In the United States it is the right of every individual to defendant themselves without an attorney. The majority of the time either an attorney is hired or one is appointed by the court system at no charge depending on the nature of the case. However, there are situations in which an individual chooses not to hire a lawyer in avoidance of fees, time, and feeling the process is too cumbersome when attorneys are involved. In many cases the opposite may occur and cases are settled too early, mishaps occur in the courtroom causing a detrimental result, and the process causes stress and frustration as it unravels. That being said, we have outlined a few important aspects to settling your own personal injury claim.
In a personal injury case many are looking to save the percentage lawyers can charge. If you are looking to represent yourself in the negotiations with the other party, be prepared. It is imperative that you clearly navigate these waters with an understanding of what is needed.
These cases often involve an insurance company on the at-fault party's side that handles the matter. This is because individuals or businesses typically take out insurance policies to cover for accidents that may occur on their property or while driving. Insurance companies have handled countless cases and are typically in court daily to put out fires – they have sophisticated formulas to determine offers for settlements based on their experiences. You can definitely reach a settlement with them on your case without a California personal injury lawyer, but you will be surprised to learn that in many scenarios you can net more money even when the attorney earns their share.
#1: Make Sure to Finish Treating
After an accident it is essential that you receive treatment and everything regarding your injury is recorded by the physicians. This includes follow up appointments and therapy in accordance with the doctor's orders. This is important for several reasons.
- Recovery – The goal is that you recover as quickly and smoothly as possible. Receiving treatment and following the doctor's instructions are vital to hopefully get better sooner.
- Settlement – The more extensive your medical records are (without treatment lapses), the more likely it will be to reach a settlement in your favor, outside of a courtroom. The severity of the injury can be gauged more clearly.
- Liability – You must establish a clear chain of events that caused your damages. Having medical records and evidence of following medical orders does just that, there will be no other reasonable causes outside the event in question.
- Future Treatment – Many injuries can arise years later and cause severe medical issues in the future. Obtaining treatment immediately after an accident will allow physicians to diagnose the likelihood of future complications. This is crucial to obtaining a settlement that is appropriate and has value for you into the future, if necessary.
#2 Obtain All Of Your Medical Records
An essential element to any personal injury case is an actual injury. Therefore, having received medical treatment and records of the nature of the injury is very important. It is necessary to request all medical records and other documents that are related to the accident. You will need to request all documents from various relevant sources, this includes hospital medical bills, doctor bills, therapy, automobile repair, lost wage documentation, police records and any other paperwork that is material to your case. These documents are all necessary to help reach a viable settlement.
You are free to do this alone even though this process is time consuming and often done by a paralegal or other support staff at an attorney's office on your behalf. They know the ropes to quickly and efficiently get everything necessary.
#3 Draft Your Demand Letter
It is essential that you have a clear approach to stating your case. You must organize a list of bills, lost wages, pain and suffering explanation and other relevant data that backs up your financial remedy request (the amount of money you are claiming rightfully should be paid to you).
If you are not discouraged by collecting all the pertinent documents and still feel that going at it alone is your style, then get ready for the next step. You will need to review all the paperwork to make sure it is correct and there are no harmful errors. Then it is time to compile all facts and information into a demand letter to the other side as to what you are asking for, why you are entitled, and specifically what are the damages incurred. Keep in mind that each type of case and your district might have strict timeframes in which communications must occur and how each should be delivered – some require all mailed correspondence to be sent via certified mail (return receipt is always recommended). The exact guidelines can be found via a case evaluation with an attorney or further research.
#4 Negotiate Wisely
You might discover that when you reveal to the other side that you are not hiring a lawyer that they are extra helpful to you and even offer guidance. This happens because they realize they are getting off easy and dealing with someone that wants a quick settlement. An attorney knows how to work the system to your benefit and in many cases it takes longer than a quick settlement. When the other side recognizes there is the potential for a long drawn out matter that will cost them even more money, the offers to settle will undoubtedly be higher.
Let's assume that you received all the documents, reviewed, researched the relevant statutes and drafted all the right communications, there is another factor. It is vital to you and your family that you speak with an attorney or other experienced physicians in personal injury cases, because often certain injuries can become worse over time. You might be inclined to jump at a settlement quickly, because your injury is not that bad. However you will later discover that pain is getting worse and range of motion is less, but your care is limited because you settled too early and spent all the money. You would be surprised to learn that some injuries can be fully debilitating many years later, without a sign of pain today – only an experienced doctor and attorney can make you aware of these facts, because they have seen it many times in the past.
#5 Don't Settle For Less Than You Deserve
Remember accepting the first offer is usually not the best idea and as a general rule, whenever there's a first offer there's usually a better second offer. Having a clear and organized direction to the facts of your case and presenting them in a strong manner is important to reaching a settlement. Playing hardball means that you stick to your demand amount and stay strong when the other side offers anything less.
An experienced attorney has seen many cases and knows that rushing is not always the best answer. In fact an open and honest discussion with your attorney can be a positive experience. You can share your immediate needs and concerns vs the likelihood of outcomes in your case. There are numerous arrangements that can be made to ensure you get all you deserve. A little patience today will mean a lot of relief in the future.