Just as with any other legal matter you have the option to represent yourself in court. Just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. The type of claim and the facts that surround the case can be huge determining factors when it comes to making the decision.
Before we provide some insight, it is important to understand that personal injury claims can cover a wide variety of situations and different types of accidents. A personal injury claim can arise from a car accident, a slip and fall or even an animal bite. Despite their varying nature, they are all considered personal injury. However, the determining factor that should be used to decide whether you handle your personal injury case, is the severity of the injury itself.
In certain cases, you may be able to handle your claim through insurance or small claims court against the other party on your own, while other times you may require the aid of a legal professional. It is important to make the decision prior to starting a claim, otherwise you could easily get in over your head. Before you attempt to handle your own personal injury case give it some thought, starting your own claim only to hire a lawyer may complicate the claim process later. It is important to understand what is at stake if you choose to handle your own claim.
If you mishandle your case you may not be able to recover the fees that you are entitled to. If you are unsure of what to do or how to handle a claim, consider contacting an attorney immediately after your injury. Most personal injury attorneys offer a free no-obligation consultation.
Handling an injury case on your own:
Small Claims Court
For claims in which the amount of damages is relatively low, plaintiffs are actually encouraged to handle the claims themselves in small claims court. Each state has its own threshold on what amount can be handled in small claims court, in the state of Florida the most you can ask for is $5,000.
Small claims courts are designed to allow plaintiffs and defendants to represent themselves. With lower fees and decreased procedural requirements, small claims courts offer plaintiffs a quick and affordable way to resolve a legal claim without the need of legal representation.
Car Accidents with No (Or Very Minor) Injuries
One of the most common personal injury cases involve automobile accidents. Filing a claim with your insurance, or the other person’s, will often be sufficient and provide enough compensation to cover the costs of the car repair and any minor medical expenses incurred as the result of the accident. If you are satisfied with the outcome there is no need to hire an attorney or seek other legal advice.
Claims for Serious Injuries May Require Legal Expertise and Experience
For cases involving more serious injuries, a plaintiff may certainly choose to proceed without legal representation. However, that is not advisable. The likelihood of success without the help of a personal injury attorney is significantly decreased. In fact, based on a 1999 study by the Insurance Research Council, the average person receives a settlement 3.5 times larger with legal assistance than without it. When your damages are significant, it is important to be awarded the much needed compensation to cover expenses.
A typical personal injury claim involves proving damages, filing a complaint and motions, discovery, negotiating a settlement, deposing witnesses, hiring experts, trial, collecting a judgement and possibly appeals.
Unlike small claims court, a complaint in civil court may be dismissed before the facts of the case are heard by a judge or a jury, through a pretrial motion. Additionally, it is less likely that a defendant will want to settle or negotiate as they are more likely to win at court. Typically a personal injury case will settle out of court when a personal injury attorney is representing the plaintiff.
It is important to consider and take into account all the details that surround the case. Again, if you are unsure, seek out a few personal injury attorneys and schedule a free no-obligation consultation. Reviewing your case with an experienced attorney will help you decide on how to proceed with your claim.