Need an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer?
A car accident is the most common personal injury claim. Although you think you can work directly with the insurance adjuster or represent yourself, a skilled car accident lawyer is almost a necessity if you or someone else is seriously injured. Representing yourself, even during settlement discussions only, is generally not a good idea because car accident cases can be complex and you may not understand the documents that the insurance company wants you to sign. Below are some examples of potential issues you may find in representing yourself.
Determining Who Was at Fault
The police accident report is not the final word on who caused a car accident. Even if the crash report is in your favor, the other driver may still be able to dispute who was at fault should there be an eyewitness to the crash or the other driver could employ an accident reconstruction expert to try to determine that you were at fault. The other driver may also be able to claim that you were partially at fault for the crash, in which case your damages could be reduced by the percentage of fault attributable to you.
Determining Your Injuries and Damages
Negotiating a car accident settlement on your own, will not be successful if your settlement is inadequate to cover your damages and losses. If your injuries are long-term and permanent, you will need to calculate your long-term damages with care:
- Medical expenses: A serious car accident could leave you with spine injuries, brain injuries or other serious, permanent physical injuries. Since the full extent of these injuries might not fully be realized by you for quite some time after the crash, you will need help to accurately estimate your long-term medical expenses so that you don’t run out of money years or even decades after your accident.
- Lost work time or loss of career: If your injuries have affected your work by causing missed time at work or by causing you not to be able to do as good of a job as prior to the crash (earning capacity), you will need to try to estimate your long-term lost income. This can be difficult – for example – something like a herniated disk in your neck may prevent you from sitting at a desk looking at a computer all day long. This, obviously, could ruin your career and cause you to be fired from your job.
- Mental damages: You are also entitled to compensation for your mental injuries that might accompany your injury such as the having nightmares which causes you not to be able to sleep at night or memories of the crash causes you not to be able to drive again. Although these kinds of mental issues are sometimes difficult to quantify, they are important because they can amount to significant compensation.
Filing a Lawsuit
In some cases it may become necessary to file a lawsuit to: (1) pressure the defendant to settle with you; (2) to take your case to a jury and let a jury decide the value of your case; or (3) to keep your claim alive if there is a Statute of Limitations deadline. Lawsuits are subject to strict procedural requirements. Although the procedural requirements for personal injury lawsuits differ from state to state and between federal and state courts, the major features are similar in every jurisdiction:
The Rules of Civil Procedure: The rules of civil procedure cover in detail everything from how to file your initial complaint to how you take testimony from a witness. Unlike in small claims court, you will not be able to benefit from simplified rues designed to accommodate non-lawyers who are representing themselves.
The Rules of Evidence: The rules of evidence vary from state to state. If, for example, you were injured in a car accident when the other driver ran a stop sign but claims the stop sign had fallen to the ground prior to the crash so the other driver didnt know to stop, you generally cannot use evidence that the City put the stop back up AFTER the crash. This is because the law does not want to discourage defendants from repairing dangerous conditions.
This has been a very brief overview of the potential pitfalls of representing yourself in a personal injury case. If you have any questions about this or any other personal injury-related issue, please do not hesitate to contact our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Aronberg, Aronberg & Green by calling 561-266-9191 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!