Personal injury is a broad term that encompasses a variety of actions and incidents, from automobile accidents, to getting hurt on another’s property, to wrong diagnosis and prescription, to a ton of other incidents where you are harmed or injured due to someone else’s actions and wrong-doing.
The point we are getting to is that not all personal injuries are serious and substantial in nature, and require attorney representation. When we talk specifically about car accidents, there are certain situations where you can do without attorney representation. If you have received minor injuries in a car accident, or your vehicle has been rear-ended by someone at a low speed and is slightly damaged, there are chances that you can file a personal injury claim yourself and receive your due compensation from the party at fault and the insurers.
If you do intend to file a personal injury lawsuit without attorney help after a car accident, the following steps are important and will help you navigate your lawsuit better.
Photographs Are Very Important
Pictures are the strongest evidence you can present to receive your rightful compensation from the responsible party. Take proper photographs of the scene of the accident, the injuries you have received, the damage to your vehicle (if any) and the license plate of the responsible party.
These will be pertinent to establish fault for the crash and prove to the jury what injury and damages you sustained and why you deserve to be compensated.
Find Out the Statute of Limitations
There are general statute of limitations, and then there are specific statutes in certain jurisdictions and situations. When you are filing the personal injury lawsuit, do your research extensively and find out what the statute of limitations is for your case.
Do remember that you need to find out the statute of limitations at the earliest. Don’t procrastinate. When an attorney is involved, all the legal elements get taken care of. In absence of an attorney, the statute of limitations needs to be dealt with very carefully. These are arcane rules that do not leave much scope for adjustments.
So make sure you find out all about them in detail and then pursue your case. Do take care that you file your lawsuit in plenty of time and not in the nick of time. That way you will have ample time to review your case and align situations and evidences in your favor. Filing the case at the last moment will have the opposite consequences.
Don’t Give Recorded Statements
Don’t fall in the trap of insurance companies when they tell you that you need to give a recorded medical statement prior to a settlement offer. This is a recurrent mistake many make. There is absolutely no legal binding to this. This is simply the insurance company’s excuse to use the cross-examination material against you and reduce your settlement amount or use it against you in the trial.
This so-called ‘independent medical exam’ and doctor check-ups are nothing but a ploy on the part of the insurance companies to make you the weaker party in negotiations.
However, when the personal injury case involves an uninsured or underinsured claim, recorded statements become a necessity. Uninsured and underinsured claims are slippery territory. It is a good idea to consult a competent lawyer if such a situation arises and try to get some free advice or opinion on the scenario. Even if you do have to shell out a consultation fee to the attorney, professional advice can make that all-important difference to your lawsuit.
So the bit to remember is that you don’t need the insurance company’s doctor to evaluate you, nor do you need to give a recorded statement to process your claim.
Do Thorough Research in Your Case
First and foremost, understand that planning to file your own personal injury lawsuit is not going to be all that simple. The perks include absence of attorney fees, but there is also absence of experience and expertise. Under such circumstances you will need to do extensive research on the law and settlement processes before you proceed.
Read up and understand important legal elements of the case like fault and legal liability, compensations available for different damages, and the laws of your state.
Be Effective and Confident in Your Communication
Once you have done your research and are armed with all relevant information, it is time to negotiate confidently with the insurance company on your rightful dues. Make sure that at no step of the case you appear vulnerable or unsure. Confidently and effectively negotiate on the amount you consider fair. If at any moment the insurance agent feels you don’t have knowledge of relevant issues, he will make you a very raw deal and call it his final offer.
This is another key concern. Don’t take this final offer at face value. Insurance agents have a first final offer, and a final final offer. Make sure you don’t accept an amount that is far below your settlement figure. If you are well-informed and effective in your dealings you are much more likely to succeed.
Find Out the Complete Extent of Your Injury
The best lawyers will tell you not to arrive at a compensation amount until you have consulted more than one doctor and found out the real extent of your injury.
Think of it this way, you receive a minor whiplash and hit your head lightly on the driving wheel. You think it’s a mild head injury and demand your compensation amount accordingly. After the settlement is completely done with, you have regular headaches and realize that head injury has affected a major part of your brain and it has started affecting your cognitive processes.
To avoid such circumstances, you need to consult reputable doctors and ask them all possibilities associated with your injury. Go for repeated checkups before you determine the amount, as some symptoms take time in surfacing.
At the same time, don’t opt for medical treatment that you don’t need. Some people believe that more medical treatment will make their case more valuable and get them a higher compensation amount. This is not true. So do not get any additional medical treatments to make your case stronger. It usually proves counterintuitive and is not advised.
There are certain personal injury cases that do not require hiring an attorney. A little research, alertness and attention to detail can enable you to tackle your personal injury claim after a car accident and receive rightful compensation. However, when you do realize that this is going to be a task that will require a lot of your time and energy, and if you feel that you cannot devote that much effort, bring on a lawyer at the right time before it is too late.
Christine Boldrick is a registered Florida paralegal, specializing in personal injury litigation from Vasilaros Wagner law firm. Vasilaros & Wagner has more than a decade of experience in representing a wide range of cases, including personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, and nursing-home neglect.