Hi. I’m John Medler, personal injury lawyer at The Medler Law Firm – Personal Injury & Accident Attorneys and today I’d like to talk to you about the top 10 reasons for not handling your own personal injury case. So you’ve just been in an auto accident, your car is getting fixed, and now it’s time to decide whether you need a personal injury lawyer. “Wait a minute,” you say. “I know how to negotiate. I could just call up the claims adjuster and settle my own case. That way I won’t have to pay a lawyer and I’ll make out really well. Right?” Wrong. That’s a mistake to think that you can handle your own personal injury lawsuit and come out ahead. I like to explain for you the top 10 reasons why you should not handle your own personal injury case.
- You’ll definitely get paid more if you retain a personal injury lawyer. The Insurance Research Council once did a study a few years ago, and in that study they tried to determine what amounts insurance companies paid out in settlement for people that had lawyers and people that didn’t have lawyers. Not surprisingly, the amount of money that was paid out to people that had lawyers was three and a half times greater than the amount paid out to people who tried to handle their own personal injury cases. Why is that?That’s because lawyers are trained professionals and the insurance agents know that if they try and go up against the lawyer, they could end up paying a lot more. So think about that for a second. Let’s say you had a personal injury case and the settlement amount without a lawyer was $10,000. If you had a lawyer, your amount would be $35,000. If your lawyer was charging you 40% for his attorney’s fee, you take off 40% of that $35,000 number,and you’d wind up with $21,000. Still over double what you would get if you tried to handle that matter by yourself. So you’re gonna definitely come out ahead if you hire a personal injury lawyer, even after paying the personal injury lawyer’s fee.
- Personal injury lawyers are trained professionals. Every lawyer has to go to law school for three years. During that period of time they receive extensive training, and many personal injury lawyers like myself, have been practicing law for over 25 years. When you’ve practiced personal injury law for that long, you gain a lot of experience and you know things that you as a non-lawyer couldn’t possibly know. So rely on the trained professionals who’ve been doing this for a long time to help you with your personal injury case.
- You can make dramatic mistakes. As a non-lawyer, you have no idea what pitfalls you’re going to be falling into. There may be an area of evidence that you don’t know. There might be a procedural rule you don’t know. You might not know the statute of limitations. There’s so many places where you can make a mistake if you don’t have personal injury lawyer. Don’t try and play Matlock by yourself. Get a trained personal injury lawyer to help you with your case.
- One of the most dramatic mistakes you can make is thinking that you don’t have a case when you really do. Let’s say you’re involved in an accident and the other driver who was negligent just takes off and leaves the scene. You didn’t get his license plate, you have no way to recover against him. As a non-lawyer, you might think, “Case over. There’s nothing I can do. The guy left the scene.” But if you consulted a personal injury lawyer, that lawyer would tell you that you actually have a case against your own insurance company called ‘uninsured motorist coverage.’ If you’re a non-lawyer, you might not know that. That’s just one of dozens of examples of when you might think that you don’t have a case when you actually do. So consultant a personal injury lawyer and they can help give you that advice.
- Fear, not benevolence, motivates insurance adjusters. Think about that insurance adjuster for a minute. He’s not your friend. His job is to give you the lowest amount of money if possible and hopefully zero. He is working against you so he is not going to try out of the goodness of his heart to give you a lot of money. What will motivate him? Losing his job, and how is he gonna lose his job? If he denies you your settlement demand and then you go to a jury and get a huge amount of money with a personal injury lawyer, he could lose his job. So fear, not benevolence, is what’s going to motivate that insurance adjuster to give you the compensation you deserve.
- You might miss a statute of limitations. As you all know, a statute of limitations is a deadline by which you must file a lawsuit or you completely lose your claim and you’re forever barred. It’s usually several years and it depends on the type of claim that you bring. You may not know what the statute of limitations is. “But wait a minute,” you say. “I can just Google that. I can put in statute of limitations, negligence, California, and get the answer in two seconds. True. You probably can, but did you know that there’s lots of exceptions to the statute of limitations.
- For example, we had a case where my son invited a friend of his over to dinner. The friend was 22-years-old during the dinner. The friend told us about a horrible accident that he had had when he was 14 years old, and his mother at the time decided not to bring a lawsuit on his behalf. I said, “Well, you can still bring a lawsuit now.” He said, “No, I can’t. It’s beyond the statute of limitations.” And I said, “Yes, but there’s a freezing period under the state statute for when you’re a minor. Once you become the age of majority, your clock starts again. You actually have a full year to bring your lawsuit.” “Oh my gosh,” he said. At that moment he hired us as his personal injury lawyer and we got him an excellent recovery. So those are the types of things you may not know if you’re a non-lawyer.
- You may not have a good idea as to the value of your case. Look, if you’re going to settle your case, you need to know what it’s worth. You need to know, if I took this case to a jury, what would a jury probably do? Do you know that? Have you studied jury verdict reports? You probably haven’t. Your personal injury lawyers is going to be experienced to know generally speaking in your type of case how much juries would normally award, and based on that can get an idea of what the value of your case would be worth.
- Your case may turn on a legal question or an important piece of evidence. Let’s say that you’re in an auto accident and you find out that defendant was on his way to a drug deal at the time of the accident. Can you get in the fact that the defendant was on his way to a drug deal? Do you know? Would you be able to go down and research all the case law to find out whether that comes in or not? Because of course if it came into evidence that would really help your case, right? You have no idea how to do electronic research to determine what case law is out there and to make the argument as to why that should come in or shouldn’t come in. Though that’s just one example of many types of legal issues and procedural issues that you need to know about and that only someone with experienced training in the legal profession will know.
- If your case finally is filed as a lawsuit, handling your case through the pretrial discovery process and through trial is almost impossible without a lawyer. If your case is actually filed as a lawsuit, you’re going to need to know all the procedural rules relating to discovery, all the pretrial evidentiary issues, how to file motions, where to file in the court, rules about venue, rules about jurisdiction. And once you get into court you’re going to need to know all the evidentiary rules of what comes into evidence, how to cross-examine witnesses. There is absolutely no way you will be able to do that by yourself. If your case gets that far, you definitely need a trained personal injury lawyer to help you.
Still not convinced? Here’s an idea, most personal injury lawyers will give you a free consultation. So it doesn’t hurt you to call up and get a free consultation with a personal injury tomorrow. If you do that, you might be convinced that a personal injury lawyer is right for you. If you’ve got more questions about what to do in terms of personal injury, check out our website at www.MedlerLawFirm.com or call our Orange County personal injury lawyer.