The law allows anybody to represent themselves in a court of law, and one may choose to exercise this right for many reasons. It is possible to argue your personal injury case in court if you have the requisite experience and knowledge.
However, you shouldn’t represent yourself in a personal injury claim if you can help it. An old legal saying ventures that “An attorney who represents themselves has a fool for a client.” In other words, representing yourself in court is a terrible idea even if you have full knowledge of personal injury law, which is also called tort law.
When it is Okay to Defend Yourself in a Personal Injury Claim
There are times when it makes sense to defend yourself in a personal or accident injury case – this is called appearing pro se or “in proper person.” For example, minor injuries and small claims are usually resolved by settlement when both parties are in mutual agreement.
Even in some significant claims, the party responsible may be willing to settle amicably to avoid the court process. In such circumstances, you may reasonably choose to handle the matters yourself so long as you know what you are doing.
However, If you have any doubts about signing away your rights or receiving an unfair amount of compensation, it is highly advisable to involve a personal injury attorney in the settlement negotiations.
If you do choose to represent yourself in a tort case, here are a few tips to help you out.
- Make sure the responsible party admits responsibility.
- Take pictures of the injury or damage caused as proof.
- Report the case to the police and get a copy of the report.
- Get medical treatment as soon as possible and maintain all medical documentation and receipts.
- Do not give a statement to the other party’s insurance agents.
- Use Personal Injury Protection Insurance to pay for the initial treatment, then use your health insurance making sure to keep copies of all documentation.
- Pursue your personal injury case in good time, usually within three years according to the statute of limitation.
Even with these tips, it will be hard to ensure fair compensation for your injury. Damages can be a challenge to calculate when considering factors such as loss of income suffered, pain, and suffering caused as a direct result of the injury, the present value of lost earning capacity, among others. This is why it is always advisable to consult a personal injury lawyer.
Always Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
With all factors considered, it is far more prudent to involve an attorney in your personal injury case. If you are worried about money, you should know that most attorneys will not charge you a retainer if they decide to take up your case. Instead, they will take it on a contingency basis and take a percentage of the damages paid out in an award or settlement.
Even in seemingly “small” accident situations, it is important to cover all your bases by having an expert attorney handle the legalities of the case. Don’t be tempted to represent yourself in a personal injury case, because it may lead to even more pain and loss than you have already suffered.