According to the National Center for State Courts, people involved in injury lawsuits are increasingly going “pro se” — trying to represent themselves and navigate the litigation process on their own instead of hiring an attorney.
While it’s possible to save money by representing yourself, pro se representation comes with risks you should seriously consider. This is especially true if you’re trying to secure a significant settlement after suffering an injury due to someone’s negligence.
In this article, we’ll explore the process of pro se representation in a personal injury case and discuss the pros and cons of trying to handle your claim without help from a lawyer.
When Should I Represent Myself in an Injury Case?
Some personal injury cases are relatively straightforward from a legal standpoint. Victims in such cases who wish to save money occasionally choose to represent themselves, and if the case is simple enough, they may succeed.
If all the following are true, your case may be straightforward enough for pro se representation:
- The injuries are relatively minor, and the case doesn’t involve a large amount of damages.
- You don’t expect your future income or earnings potential to change because of your injury.
- The defendant’s negligent behavior is extremely obvious.
- Your actions didn’t contribute to the accident in any way.
- Medical treatment was straightforward, and you have detailed, well-organized records.
- You won’t need continuing long-term medical treatment for your injuries.
- You have experience representing yourself in court, or you’re willing to spend a lot of time learning how to do so.
If you want to try and handle your own personal injury claim, then your first step, after seeking immediate medical care, should involve gathering all the evidence and documentation you can. At a minimum, this should include pictures of the accident scene, police reports, and medical bills and records.
Do not talk to the other party’s insurance company or discuss your experience on social media. Anything you say in these situations could be taken out of context and ultimately used against you.
Next, you’ll need to estimate your damages. Your damages will include any medical bills and lost earnings as well as any other expenses that resulted from your injuries and that you can prove with documentation. You can also recover damages for pain and suffering, expected future loss of income, and expected future medical expenses, but calculating these damages can prove difficult without the help of a professional.
Once you’ve established your damages, you’ll need to send a demand letter to the defendant. However, don’t expect that the insurance company will simply give you everything you asked for. Be prepared for counter offers and counter-arguments from the insurance company, and expect them to do everything they can to avoid paying you fair compensation for your injuries.
Negotiations during a personal injury case can become complicated and intense, which is why many people decide to work with an attorney. And if the insurance company refuses to make a settlement offer that meets your needs, then you’ll need to take your case to trial, which is a complex and time-consuming process.
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The Risks of Negotiating Your Own Injury Settlement
A few victims successfully represent themselves and recover fair compensation for their injuries by doing so. However, most personal injury cases are too complex for anyone other than an experienced personal injury attorney to handle.
Life is messy, and especially so when a car crash or other disastrous incident injures someone. It’s rare for everything to go smoothly in an injury case, and even if you think your case is straightforward, a judge or jury might interpret critical factors in your case in ways that you can’t anticipate.
A good injury lawyer must charge for their services, but if they work on a contingent fee basis (as we do at Atkins & Markoff), you won’t have to pay them anything unless they help you receive financial compensation for your injuries. An experienced injury attorney has the training, resources, and knowledge of the courts needed to investigate and document every aspect of a complex injury claim, negotiate aggressively with the insurance company, and take a case to trial and present your case in front of a jury if necessary.
Suffering a severe injury also creates intense emotions of grief, anger, and sadness, and the emotional component of an injury can make it incredibly difficult for a victim to approach their case objectively. So, if you try to represent yourself, you may find it difficult or impossible to anticipate aspects of your case that may work in the defense’s favor and to develop effective strategies to deal with these elements.
In general, your best course of action after suffering an injury because of someone else’s negligence is to at least consult an attorney. At Atkins & Markoff, we offer free initial consultations for all injury cases, so there’s no risk in speaking with an experienced attorney and getting their advice about your case and your legal options.
Need Help After an Injury in Oklahoma? Contact Atkins & Markoff for a Free Case Evaluation
Whatever happened to cause your injury, the team at Atkins & Markoff is here to listen to your story and help you understand your rights and options. We have more than 100 years of experience handling some of the most complex injury cases in Oklahoma, and we’ve helped our clients recover more than $100 million in verdicts and settlements.
We’ll give you a free assessment of your case during an initial consultation, and if we can take your case, you won’t have to pay for our services unless we get you a settlement or win your case in court. We call it our “no recovery, no fee” policy, and we’re proud to stand behind it.
Self-representation resource guide. (2018, 17 September). National Center for State Courts. Retrieved from https://www.ncsc.org/topics/access-and-fairness/self-representation/resource-guide.aspx
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.