With so much information at our fingertips, people are more confident than ever in their ability to handle things themselves. Representing yourself in a legal action (known as proceeding "pro se") is, however, a bit different than building a new deck or fixing up your old car. If you've been injured in an accident, have not received a satisfactory offer from the other driver's insurance company, and are considering proceeding with your case without an attorney, you should be aware of the risks and burden involved.
Perhaps you're uncomfortable with paying 30 to 40% of your ultimate recovery to a personal injury attorney. Perhaps you've spoken with some attorneys and they declined your case because they don't believe it is sufficiently valuable (CaseYak can estimate your case value based on AI, click here. Whatever the reason, here are a few questions to consider before you take on the insurance company alone.
Have You Suffered Significant Injuries?
Did your accident require a trip to the emergency room? Have you had surgical procedures because of your accident? If so, you might want to reconsider self-representation.
The more significant your injuries, the more complex (and valuable) your case becomes, and the more resources the other driver's insurance company will devote to defending your claim. In order to prove the amount of your damages, you will have to present proof of the impact that the accident had on your life, as well as present evidence that the medical treatment you received was reasonable and necessary. Boiling your injuries, pain and suffering down to a dollar figure in court is no simple task. It generally requires presentation of expert witnesses. This is a complicated process, rife with evidentiary hurdles; in most cases, it calls for a personal injury attorney to manage it.
If your injuries are significant, your case should likely be handled by an attorney. If your injuries are minor, you might be well-suited to go it alone.
One benchmark is to determine whether your case could be litigated in small claims court. Each state has a small claims court, and each state has a jurisdictional maximum dollar amount that can be sought in such courts. If you believe your damages fit within that jurisdictional maximum, small claims courts are much friendlier to--and indeed created for--pro se litigants. Once you get into "real" courts, self-represented individuals are held to the same standards as attorneys.
Has the other Driver's Insurance Company Admitted Fault?
If the insurance company accepts liability on behalf of the driver who hit you, this eliminates the need to prove that the other driver was at fault. All you'll need to do is gather and provide your medical records and other evidence of damages to the insurance company, and you will eventually receive a settlement offer.
If the insurance company denies responsibility and is making no offer, it will be much more difficult (and likely take much longer) to get to any kind of settlement or favorable verdict without an attorney involved.
Are You Willing to Devote Significant Time to Your Case?
Courts, other than small claims courts, hold pro se litigants to the same standards as attorneys. For this reason, someone who wants to represent him or herself must be willing to spend time learning applicable laws and rules of procedure. You will have to be diligent about calendaring and meeting deadlines, gathering, maintaining and producing relevant documents, and securing availability of witnesses, among other things.
State court websites generally have robust self-help resources where you can find forms, checklists and more. However, even with these resources, it will take substantial time, effort, and patience to prosecute your case. If you carry responsibilities like a full-time job and a family, handling your own injury case might be taking on too much.
Can You Get an Attorney to Take Your Case?
Perhaps you've already spoken to one or more attorneys, and they do not believe in your case quite like you do. If you still want to represent yourself, but cannot get an attorney to take your case, then you are left with little choice. Again, seek out the state court resources available for self-help and do your homework.
Also, don't forget that CaseYak can estimate the value of your motor vehicle claim using artificial intelligence.
Please be advised that this is provided for general information purposes only. No attorney-client relationship is formed by the provision of this information. The best resource for information about your case is consulting an attorney.