Can I Make a Personal Injury Claim Myself?

You have the right to compensation if you’ve been injured due to someone’s negligence, whether from a car crash, a defective product, or a slip and fall accident. But can you pursue a personal injury claim without hiring a lawyer? While going it alone is possible, it’s much harder to recover fair restitution without the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.

Personal injury law is complicated, and dealing with insurance companies is difficult. These challenges place vulnerable victims at a distinct disadvantage during every step of the process, especially while suffering from severe injuries and their emotional consequences.

What Makes Personal Injury Claims Hard to Win Without a Lawyer?

Pursuing a personal injury claim without legal representation requires you to:

  1. Investigate your case and gather evidence about the causes of your injuries
  2. Determine who can be held liable for your damages, which can sometimes include multiple parties
  3. Identify the relevant insurance and personal injury laws that apply to your case
  4. Calculate all your economic and non-economic damages from getting injured
  5. Prepare a demand letter and send it to the liable party
  6. Negotiate with insurers to try to settle out of court
  7. File a lawsuit in civil court if the settlement offer doesn’t cover your damages
  8. Defend your case before a judge or jury

If taking these steps wasn’t daunting enough, the personal injury claims process involves many more challenges along the way, especially dealing with the aggressive tactics of profit-driven insurance companies.

Proving Liability in a Personal Injury Case

The most important thing to understand about liability, otherwise known as legal responsibility, is that it’s usually not enough for victims to show that the responsible party caused their injuries. Most personal injury claims will also determine whether the individual or business was negligent.

Civil courts define negligent behavior as doing something illegal, dangerous, irresponsible, or otherwise unreasonably harmful, creating conditions for the victim to suffer preventable injuries.

Negligence also requires four elements: the allegedly negligent party owed the victim a duty of care, their actions breached that duty of care, the breach was the direct cause of the victim’s injuries, and the injuries caused the victim financial damages.

Some examples of negligence include a driver that runs a red light and causes a motor vehicle accident, a doctor that doesn’t follow proper medical protocol, a store owner that doesn’t warn customers about wet floors, or a dog owner that allows an aggressive dog to escape and attack a neighbor.

If the victim’s claim doesn’t meet the legal threshold for negligence or can’t prove that the at-fault party caused their injuries, holding the liable party responsible is very difficult. A lawyer can use evidence as to how the accident happened to establish liability on those responsible and help you seek compensation.

Insurers Fight to Pay as Little as Possible

Insurance companies have plenty of experience defending their clients from being held liable for negligence in personal injury claims. Their business model depends on keeping costs low by fighting vigorously to undervalue claims or reject them altogether. For example, the insurance company can argue that you were responsible for causing your injuries or that you’re exaggerating the extent of your damages.

In the face of this opposition, inexperience and lack of familiarity with the legal process can work against you.

Filing a Personal Injury Claim is Time-Consuming and Difficult

Battling a personal injury claim includes a lot of paperwork, back-and-forth negotiations, and keeping track of an overwhelming number of details and deadlines. Insurance companies are known to drag out the process, partly as a tactic to discourage injury victims and wear them down. They’re counting on you getting so frustrated that you’ll be willing to accept a lowball settlement offer and sign away your legal rights to pursue the matter further.

Common Mistakes Injury Victims Can Make Without A Lawyer

Many challenges make filing a personal injury claim a difficult individual undertaking. Unlike small claims courts, where most people represent themselves and the cases don’t involve large amounts of money, pursuing compensation for serious injuries is a high-stakes situation.

For victims and their families, the idea of losing a valid claim is devastating and a very compelling reason to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. Trying to navigate the legal process without expert guidance is not nearly as effective and can result in avoidable and irredeemable mistakes, such as:

Making a Statement That Harms Your Case

Insurance companies typically send insurance adjusters out to investigate a claim. The insurance adjuster will usually request a recorded statement and may also call multiple times to conduct detailed interviews. In reality, you’re under no obligation to speak to them, and any lawyer can tell you that it’s better not to have any direct communications.

For insurance companies, these conversations aim to get some information to blame you for causing your injuries or undervalue the claim, even if the defense takes your words entirely out of context. It’s not unusual for one careless comment to become a serious point of contention during a personal injury lawsuit. For instance, if the adjuster contacts you and asks how you are doing, and you say you are “fine” or “doing all right” just to be polite, the adjuster could take that to mean you did not suffer serious injuries.

Accepting an Unfair Offer

Injury victims that try to handle their claim without a lawyer often think they can resolve the case more quickly by dealing directly with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Insurers understand this and try to use it to their advantage. When a claimant doesn’t have an attorney, they’ll often propose a meager initial settlement offer and present it as their final offer.

Without an attorney to help them place the proposal in context, many victims will feel pressured to take the lowball settlement offer and walk away, potentially missing out on thousands of dollars in compensation.

The insurance company relies on the fact that accident victims are stressed about their financial situation and worried about ending up with less or pushing off their payday. Unfortunately, once you settle your case, there’s no way to unsettle and try to get more compensation, even if you regret the decision at some point down the line.

The Benefits of Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer to Handle Your Case

The most significant advantage of having an experienced personal injury attorney by your side is their familiarity with the claims process. They’ve worked on similar cases. They have the skills and resources to protect your legal rights.

A lawyer can strengthen your case by:

Investigating the Circumstances of Your Injuries

Whether your injuries happened in a car crash, a slip and fall accident, or a botched surgery, winning the case centers on providing enough supportive evidence. Your personal injury lawyer can help you prove that the at-fault party caused your injuries due to specific acts of negligence.

This investigation can include interviewing witnesses, analyzing physical evidence, reviewing any photo or video footage, and getting testimony from expert witnesses that can substantiate the circumstances of how you were injured. For example, a qualified medical professional can provide crucial context for how the patient’s treatment deviates from appropriate medical standards in a medical malpractice case.

Handle All Communications With the Insurance Company

Hiring a lawyer to manage your case allows you to minimize all contact with the at-fault party’s insurance company and avoid accidentally undermining your case. They can help you prepare any required statements throughout the process and file all paperwork needed to advance your case.

Calculate and Document Your Damages

The consequences of suffering a severe injury can be far-reaching, affecting everything from the ability to work to your overall quality of life. Calculating the full extent of your damages requires experience and skill, especially if your injuries result in ongoing costs and future repercussions. A personal injury lawyer can establish the value of your claim by evaluating your current and future losses and using evidence, such as your medical records, to justify fair compensation.

Depending on your case, the damages you can pursue in a personal injury claim can include:

  • Lost income, wages, and benefits
  • Hospital bills and other medical treatment expenses (both current and future)
  • Physical therapy costs
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Disfigurement or disability
  • Loss of consortium
  • Property damage

Negotiate With Insurers

Most personal injury cases resolve out of court when both sides agree to a settlement amount. The reality of this negotiation process is that insurance companies try to minimize payouts regardless of the victim’s injury severity or the recklessness of the at-fault party. Most personal injury attorneys have experience to push back with evidence-based arguments and negotiate a reasonable settlement that covers the victim’s damages.

Having an attorney handle settlement negotiations on your behalf also gives your claim legitimacy and heft that victims representing themselves may not have. Insurance companies know personal injury lawyers have an in-depth understanding of their client’s damages and what constitutes a fair settlement.

It’s often more cost-effective for the insurer to settle the claim quickly by offering a fair amount rather than having a protracted legal battle with multiple counteroffers and expensive legal fees. Ultimately, the claimant decides whether to accept a settlement offer, but their lawyer provides essential guidance to help victims make the right choice for them.

Present a Personal Injury Lawsuit Before a Judge or Jury

Sometimes, filing a civil lawsuit and going to court is the only option to recover fair compensation. This scenario is more likely when the at-fault party’s insurance policy limits won’t sufficiently cover the victim’s losses, such as in cases with catastrophic injuries with life-long consequences.

Hire a personal injury attorney who understands the legal system and is well-versed in handling court cases. They can escalate your claim if necessary through the litigation process. An experienced lawyer can prepare your case for a court trial and present compelling arguments to establish the at-fault party’s liability and the extent of the victim’s damages.

Reduce Stress Throughout the Process

Suffering severe injuries due to someone else’s negligence is incredibly painful and disruptive. Having an experienced attorney handle the case allows you to focus on your recovery and avoid the added stress of navigating the legal process independently.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire A Personal Injury Lawyer?

Personal injury attorney Andrew Finkelstein managing partner of Jacoby and Meyers LLP

Andrew G. Finkelstein, Personal Injury Accident Attorney

One of the main reasons injury victims try to pursue compensation without a lawyer is that they’re worried about the costs involved. Trying to save money on attorney fees by managing the case yourself is tempting when you’re already under financial stress due to medical bills or taking time off from work. However, you should know that most reputable personal injury firms provide legal services with a contingency fee agreement, making it accessible for just about everyone.

Here’s how that works:

  • Clients don’t pay upfront or hourly fees.
  • Your legal team covers all the costs of investigating, preparing, and litigating your case.
  • Once you recover compensation through a settlement or court judgment, your lawyer takes a percentage as their legal fee.
  • If the attorney doesn’t recover compensation, they do not collect their fee.
  • The client-attorney contract you sign before hiring a legal team will have all the details of how the contingency fee is structured, so there will be no surprises with your bill.

Contingency fees make hiring an experienced personal injury attorney low-risk. More importantly, filing a personal injury claim without legal representation may cost you more money in the long run and make it harder to get life back on track after a severe injury.

If you’re suffering from the consequences of a severe injury, a skilled personal injury lawyer can ensure you recover the compensation you deserve for your damages. You cannot fight a legal battle without the support of an experienced attorney who can look out for your interests and stand up against the insurance companies.

Contact a skilled personal injury attorney for your free case consultation and learn more about how these legal professionals can significantly increase your chances of success.