The law can be tricky. That’s why law school takes years and years to complete — and why some would-be lawyers need more than one shot to pass the Bar exam. Because the law can never be simplified, it’s unlikely you should try a personal injury case on your own. There are exceptions, such as when the amount owed really is very small. Here is when you can and cannot try your own case.
Whether you find yourself sitting in the plaintiff’s chair or the defendant’s, the law is sort of a “pay to play” life experience. If you want the best outcome, you need a lawyer. For example, a prosecutor will never make a plea deal with a defendant who represents himself. Prosecutors like to deal with people who know what they’re doing, which means a defendant who gives up his right to counsel is in big trouble.
The same is true for a plaintiff who fails to hire a lawyer. Most individuals or companies won’t give a sole plaintiff any respect — which makes it difficult to bargain a settlement. People feel less comfortable disrespecting a lawyer because they feel more intimidated by someone they know can do real damage. That’s why you’ll want one.
You should never handle your own case when medical malpractice, premises liability, or defective products are involved. The same is true when injuries sustained are severe.
That said, claims processes can be fairly simple in small claims court. You might be able to handle a case where only a few letters or phone calls to an insurance adjuster are required. One thing is for sure: in order to sue someone else for personal injury, your organizational skills need to be impeccable. You need to keep every related scrap of paper. You need to be able to articulate exactly what happened without faltering. And you need to be able to throw around legal terms you’ve never heard before.
Can you do that?