Generally, it is a bad idea to represent yourself in a personal injury case. A personal injury attorney can bring resources and expertise to your case that you cannot muster. A lawyer will also know legal processes better and have experience arguing against opposing attorneys.
This blog from West Virginia personal injury attorney Jeff Mehalic breaks down why you should not represent yourself in your personal injury claim. It also explores the limited circumstances in which representing yourself could potentially work.
Why Representing Yourself in a Personal Injury Case Rarely Works
There are numerous traps that you can fall into if you try to litigate a case without a personal injury attorney, especially if you're going up against an experienced lawyer on the other side. Some of those potential issues include:
- Case valuation: One of the most critical aspects of your case is figuring out the value of your claim and the amount of damages you wish to recover. It involves calculating the costs of medical expenses, lost income, lost earning capacity, property damage, as well as damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. This can be incredibly difficult to calculate on your own.
- Investigating: Even the most innocuous-seeming details can make or break your personal injury case. Without the experience and legal expertise that helps you know what to look for, you could easily overlook a crucial piece of evidence. Your opposing lawyer will have a team of investigators to pick the case apart. You need an attorney like Jeff to dive into your case for you.
- Settlement negotiations: Insurance adjustors lick their lips when they go up against someone representing themselves. They will take advantage of you by making low-ball settlement offers that they think you'll accept because of your lack of experience. Because you are so emotionally invested in your case, you may also be more likely to turn down a reasonable settlement offer. Jeff will vigorously fight for you, but he also brings a dispassionate, objective viewpoint that you can't possess.
- Court procedures: If you don't know the ins-and-outs of a civil case, you can miss critical deadlines, filings, and documentation and destroy your case without even realizing it. Learning court procedures is difficult and time-consuming. Your opponent's lawyers will not be at this disadvantage. Neither will Jeff.
When to Represent Yourself in a Personal Injury Case
While representing yourself in a personal injury case is often a bad idea, there are limited circumstances where, if you do research and put in the work, you may be able to reach a successful outcome.
Those circumstances include:
- It's a small case: If your claim is valued at, say, $5,000 rather than $50,000, you obviously have less to lose. If a massive monetary amount is at stake, you need an attorney by your side. With less money on the table, though, you may feel more comfortable representing yourself.
- There are no questions about liability and damages: If the fault for your injury was obvious, such as if you were rear-ended by another car or you have multiple witnesses backing up your claim, you won't have to fight to prove liability. Likewise, if your damages are straightforward and you're not seeking non-economic relief in the form of pain and suffering damages, there is less room for an insurance adjustor to low-ball you.
- You're up for doing the work: It takes hours of preparation and research to learn the necessary laws and processes that you'd be dealing with during your case. You also have to investigate, gather documents, interview witnesses, and calculate damages all by yourself. If you're unsure of whether you can handle this burden while you recover from your injuries, hire an attorney.
Contact Our Morgantown Personal Injury Attorney Today
Jeff Mehalic has more than 30 years of experience helping his clients recover compensation for their injuries. He will fight aggressively to help make you whole. Jeff practices alone, so your case will not be handed off to a junior partner. He will handle every aspect of your case personally.
Jeff's consultations are free. He works on a contingency basis, meaning you don't pay him anything unless you win your case.
Jeff serves Morgantown, Wheeling, Martinsburg, and nearby areas of West Virginia. Call (304) 346-3462 today to schedule a consultation.