Can You Handle Your Own Personal Injury Case?
People get hurt. Then, they call me. Sometimes they give me a few facts and ask if they can handle the case by themselves without an attorney. I tell them they always have the option to represent themselves. Just because they can, though, doesn’t mean that they should.
Some cases are small and very simple. Maybe they can adequately represent themselves in that kind of case. In Florida, for example, cases worth $5,000 or less can be handled in small claims court, and judges over those cases frown upon lawyers being involved.
For anything larger, it’s likely that injured people will be over their heads very fast and that the insurance companies will take serious advantage of them. In serious cases, the likelihood of one successfully representing himself is seriously diminished. Why? Because so many tasks are involved in a personal injury or wrongful death case, and usually the injured people have no training in any of the significant tasks.
When I say “tasks,” I’m talking about calculating and proving the value of the case, assembling a persuasive negotiating package to the insurance company, finding and consulting with expert witnesses and asking them the right questions, and filing a suit. Then, there will be subsequent motions to contend with in court. They will have to either be filed or defended.
Next comes the discovery process in which one party submits detailed questions to the other party to be answered under oath. And the parties also send written and very formal requests for production of documents. How to answer these discovery documents and when to object to them is something usually not within the expertise of a person who has been hurt.
Finally, if negotiations, usually in a formal mediation environment, are unsuccessful, one will end up trying the case and maybe appealing it. Yes, a person has a right to represent himself, but, considering the tasks involved, the better question is should he or she?