These days, people have a strong interest in "Do-It-Yourself" approaches to just about everything. Between information that's widely available on the internet, instructional videos, and the American "Can-Do" attitude, it's no wonder that a lot of people try to represent themselves in a personal injury case. After all, why pay someone to do something you can probably handle on your own, right?
Wrong. There are a lot of things that personal injury attorneys can do that you'll probably have a hard time accomplishing for yourself. Here's the rundown.
1. Know What Evidence To Get Right Away (And How To Get It)
While you're lying in a hospital bed recovering from an accident, you can't exactly chase down the evidence needed to prove your future case. You probably don't even know exactly what you need yet. Your attorney, on the other hand, knows what's likely important to your case -- including things like the "black box" that's in most modern cars and trucks these days, mechanic records, and even security footage from cameras in the area.
All of those things have to be requested before they're accidentally lost or destroyed -- and your time to act could be very limited. It may take a court order, on top of things, to make sure that something like a truck company eager to hide its liability for an accident complies.
2. Keep You From Missing Critical Deadlines
Do you know how long you have to file a claim in court? Do you know exactly where you file it? Every state has a statute of limitations personal injury claimants have to meet to keep a case active. If you miss the deadline, you're out of luck. Once you file a claim, however, the deadlines aren't over. You can still lose your case if you fail to respond to motions or requests from the other side in a timely fashion.
3. Negotiate A Settlement That's Reasonable
There are a lot of different factors that go into a personal injury settlement. You can use online calculators to give you an estimate of a case's value based on your medical bills and lost wages, but you don't know what the courts in your area consider reasonable when it comes to compensation for pain and suffering. If you aim too high, you'll never get the other side to settle. If you aim too low, you'll cheat yourself out of what's fair.
Nor do you know how to judge the relative strength of your case against whatever the other side has in its favor. You know how you feel about the case -- but is that really how the court will see it? Going into negotiations without this information means going into negotiations weak.
If you've been injured, don't take chances on a DIY approach to your future. Talk to a personal injury attorney about your case.