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Why Representing Yourself in a Personal Injury Case is Not a Good Idea

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In American courts, individuals can choose between representing themselves or engaging the services of a licensed attorney. But just because a person can represent him or herself, it does not mean that doing so is a wise decision. You may wish to cut costs, but in the long run such a decision will result in bigger headaches and much lower potential for beneficial case outcome.

You CAN Afford an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

At first glance, representing yourself may look like a means of reducing expenses as you fight for what you are owed for injuries and property damage. After all, you are facing major expenses in medical bills, lost wages and struggles associated with maintaining your lifestyle after your accident. So you may believe that you cannot afford a lawyer and that the potential of one being paid through a portion of your compensation will not suit your needs for recovery.

But the truth of the situation is that you may likely lose your case if you do not have an experienced Phoenix injury lawyer on your side. In most cases, litigants who are unrepresented do not obtain the beneficial results of those with legal counsel.

Secondly, you can actually afford an experienced attorney with a solid reputation in personal injury cases. Such attorneys work on contingency fees (see: what are contingency fees?) and their clients pay nothing upfront. More importantly, if the case is not won, there are no fees owed to the lawyer.

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Why People Make the Mistake of Representing Themselves in a Personal Injury Case

Criminals headed to court for their defense are provided with the constitutional right to a government-appointed attorney that is paid for by taxpayers, if they cannot afford their own. But civil representation is different. In civil court, you must either enter an agreement with an attorney or represent yourself.

Below are some of the reasons people decide to represent themselves in court:

  • They do not think they can afford a good lawyer
  • They did not like or work well with a prior attorney
  • They think they are “smart enough” to represent themselves
  • They think their evidence is clear enough that an attorney could not add value
  • They misunderstand the legal system

While some of these motivations may apply to your case at face value, the attorneys you must face in civil court will be highly aggressive and exploit your case vulnerabilities, even if evidence is overwhelming and you are confident in your case. Not having a lawyer could be the most costly decision to make, one that will add to your already hefty medical expenses and other bills.

Problems Caused through Self-Representation in Personal Injury Cases

According to a survey conducted by the Justice Management Institute, judges are well aware of how cases tend to go for self-representing litigants. Some of the primary problems judges see when plaintiffs try to forgo legal counsel include:

  • Delays in litigation
  • Tendency of judges to rule unfavorably against self-representing litigants
  • Poor courtroom control
  • Difficulty in court procedural compliance by self-representing plaintiff
  • Extensive opposing attorney pressure on self-representing plaintiff

Plaintiffs who represent themselves often do not even make it to a court date. This is because many miss legal deadlines, fail to adequately state a legal cause of action, or fail to comply with other procedural formalities.

Even when the self-representing litigant understands legal processes and can properly state a claim, there is much more that can go wrong in the case. Even when individuals without a lawyer prevail in court, they will still gain far less than if a lawyer had been present to professionally push for greater compensation.

The problems self-representation can cause in a personal injury lawsuit include:

  • Low valuation of the case before it is even filed
  • Lack of a quality investigation team
  • High expectations that are met with low settlement offers
  • Opposing counsel’s view of the self-representing litigant as vulnerable or even flippant regarding outcome
  • Absence of or poor procedural knowledge
  • Emotional investment in the case can lead to poor decision-making

Because personal injury cases differ from criminal cases in that burden of proof is on you, there are many mistakes that can make your case fail. These cases can also take years for completion, with each step along the way requiring legal knowledge and experience of an personal injury attorney. In these cases, the truth is not enough to prevail.

You Need an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer on Your Side

Before taking any steps toward self-representation, you should at least pursue an initial consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. An initial consultation is free and will provide you with information that clarifies the detriment to your case, should you decide to self-represent in court. This consultation can also provide you with peace of mind regarding how you can afford the attorney you need, if you really want to win your case.

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