whether or not you continue to work with them. You can choose to fire them and move forward with a new lawyer or represent yourself.
The further into a personal injury claim you get, the more complicated proceedings become. If you need a lawyer for the first half of the case, you will likely be over your head in handling the second half yourself.
When Do You Need a Lawyer in California?
There are certain types of lawsuits in which you cannot represent yourself in a court of law. You are required to take on legal counsel in the following situations:
- You are filing a class-action lawsuit.
- You are suing on behalf of your child or a dependant.
- You are suing for a corporation.
In these situations, the guidance of an attorney is required because they are more complex than regular personal injury lawsuits. They require specific steps to be taken and have no individual who is legally capable of assuming sole representation. A child is not old enough, a corporation (which counts as its own person) cannot make an argument in court, and a class-action lawsuit is on behalf of a group of people.
When You Should Represent Yourself
It is always best to work with an attorney if you have the choice to do so. An experienced lawyer can help to protect your rights while maximizing your settlement. If you don’t have the option to hire a lawyer, you should only represent yourself in the following situations outlined below.
- Clear signs of negligence: If the other party was obviously to blame for the accident, you might be able to recover a decent settlement on your own. However, if they do not claim some form of legal liability, you may still need to prove fault to a jury. The defense might bring up details you did not originally consider which implicate your partial responsibility for the injury. You may struggle to recover compensation if you are trying to argue with the opposing party’s legal counsel.
- You have minor injuries: Sometimes a defendant might want to settle quickly and easily when the medical costs are very low. They will offer adequate compensation without a fight to keep things moving. Don’t agree to an offer before seeking a comprehensive investigation of your injuries. You never know when a minor injury could be indicative of a larger problem. Some injuries seem small but cause discomfort for a lifetime. The defendant may simply be rushing the case to escape paying you the full value they are responsible for.
- Small claims court: Small claims court is less formal than a typical court. In a normal courtroom, you may make procedural mistakes that damage your case, but in small claims court you can get away with more errors.
The bottom line is that representing yourself always comes with a certain level of risk. If you want to ensure you don’t need an attorney, call a personal injury law firm in CA for a free case evaluation and ask them for their professional advice.
Risks of Representing Yourself in a Personal Injury Case
You subject yourself to the dangers of self-representation when you choose not to hire a legal professional. If you opt out of legal assistance in a low-stakes case with little money involved, you are not sacrificing much. But if you are dealing with large amounts of money and/or a high-profile defendant, you should not risk representing yourself for the following reasons.
Personal injury claims in California must be filed within two years of the date of the accident, as per the statute of limitations. Despite the simplicity, there are a variety of different rules which modify this time period which you may not know about if you are not an experienced California personal injury lawyer.
For example, when you file a claim against a city or government entity, you only have six months for submission . If you are not aware of this deadline, it could ruin your chances of receiving compensation. In addition to the statute of limitations on the claim, there are other courtroom deadlines you must be privy to if you want everything to go smoothly.
Not Knowing What to Prove
You must fully understand what you are trying to prove when you are building a case for personal injury benefit. In some cases, you must be able to show more than just the other party’s guilt. You may also be expected to provide evidence that you were not partially responsible for your injuries, or that the other party acted unreasonably. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney will help you build a comprehensive case that does all of these things with ease.
Damage Calculation Errors
One of the most difficult aspects of a personal injury case is determining whether or not you have successfully won a full and fair settlement. Unless you are acutely aware of the wide range of damages you are entitled to, as well as the dollar figure which would accurately reflect your suffering, you may misinterpret the settlement you receive. Even if you think you are being generously compensated, a personal injury lawyer might recognize other damages that are not being considered in your case.
Improper Negotiation Tactics
Personal injury claims are often settled in negotiations outside of court. Before you negotiate with the guilty party and/or their insurance company, you must understand the following factors:
- The settlement value of similar cases in the past
- The defendant’s insurance coverage and/or financial wealth
- Your chances of winning if the case proceeds to trial
This information will help you negotiate more confidently to recover the compensation you deserve. A good lawyer will know most of this without having to do a lot of research.
If your personal injury case proceeds to trial and you do not have a lawyer, you will have an extremely difficult time. Without ample knowledge of civil procedure, rules of evidence, the steps of a lawsuit, and how to use these restrictions to your advantage, you will not be successful in the courtroom.
Big companies and corporations can move your case from state to federal court. These federal courts are less likely to award large amounts of compensation to the plaintiff. Knowing how to fight this can save your case.
Understanding how to present evidence and call witnesses is essential when trying to prove fault or calculate damages. If you don’t know how to do these things according to courtroom protocol, your arguments may not be considered legitimate.
Unless you are a trained legal professional, a personal injury lawyer is often your only hope of winning a case after it moves to trial.
Contact Chain | Cohn | Clark for Legal Representation
If you sustain an injury in California due to someone else’s negligence, don’t jeopardize your financial stability by trying to represent yourself. Take some time to focus on recovery and let the experienced personal injury lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark handle the rest. From the moment you contact us, we will set our resources in motion to help your case however possible. From conducting a full investigation of the accident to acting as the frontline with insurance companies, we’ve got your back.
Hiring legal counsel improves your chances of winning, increases your average settlement amount, and offers you the peace of mind that you’re being taken care of.
Call (662) 616-9829 or fill out our online contact form to get in touch with our attorneys today.