Whether it’s a car crash, slip and fall accident, or injury sustained by a poorly-designed product, there’s never a convenient time to be hurt by someone else’s negligence. And as much as you may want to streamline the process and handle it on your own, failing to hire a lawyer is always a major mistake.
4 Reasons Not to Represent Yourself
An injury victim always has the opportunity to represent himself or herself in a personal injury case. However, it’s rarely – if ever – a wise idea. Here are some of the specific reasons why you should avoid self-representation and hire a lawyer instead.
You Don’t Know What You Need to Prove
Unlike criminal defense law, the burden of proof is on you. You have to prove that the negligence of another party directly caused your injuries. You also have to come up with the exact dollar amount that you believe your case is worth.
No matter how skilled you are at making logical arguments, you simply don’t know what you need to prove. This will come back to bite you and could invalidate your claim before it even starts.
You’re Unfamiliar With the Rules
“A personal injury attorney can help you to comply with all court rules, preserve your case and maximize your compensation,” Salvi Schostok & Pritchard explains. “An attorney provides important advocacy from the beginning of the case to the end. Your lawyer will help to gather evidence, subpoena witnesses, negotiate a settlement or prove your case to a jury.”
No matter how much Law & Order you’ve watched, you don’t understand the technical aspects of what it takes to win a claim in the court of law. An attorney will act as your advocate, interpreting and following the rules so that your case has a better chance of succeeding.
You Don’t Know the Deadlines
There are strict deadlines in personal injury cases – including statues of limitations that clearly define when and how you’re able to file a claim. Should you miss these deadlines, your case will become invalid. A personal injury attorney knows these deadlines and processes by heart and can keep your claim on track.
Your Mistakes Could be Costly
When determining damages in a personal injury claim, many states use what’s known as “comparative negligence.” This rule dictates that when two or more parties share fault, both are entitled to damages. If, for example, you’re 20 percent to blame and the other party is 80 percent to blame, you’re still held liable for your percentage of negligence.
If you represent yourself, the other party’s attorneys could convince you that you’re 50 percent negligent, as opposed to just 20 percent. If the payout on the total claim is $1 million, this simple mistake could cost you $300,000! A skilled attorney won’t let this happen.
Hiring the Right Personal Injury Attorney
Recognizing that you need to hire a personal injury attorney is the first step. Hiring the right personal injury attorney for your case is the next step. As you do your due diligence, be on the lookout for attorneys who are:
- All attorneys have to start somewhere, but you don’t want to hire one who is learning at your expense. It’s better to work with an experienced attorney who has seen hundreds or thousands of cases similar to yours.
- You want an attorney who cares about the details of your case and will work to ensure you get maximum compensation for your situation.
- An attorney who uses sleazy practices and abrasive techniques isn’t necessarily the person you want working for you. An honest attorney is forthcoming/truthful and typically has a good reputation in town.
- Always discuss the fee structure before hiring an attorney. A fair personal injury attorney will work on a contingency fee basis, which means the amount you pay is dependent on the award you receive.
You can find personal injury attorneys online or by asking around. A good referral from a trusted friend or loved one goes a long way. Once you find an attorney, schedule an initial consultation to learn more. During this consultation, the attorney should be able to tell you if you have a case. This also gives you a chance to meet the attorney in person and determine if he’s right for the job.