In my years a Dallas personal injury lawyer, I have seen many good cases go wrong because the injured person decides to handle the case themselves. This usually ends up being a very costly mistake. Practicing law is not an easy task.
The law is a very complicated and intertwined study. Unless you are educated and trained in the law, you will only do your case more harm than good in deciding to handle the case yourself.
Here are some examples of the many things that can go wrong if you try to represent yourself in a personal injury case.
1. Doing or Saying Something Wrong.
It goes without saying that if you do not know your legal rights then you stand a very good chance of putting your case in great jeopardy by handling it yourself. A good example is giving the adjuster a recorded statement when you are not required to do so. You can also say something wrong that you never thought would be an issue. Even worse, you can get tricked into signing and waving your rights. Your personal injury case is a very fragile thing that must be carefully safeguarded. That is best accomplished by hiring an experience lawyer to handle your case.
2. Getting No or Low Settlement Offers.
An insurance adjuster has the advantage when dealing with someone who is not represented by a lawyer. The claimant does not necessarily know how much their case is worth. Therefore, they can be convinced to take a settlement offer which is less than the case is worth. A lawyer knows what your case is worth based upon the lawyer’s experience in handling cases within your jurisdiction. A lawyer knows what juries are awarding and what other similar cases are settling for in your area.
3. Having Unreasonably High Expectations.
People who are unrepresented by a lawyer are emotionally involved in the case. Likewise, many have high expectations about the settlement value of their case. This can cause negotiations to stall or even prevent the insurance adjuster from negotiating in the first place. Although a lawyer should zealously represent his client, a lawyer is trained to remain focused and not be distracted by emotion. Likewise, a lawyer can help optimize a client’s recovery by keeping settlement negotiations within reasonable boundaries.
4. Friction with the Adjuster.
Unless a claimant is knowledgeable and trained in personal injury law, they tend to feel as though they are being undermined. This can lead to heated arguments and friction with the adjuster. It is no surprise that this can be very unproductive in the settlement process. This is why I do not like to accept cases where the client handled the case themselves. In these circumstances, I usually end up spending more time fixing all the prior problems in the case when I could be using that time to get the case settled.
5. Not Properly Monitoring the Case.
People who are not represented by a lawyer are not effectively proactive in setting up and developing their case. This can result in the strength of the claim weakening over time. Hiring an attorney makes sure that your claims are properly managed throughout the entire process. The facts of your case must be investigated early on and preserved for future use if needed. Also, the injury and complaints must be properly documented and treated so that there is a strong causal link back to the accident.
6. Lack of any Muscle.
I have always said that a claimant trying to represent themselves is like someone bringing a knife to a gun fight. What incentive would an adjuster have in settling a case with someone who is unrepresented? Insurance companies have access to all the lawyers they need and therefore have a great advantage. When you have a lawyer on your side, then there is always the threat of a lawsuit being filed if the adjuster does not settle the case. That threat improves your ability to get a fair settlement.