Can You Represent Yourself in a Personal Injury Case?

There are quite a few justifiable reasons to file a personal injury claim. Car accidents and accidents involving trucks are most frequent, but there are many other scenarios aside from those.

Sometimes filing a personal injury claim can come with negative misconceptions. For example, it may be seen as a money grab, but the reality is filing claims, and holding individuals and businesses accountable for negligence can help other people and save lives.

Some of the reasons personal injury claims are filed and should continue to be filed include:

  • Some personal injury cases stem from negligent medical care. For example, if you’re misdiagnosed or diagnosis is delayed, you may file a personal injury case.
  • Slip and fall accidents can lead to personal injury cases. It’s important for businesses to keep their premises safe and hazard-free, and when they fail to do so, it can cause injuries.
  • Dog bites are another reason for many personal injury lawsuits.

Typically when you decide to file a personal injury claim, you’ll work with an experienced attorney, but is it possible to do it on your own?

The answer is yes, you can, but should you? Probably not.

When Might You Consider Representing Yourself?

There are pretty few instances where you might consider representing yourself in a personal injury claim.

If you weren’t hurt very badly, you might be able to do it on your own because the party you’re suing might just want to get it over with quickly.

For example, if you’re in a store, you slip and fall, and you sustain a few bruises, you might represent yourself.

The store will want to make you happy, but you probably don’t have a massive case either way.

On the other hand, if you’re involved in a serious accident with severe injuries, it would not usually be in your best interest to represent yourself.

If you decide you’re going to represent yourself, you’ll need to take some time to learn a bit about how the whole process works. If there’s a negotiation for a settlement things can be fairly straightforward but if you go to trial, it’s going to be much more complex.

If the other party in your case takes responsibility, it may be easier to represent yourself. If they don’t, then you’re in for a battle in most cases.

What are you risking, or what’s at stake in your case? This is something else you need to ask yourself because if it’s something small and fairly insignificant, you might want to represent yourself. On the other hand, if it’s something major and you’ve sustained serious injuries, there may be a lot on the line.
There may be instances where you don’t have a choice in the matter—lawyers might not want to take on your case.

Other Factors

Along with what’s above, there are some other factors you might think about when deciding whether or not to move forward with your personal injury case without a lawyer.

These include:
What kind of evidence do you have? For example, do you have supporting documents, or do you have witness testimony? If you don’t have evidence or you think it would be challenging to obtain it, consider hiring a lawyer.

The issue of fault was touched on above, but if you’re making a claim against, for example, another driver, are they at fault? How obvious is it that they’re at fault? It’s possible the other driver will make a counter-claim and things can get very complex at that point.

Can you calculate your pain and suffering? This is a gray area, and chances are you won’t calculate it in the way a lawyer would. Personal injury lawyers have experience in calculating the maximum amount of damages.

The Pitfalls of Representing Yourself

Representing yourself in any legal issue is stressful. If you’ve already gone through an accident, creating more stress for yourself may be the last thing you want to do.

Other pitfalls of self-representation in personal injury lawsuits include:

  • Determining case value: This was mentioned above, but lawyers have a certain skill set that comes both from their legal education and their experience. For personal injury lawyers, one of the primary strengths is their ability to accurately determine the value of a case. Their valuations are based on factors like the extent of injuries sustained, the number of defendants, and the amount of insurance money available.
  • Lack of investigative capabilities: A personal injury lawyer or law firm is going to have a team of investigators they work with that can dig deep into the issues of a case. The defense side will have the same thing, and if you were to go it alone without this, you could put yourself at a disadvantage.
  • Perception: If you represent yourself, there may be the perception that you aren’t taking the case seriously.
  • Lack of procedural knowledge: The law is very intricate and nuanced in many instances. If you don’t pair an emotional investment in the outcome with the ins and outs of litigation, it can become overwhelming quickly. Missing even one document or deadline can derail your case. Additionally, in a civil case, as compared to a criminal case, you bear the burden of proof.

With personal injury cases, one deterrent to people getting the legal representation they need is the fact that they don’t think they can afford it. In reality, most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency, so they don’t get paid unless you do.

If you’re involved in a situation where you’re harmed or injured, you should do yourself a favor and, at a minimum, meet with an experienced personal injury lawyer to see what they say about your case.

It can be eye-opening, and it can help you make a tough decision as far as hiring a lawyer, rather than trying to represent yourself and potentially losing your claim.

FG Editorial Team
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