If you have been injured in a vehicular crash or on another's property your personal and work life is likely to be impacted by the effects of your injuries and emotional trauma. You will also almost definitely be contacted by an insurance company representative for the at-fault party responsible for your injuries. Although these insurance company representatives may appear to be polite, nice, and seemingly understanding of your situation, make no mistake, these representatives do not have your best interest in mind. They are looking to minimize, if not outright refuse, to fairly compensate you for your harms and losses their insured caused.
Unfortunately, many people are lulled into a false sense of security wen they first speak with these insurance company representatives, and, for various reasons, decide to represent themselves in their injury claims.
However, representing yourself can have many pitfalls, and often lead to settlements that are woefully inadequate.
As the famous quote often attributed to Abraham Lincoln goes "a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client". Now, ole Abe might have been a bit harsh (and sexist) but there is certainly a lot of wisdom in the thought. However, representing yourself can have many pitfalls, and often lead to settlements that are woefully inadequate.
The following are the top six mistakes that people that represent themselves commonly make.
Mistake #1: Giving a written or recorded statement
It is almost never a good idea to give a statement to an insurance company representative without consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney first. Sometimes inadvertent comments or the way you explain your situation or answer questions can be taken out of context and used against you. Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations and I always encourage people to take advantage of these before giving a statement.
Mistake #2: Not understanding personal injury law
The internet is fill of a lot of good information and a Google search may seem to be a good place to start when representing yourself. However, the internet is also full of conflicting advice, and not all information you may read might be applicable to your situation. Simply put, an internet search is not a substitute for professional legal advice that applies to your situation. In a negligence case, the person making an injury claim must prove four things to recover damages from another party. Those things, called “elements”, are duty, breach of duty, causation (proximate and in-fact), and damages (economic and noneconomic). So, what may appear to be a “straight forward case” may not be. You not only have to understand legal terms like “negligence”, “duty”, “breach of duty”, “cause in fact”, “proximate cause”, “economic damages”, “non-economic damages” you have to understand their interplay and the common law legal decisions that have interpreted them. You may also have to understand how certain federal and state laws may impact your financial recovery. Simply put, if you don't understand how the law works, you are at a major disadvantage.
Mistake #3: Lacking evidence
When you handle any legal matter on your own, you will need to have a thorough understanding of the evidence required in your case. This can be difficult to understand by yourself without the help of an experienced personal injury attorney.
The evidence is necessary to prove fault. For example, in vehicle crash, were there any witnesses saw how the collision occurred or who saw you after it occurred? If so, you must get their full contact information so that they can be contacted to testify. In a premises case was weather a factor? If so, you have to get evidence that will be admissible in court regarding the weather and an expert meteorologist may be required.
You also need evidence to prove all of your harms and losses. These things include lost income, impact on future earnings, medical bills, and the impact on your activities of daily living, and permanent injury.
Finally, you will need to prove the two elements of cause: cause in fact and proximate cause. Your evidence must be developed so you can do that or the whole case could fall apart.
The bottom line regarding evidence is that it is more than what you might think it is and a failure to obtain and develop evidence that will be admissible in court can lead to a failure of your claim.
Mistake #4: Not knowing how insurance works in relation to the law
In personal injury cases, proving your injuries and damages are proximately cased by the underlying act of negligence is critically important. This means you have to produce not only for the medical expenses associated with your injuries and any future costs related to your care but also the evidence to support causal connection.
3rd party claim. First party Claim. Uninsured Motorist claims. Underinsured Motorist Claim. Collateral source credit. Collateral source reduction. ERISA. Medicare. MedPay. Health Insurance. Homeowners Insurance. Statute of limitations. These all have a relationship to vehicle insurance claims and/or premises (i.e. property) claims.
You are likely not going to teach yourself these things online sufficiently to ensure you are not missing something important to your claim.
Mistake #5: Taking the first offer or settling your claim too fast
When people represent themselves, they are often unable to determine what an appropriate offer is for their injuries. Insurance companies will regularly make an early lowball offer to try and settle quickly and for less money than is appropriate. Self-People that represent themselves often accept these offers only to find out later that the costs of their injuries were much higher than believed. Generally speaking, injured perpel are going to realize a much higher settlement by hiring an experienced personal injury attorney than if they go it alone.
Mistake #6: Giving up trial as an option gives up leverage
If you represent yourself the insurance company knows you do not possess the experience, skill, time, and financial resources to file a lawsuit, litigate the issues, and go up against their lawyers in court. This means that you are almost assuredly never going to receive the type of compensation your situation deserves because they are not worried about you.
Simply put, you don't know what you don't know. If you are unable to represent yourself properly in court and at trial you are at at a significant disadvantage. Inadequate preparation can lead to key evidence being excluded or never presented, critically damaging a case. In personal injury cases, the presentation of admissible evidence and the trial skill in how that evidence is presented plays a large role in the outcome of your case. This starts from the moment of your injury until the time of settlement or filing a lawsuit and going to trial. Understanding this timeline is essential, and an experienced personal injury attorney can aid you in collecting the necessary evidence to best use it for your benefit.
Talk to an Experienced and Skilled Personal Injury Attorney
If you have been injured as a result of someone else's fault, then it is important that you speak to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
I provide free, no-obligation 30-minute consultations for injured people. Schedule your appointment now by calling me at 203.339.5991 or contact me online.
I have helped many people in your situation. To see what me and some of my clients have to say about what I can do for you please check this video out. If you have specific legal questions, then call me today!
I fight for injured people and to make our community safer for all of us.