There are a lot of understandable reasons why you might want to consider representing yourself in your personal injury claim. You might be concerned about the cost of an attorney, you might distrust lawyers, or you may fear losing control of the situation. However, individuals who decide to represent themselves, known as pro se litigants, do not tend to come out on top in their personal injury claims. Rather, they end up with much less compensation and increased likelihood of getting no compensation at all.
Before you decide to represent yourself in a personal injury claim, there are some things that you should know, as we will presently discuss. We’ll also give you some advice about how to address the most common concerns by asking the right questions when you consult an attorney.
Understand the Disadvantages Faced by Pro Se Litigants
Following are five major disadvantages of representing yourself in a personal injury claim:
1) Choosing to represent yourself can result in not being taken seriously by the courts and the attorneys on the opposing side. It is common for others to assume that pro se litigants are only representing themselves because no lawyer would take their case. You may know that this isn’t the reason, but you won’t have a chance to express your reasons for representing yourself, and others will be left to assume that you don’t really have a serious or valid case.
2) The burden of proof will be on your shoulders alone. There are a lot of steps involved in pursuing a personal injury claim, including depositions, interrogatories, and various documents and requests for information. You’ll have to handle all of this on your own. Meanwhile, the opposing counsel will be sending you discovery requests that you have to respond to in a timely manner. It is far too easy to get lost in the paperwork and processes, miss a deadline, and get your case dismissed before you even have a chance to present it.
3) You will not have the benefit of professional investigators, but the opposing counsel will. In fact, the opposing counsel is likely to have a whole team devoted to investigating the case and disproving your claim. They may follow you around, taking pictures, and keeping tabs on everything you do, just hoping to catch you up in anything that they can use against you. Meanwhile, you’re on your own in pursing evidence of your damages.
4) You are far more likely to make mistakes and fall for the tactics of the opposing counsel or insurance company. It is extremely common for plaintiffs to undervalue their own claims. It can be difficult to determine how much your case is really worth without legal expertise on your side. Insurance companies count on your lack of experience to get you to settle your claim for a small fraction of what it is truly worth. Yet, their offer might sound like a lot of money to you at the time, and you might make the common mistake of accepting a low ball offer.
Lastly, representing yourself in a case does not save money. Elrod Pope Law Firm personal injury attorneys in Rock Hill, SC offer a complimentary consultation. If an attorney decides to take your case and work with you, they work on a contingency basis. This means their legal fees are set as a percentage of the settlement and you pay no legal fee if you do not win your case.
5) While many people think that they can’t afford an attorney, the reality is that a personal injury attorney from Elrod Pope Law Firm will provide a free consultation and will not charge any upfront fees. Like most personal injury attorneys, we work under a contingency fee system, where you don’t pay us unless we help you to recover compensation. If you don’t win your case, you don’t have to pay. If you do, you will end up with a much larger settlement or judgment than you would if you had represented yourself.
Three Questions to Ask an Attorney to Address Your Concerns
If you have concerns about hiring an attorney, we have good news: Not only are you not alone with your concerns, but you can address them all with a free consultation. Many people share the same worries and questions when it comes to considering hiring a lawyer. The attorneys at Elrod Pope Law Firm are used to answering these questions and will be happy to help.
1) Do You Practice In Personal Injury Claims?
When you go in for your initial free consultation, the first thing you need to know is what areas the attorney practices in. If he or she only practices in estate law, family law, or corporate law, then you won’t want them to take on your personal injury case. Rather, you should work with an attorney, like those at Elrod Pope Law Firm, who focuses on personal injury law. You may be able to learn about this by viewing the webpage of the lawyer, though an attorney who handles various types of cases might have multiple websites to indicate their practice areas. It is still a good idea to discuss this during the consultation.
2) How Do You Bill Clients and What Will the Case Cost Me?
Most personal injury attorneys operate with contingency fees, meaning that they don’t request upfront payment and only get paid if you get paid. Others will charge an hourly rate. It is important to know how your attorney is going to bill you before you make a decision. It is wisest to work with an attorney who works on a contingency basis and to know exactly what percentage of your recovery will be required. Further, you need to know about any additional fees and costs that may be involved. Some costs like those required by the court may fall to you. You should ask about this and fully understand exactly what you’ll be required to pay.
3) What is Your Experience with Winning Personal Injury Cases?
The last thing that you want to do is hire an attorney without a proven track record of success in the courtroom. If you hire an attorney who wants to avoid going to court, then you may end up with a lower settlement. If you hire an attorney who is confident in the courtroom, then you will be taken more seriously by the opposing counsel and likely receive a higher settlement. If the case does go to court, you’ll be confident of winning the compensation you deserve.
To learn more about the benefits of choosing a skilled Rock Hill, SC attorney to represent you in your personal injury claim and to get all of your questions and concerns addressed, contact Elrod Pope Law Firm today, and schedule your free consultation.
Thomas E. Pope is a Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Medical Malpractice Attorney who practices in Rock Hill, Lake Wylie, and Lancaster, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 31 years now. Thomas E. Pope believes in protecting the injured. Learn more about his experience here.