After a car accident, you may feel tempted to represent yourself rather than hire a personal injury attorney. Perhaps you feel you have a strong case and can gather all the evidence you need yourself, or maybe you only suffered minor injuries and the at-fault party has enough insurance to cover your medical bills. Either way, representing yourself could involve more complications than you realize. Before investing a lot of time and energy into your legal matter, learn when you could be better off turning your situation over to a car accident lawyer with plenty of experience and resources.
Before representing yourself for a personal injury claim, you must have a strong desire to do so. To have the most favorable chance of winning, you must devote a substantial amount of time and energy to your case. Depending on your other obligations, lifestyle, medical condition and employment situation, you could lack the mental reserves necessary to build a valid case.
Representing yourself also means learning the ins and outs of personal injury law and car accident claims. You could learn the basics of car accident negotiation in roughly six to eight hours but only if you have a basic case. It could take another three to five hours of research and study to take your case to small claims court or before a mediator. If you present your case before a judge in regular court, expect to spend a lot more time getting ready. With these estimates, we only covered preparation time. To practice what you learn, get ready for an even bigger investment.
We do not want you to think you must always hire a car accident attorney for your personal injury. You may not need a legal advocate if the at-fault driver’s insurance provider admits fault and agrees to compensate you for the harm you suffered. Even then, you must gather sufficient evidence to collect damages and prove the other driver bears responsibility for your injuries. Insurance companies often offer low-ball settlements to harmed victims, meaning you must fully understand the extent of your injuries and their effect on your life if you want to secure a fair settlement.
Another time when you may have no problem representing yourself is if you only suffer minor injuries in the car collision. With insignificant harm, you may also not worry as much about the insurance company offering a pitiful settlement offer. If you suffer something like a spinal cord injury, broken bone or potential concussion, consider hiring a car accident legal representative.
You may also have no choice but to represent yourself in a court of law. If you have a minor case but still want to work with a lawyer, she or he may not take you on as a client because you have a small claim.
Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer Duties
While deciding which route to take, you can make a well-informed decision when you know what car accident lawyers do. Getting the facts on the matter could help you decide either way without reservation.
Speak to the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
Not only do insurance companies knowingly offer settlements lower than a case’s worth, but they also use injured victims’ words against them. You must exercise utmost caution when speaking to the at-fault driver’s insurance representative because answering unasked questions and sharing stray comments about your medical condition could become ammunition used against you. Rather than second guess every word that comes out of your mouth, you can use a legal advocate to communicate with the other driver’s insurance company for you.
Gather Proof of Damages
When seeking damages, you must have solid evidence you deserve the amount you desire. Alone, you could have trouble gathering medical documents from physicians and health care facilities. While you have a right to see your medical documents, that does not mean practitioners and medical care facilities prioritize the request. Depending on the size of the office, some doctors lack the staff to devote to patient requests for medical records. Larger facilities could have strict procedures in place for medical records requests. Neglecting those procedures or not knowing what they are could mean you do not receive a response at all.
Attorneys know the proper channels to go through to gather proof for your damages. Further, legal representatives also know which words in medical notes help establish disability, causation and prognosis. Your legal team may request that your medical care provider draft a special note that states the car accident caused your disability or injuries.
Gather Strong Evidence of Negligence
While you may have taken plenty of pictures of the accident scene and damage to your vehicle, gathered witness statements and obtained a copy of the police report for your accident, personal injury lawyers have the experience and resources necessary to gather even more evidence. Your attorney may return to the scene of the accident to see if she or he notices anything you overlooked, such as a traffic signal or road damage.
Attorneys also have access to professional witnesses who may strengthen your case and help you recover fair damages. For instance, professional investigators who work with lawyers may uncover vital evidence you did not know existed.
Negotiate With Lien Holders
If your health or car insurance provider accepted your claim and paid for your medical treatment, the company could have a right to the damages you receive from the at-fault party, which is called a lien. With a lien, all lien holders have a right to receive payment for your legal case before you see a dime of the settlement. Your attorney could speak with your lien holders to try to convince them to reduce their desired amount. The less your lien holders take from your judgment or settlement, the more you receive.
Working With a Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer
Should you turn your case over to an experienced attorney, you owe it to yourself (and your legal case) to do everything possible to forge a strong relationship with your advocate. Before the first meeting, prepare a list of questions you have related to your case. You may want to know the best- and worst-case scenarios, your responsibilities and how your attorney gets paid.
While sharing all facts related to the accident, do not hide the truth from your attorney, even if you feel embarrassed. If you drove distracted or had a few cocktails before getting behind the wheel, share that information with your legal team. You do not want the defendant dropping a bombshell, which could ruin your case and your chances of receiving a settlement. Give your lawyer all the facts, good and not-so-good, so she or he has all the information to help you navigate your claim.
It also makes sense to communicate your desired outcome with your legal team. For instance, if you know the other driver and want to protect your relationship, let your attorney know that.
Schedule a Consultation Today
Even if you want to represent yourself for your car accident claim, it makes sense to consult with a trusted New York attorney. A single conversation could make all the difference in the world. To schedule a consultation with a Cellino Law legal professional, call us at 800-555-5555.