It is possible, although difficult, to handle some legal matters on your own without hiring a personal injury attorney in El Cajon. The vast majority of car accident claims are relatively small, and these small accident claims rarely proceed to trial. It is generally in the best interest of everyone involved to settle the matter as quickly as possible. If you recently had a minor fender-bender or any other car accident and the other driver is clearly at fault, you could potentially save yourself some money on attorneys’ fees by handling the claim without a lawyer.
Virtually every car accident in the U.S. will involve insurance at some level. Regardless of whether you need to file against your own Personal Injury Protection coverage in a no-fault state or file against an at-fault driver’s policy in a fault state, dealing with insurance can be intimidating without an attorney. However, if you are certain of the legitimacy of your claim, take time to research the laws pertaining to your case, and have the resources to investigate all possible avenues of compensation, you could successfully handle an insurance claim without an attorney.
The insurance company will investigate the claim, and it is possible for a claims adjuster to push back against your claim for a number of reasons. You can minimize the potential for this by drafting a very thorough, comprehensive demand letter and including as much supporting information as possible. Remember, once you accept an insurance company’s settlement offer you must sign a release of liability that effectively releases the insurer’s policyholder from future liability for the claim. It is essential to be certain the settlement is fair before accepting it, otherwise you could lose substantial compensation.
If you cannot resolve your accident claim with insurance coverage, you will need to pursue a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver. This approach is riskier than filing an insurance claim. The standard of proof for proving liability is much higher, and a plaintiff without an attorney faces significant challenges in any court system. First, the self-representing plaintiff will need to make sure he or she meets all applicable deadlines for paperwork submissions to the court. Missing any of these deadlines could jeopardize a case or even lead to a judge throwing it out before it even reaches trial.
If the defendant agrees to settlement negotiation, you must ensure the settlement offer is fair and reasonable for your situation. Economic damages like medical expenses and vehicle repair costs typically receive payment in full, whereas noneconomic damages like pain and suffering are more difficult to prove and there is often no way to predict how much a plaintiff might receive in this type of compensation. Some courts simply multiply the plaintiff’s medical expenses by a certain amount while others award compensation per day until the plaintiff reaches maximum medical recovery.
Regardless of whether you must prove liability in settlement negotiations or at trial, you must prepare for a potentially lengthy litigation process. Unless the defendant is clearly at fault with no room to argue for comparative or contributory negligence, the defendant and his or her attorney will likely see your decision to self-represent as a weakness and attempt to prolong legal proceedings and discourage you however possible.
The best way to approach self-representation is by preparing extensively. Self-representation could mean saving quite a lot of money on attorneys’ fees, but you also run the risk of jeopardizing your own claim with procedural errors and overlooking potentially viable routes to compensation. While self-representation may not only be feasible but also the most viable legal option for a car accident victim, any accident that causes permanent disabilities, significant disfigurement, or other catastrophic damages demands the attention of an experienced car accident attorney.