Car accident cases range drastically in scope and seriousness, from minor fender benders to catastrophic events that devastate the lives of those involved. We know that not every situation requires the expertise of an attorney, particularly when there are no crucial elements in jeopardy. But in cases in which the outcome can affect your physical, emotional, or financial health, you need to know that there is someone with professional experience who cares personally about the result of your case. Our team of Columbia car accident lawyers at The Solomon Law Group strive to protect our clients and keep our local roads safe for all of us.
If you are considering representing yourself in your car accident case, there are some considerations you should take into account before proceeding. These considerations are essential to the outcome of your case, as studies have shown that attorney-represented accident victims are on average awarded more than twice what those who represent themselves receive. Let’s take a look at some circumstances which may warrant self-representation, and some of the benefits a lawyer can provide, should you choose to hire an attorney to work with you on your car accident claim.
When You May Choose to Represent Yourself
In some situations, a car accident victim may choose to appear pro se—“for oneself” or “in one’s own behalf”—meaning that you choose to represent yourself rather than retain an attorney. Although it is riskier to represent yourself than to hire a lawyer to represent you, there are some circumstances under which it makes sense and may be the right choice for you.
If all the following factors apply to your case, you may consider self-representation. Keep in mind, it is highly advised that you bring in the expertise of a lawyer if you have any doubts, however minor, about the outcome of your case.
- You Fully Understand the Process. People who have had past legal experience or training may have a sufficient base of knowledge to understand the process of filing a claim and what actions to take immediately following a vehicular collision. Even if you have legal training or experience, it is important to make sure that you are up to date on current legislation, and that you have a firm grasp of the laws specific to your state.
- The Opposing Party’s Insurance Company Admits Liability. When the at-fault party admits they are responsible for the accident, it can make the settlement process much easier. However, there must be sufficient evidence to show that the defendant admitted liability and was in fact at fault in the accident, as well as satisfactory proof of your losses, in order for you to negotiate fair compensation.
- You Have Compelling Evidence. You should only choose to represent yourself if you are confident that the evidence you possess can successfully support your claim. This will include proof of damages and fault in the form of photographs and video, police reports, medical records, eyewitness reports from credible witnesses, or other types of valid tangible proof.
- You Sustained No or Very Minor Injuries. In this situation, it is likely that your medical bills are relatively insignificant and that your personal health does not depend on the outcome of the case. When this is the situation, you may feel comfortable proceeding on your own without a lawyer. Even if you believe your injuries to be minor, it is strongly recommended that you see a health professional immediately following the accident to be sure that you did not sustain any bodily harm.
When a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You
Having a good attorney can significantly increase the chance that you will be able to obtain the compensation, at the appropriate level, you need to recover your losses and move past the accident. It can also give you confidence, composure, and clarity when you do not need to second guess if every step you take in the proceeding is the right one. If any of the following factors apply, it is likely that finding a lawyer is the best way to handle your case:
- You Need Help Determining the Value of Your Claim. You need to accurately determine how much compensation you need to recover your losses, and this is not always easy to do. A lawyer will weigh various factors to decide the amount you deserve, giving significant time and effort to evaluating evidence such as your medical bills, your injury and any permanent damage, loss of current or future income, property damage, pain and suffering, anxiety, emotional trauma, loss of consortium, or numerous other factors.
- You Don’t Have Extensive Legal Experience. Your attorney will understand the intricate matters of federal and state laws so you don’t have to. Filing forms, following statutes of limitations, gathering evidence, staying up to date with changes in the law, dealing with insurance companies, and negotiating settlements or representing you in court are issues you should not have to cope with on your own, especially when you do not have significant legal experience.
- You Are Communicating with Insurance Companies. Insurance companies frequently contact victims within 24 hours of the accident to ask questions, at a time when you are most vulnerable and least prepared. In this condition, it is not prudent to agree to an initially-offered settlement or try to describe the accident without first speaking to an attorney. Your lawyer will know the typical trap questions insurance companies ask and how answers can be used against you to undermine your claim and save the company thousands of dollars.
- You Need to Negotiate a Settlement. In most car accident cases, you will be able to reach a settlement out of court. It is understandable that you may not have the experience and skills necessary to be comfortable negotiating your own settlement agreement with the opposing party. In addition to expert negotiation tactics and ability, this task requires a strong knowledge of the law, the unique specifics of the case, and the situation of the opposing party.
- Your Case Is Going to Trial. If an agreement cannot be reached on a settlement, going to trial may be your best option. A lawyer will be able to help you determine when and if it is necessary to take your case to court. And while in some cases it may be feasible to represent yourself in your car accident case, it is not recommended that you go to court without a competent lawyer by your side.
The Solomon Law Group Is Ready to Stand by Your Side
If you decide that the support of a lawyer will give your car accident case the best chance for a successful outcome, we are here for you. We work hard to make sure that we give your case the personal attention it deserves. Like you, we want to make sure that the citizens of Columbia, SC are kept safe on the road, and are justly compensated when they have been harmed by a negligent driver. It is our job to handle the legal matters of your case, so you can give your attention to the things that matter to you—your health, your wellbeing, and the safety and welfare of your loved ones. Contact us if you would like to have a conversation and ask questions about your car accident case.