According to the CDC, more than 3 million people are non-fatally injured in motor vehicle accidents each year. The cost of their injuries, lost wages, and other expenses totaling more than $75 billion.
In many cases, personal injury claims arise following such accidents. When a responsible party refuses to pay for damages and injuries, the victim of that accident may choose to take the case to court. But personal injury cases do not just involve car accidents. Bicycle, boat, and motorcycle accidents, injuries in the workplace, animal attacks, and a variety of other types of incidents may also lead to personal injury claims.
Any time that you are injured in an accident and someone else is at fault, they are responsible for damages. This includes paying your medical bills and any damage to your property. Depending on the situation, they may also need to pay your lost wages or for your personal suffering. If the responsible party refuses to pay or tries to pay less than what you think that you deserve, you may be forced to take them to court.
Personal injury lawyers work hard to help their clients get justice and the financial compensation that they need to move forward after an accident. But do you really need a personal injury to prove your case? Keep reading to find out.
Laws Surrounding Taking a Case to Court Without a Personal Injury Attorney
There is no law that states that you need to have a lawyer representing your personal injury claim in court. However, without the aid of legal counsel, you will be responsible for a variety of duties, before you go to court, while in court, and as a follow up to your case.
Responsibilities You Will Face Defending Yourself in Court:
● Filling out and filing all necessary paperwork ahead of your case.
● Representing yourself in court, most likely against an experienced attorney representing the defendant.
● Prove beyond any reasonable doubt that you were the victim in your case and that the defendant is to blame for your injuries and/or damages to your property.
● Prove that the compensation you are seeking is fair for the injuries and damages sustained as a result of the accident or incident.
● Present proof to the court that argues your case, shows that your injuries occurred in the accident, or that shows you are innocent of any crime.
● Provide expert witnesses, if available, to argue your case.
● Follow the complex rules and procedures of the courtroom. Failure to do so could get your case thrown out, even if you were the victim of a crime.
● Be prepared to stand up against the defense’s testimony in court. This may mean answering questions on the stand.
● Be prepared to address any objections in court, or to make your own objections against the defense and their own attorneys.
Defending yourself in court even if you believe that it is very clear who is at fault for your accident and the injuries that you sustained, it does not mean that your case will be quick to settle in court in your favor. You will not only need to prove that the defendant is to blame, but also that you are innocent, and that the compensation you are seeking is fair for the injuries and damages sustained.
Understand that if you are facing up against an insurance company in court, they will have experience doing what they can to pay out as little as possible. Even if the defendant is an individual instead of an insurance company, if they have experienced lawyers on their side, you will find yourself fighting an uphill battle alone. Unless you have a law degree and experience in court, representing yourself is a mistake.
When You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer
Without a law degree to help you navigate the legal process, you’ll want to turn to the help of a personal injury lawyer instead.
Circumstances That Call for the Help of a Personal Injury Lawyer:
● You have been the victim of medical malpractice.
● An insurance company is refusing to compensate you or to provide adequate compensation for your injuries.
● An insurance company is refusing to cover the entire cost to repair your vehicle or other damaged property. Or they are refusing to pay a portion of those damages.
● You suffered serious, long lasting or personally disabling injuries as a result of an accident where someone else was at fault, either directly or indirectly.
● You suffered severe injuries, even if they were not disabling or long-lasting, as a result of someone else’s negligence.
● An accident occurred and it is not clear who was at fault.
● You were involved in a car, boat, motorcycle, bicycle, or other motor vehicle accident in which someone else was at fault.
● You were involved in an accident and multiple parties may be at fault.
● An injury occurred while you were on someone else’s property, and they are denying responsibility or refusing to pay for your medical bills and/or other compensation.
● You were injured while working or while at your place of employment. In this case, you will want to seek help from a personal injury attorney with experience dealing with workers compensation cases.
● You were bitten by someone else’s pet or other animal.
● You or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse.
● Your loved one died as a result of a case of wrongful death.
If your case falls into any of these categories, an attorney with experience handling personal injury cases can help. They will understand the laws surrounding workers’ compensation, injuries on other peoples’ property, car accidents, and more. They will put their knowledge and experience to work to help you get the compensation and justice that you deserve.
Is There Ever a Time When You Don’t Need a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you have been the victim of an accident, having a personal injury attorney there to answer your questions and guide you through the legal process can take a big burden off of your shoulders. Your attorney can also help increase your chances of getting the compensation that you feel you deserve for the injuries and damages that you sustained because of someone else’s negligence. However, on occasion, there are accidents that do not require the help of a lawyer.
Instances When You Might Not Need a Personal Injury Lawyer:
● You were attacked by a wild animal. If the animal was not a pet, there is no one to go up against in court.
● You were in a very minor car accident in which no injuries were sustained. You can proceed with communicating with the insurance provider of the person responsible on your own, at least at first. However, if the insurance provider does not fully compensate you for damages, you will need a lawyer.
● You do not want to be paid for your losses. This is an incredibly rare instance, and a personal one at that. But if you owned a very old vehicle or know the person who caused your accident and do not want to pursue legal action, you will not need an attorney to represent you. For instance, if your own adult child rear-ended your vehicle, you might choose to cover the damages yourself.
● You were responsible for causing the accident. Whether you sustained injuries or not, if you were responsible, and the only party responsible for the accident, you will not need to call a personal injury attorney on your own.
● The damages that you are seeking coverage for are less than the typical attorney fees for personal injury lawyers.
A very minor accident may come with very minor medical fees and damages. For instance, if someone bumps up against the bike you are riding, and you and your bike only suffer a few scrapes and bruises, you might be looking at less than a couple hundred dollars worth of fees. While you should still seek compensation from the responsible party, it may not be worth the legal fees to try to fight your case in court with the help of an attorney.
Reconsidering Defending Yourself in Court
The instances in which you do not need to hire a personal injury attorney are few and far between. However, they do happen. Before you choose to forgo the help of an attorney, make sure that you are confident that the responsible party is willing to pay the full amount of damages you feel you are owed, and in a timely manner.
The Responsibilities of a Personal Injury Lawyer
When you are injured, whether in a car accident, an incident at work, or any other situation, the first thing you should do after seeking immediate medical help is to call a personal injury lawyer. Once you do, your attorney will go to work, learning about your case, preparing evidence, and more. They will continue fighting for you until your case is settled.
Responsibilities of a Personal Injury Lawyer:
● Listening to your side of the case.
● Answering any questions you have about what the legal process will look like going forward. Your personal injury attorney will also continue to be available to you for questions and concerns throughout your case.
● Help you to calculate your losses and the total cost to treat your injuries. They will also get. documentation of your medical treatment, damages, etc. These materials will be used to prove why you deserve the compensation you are asking for in court.
● Gather all necessary court documents and insurance claims to present in court.
● Gather evidence and interview any witnesses to your accident or other incident.
● Represent you in any negotiations with involved insurance companies.
● Field prospective settlement offers and helps you to make the best decision about whether or not to accept.
● Prepare you for your time in court. This might include mental support, as well as professional suggestions, such as how to dress appropriately for a court appearance.
● Represent you in court, presenting evidence, witnesses, and testimony to help you get the justice and compensation that you deserve.
Personal injury lawyers are there to do more than just present your case in court. They also provide invaluable mental support and education along the way. They will help guide you through what you need to do following the accident. They'll help you gather any necessary materials. And they will prepare you for your time in court if you choose not to accept any pre-court settlement offers.
Choosing the Right Attorney to Defend Your Case
Now that you know when to hire a personal injury lawyer and when you can take on a case on your own, it’s time to learn how to choose the right attorney for the job.
Things to Look for When Choosing a Personal Injury Attorney:
● Search for “the best personal injury attorney near me.” A lawyer who works in a city that is too far from your own location will be difficult to meet with and coordinate with. A quick online search for a “personal injury lawyer near me” will help you find support that is easier to work with. They may also be more familiar with the courts in which you will be defending your case.
● If you live on a state line, your attorney of choice needs to be more than just local; they also need to be licensed to practice within your state in order to defend you in court.
● Look for experience dealing with cases similar to your own. All attorneys may have experience defending a case in court. But not all will be prepared to handle a personal injury case.
● Do your research. Check that any personal injury attorneys you consider are in good standing in the state where your accident occurred.
● Reach out to any potential attorneys that you are considering to defend your case. You will need to make sure that they are available at this time to take on your case.
● Choose an attorney that you know you can trust.
Going through the legal side of a personal injury case, while also recovering from injuries, can be incredibly stressful. Having an experienced, dependable attorney on your side can go a long way towards helping you cope.
Do You Really Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Now that you know when you do need a personal injury lawyer and how to choose the right one for the job, it’s time to start a search of your own.