There is a courthouse adage that a person who represents himself has a fool for a client.
But that is not always true.
Sure, it is foolish to represent yourself in court, where you don’t know the rules, and it is super foolish to represent yourself where the stakes are high, such as in a criminal case or a car accident case involving huge losses and permanent injuries.
But, you can absolutely settle your own routine car accident insurance claims.
And keep in mind that this is a car accident lawyer telling you that you don’t need a car accident lawyer to help you settle your routine car accident claim.
Yes, when it comes to presenting routine car accident claims, you really can do-it-yourself.
You really can save hundreds or thousands of dollars in legal fees! Cha-Ching!
Since lawyers usually charge 1/3 of the amount you recover, handling your own $10,000 claim, for example, will save you more than $3,300!
Think of it this way. If it takes you 10 hours to learn how to present your claim . . . and then to actually do it . . . you will have “earned” $330 per hour. Or more if you are a quick learner and it takes you less time. Many lawyers don’t earn that much. Plumbers do, but lawyers don’t!
How do you know which car accident claims you can handle yourself?
If you answer each of these 6 questions with a “yes,” you definitely can settle your own insurance claim.
- If fault is an issue (and it usually is), is it clear that someone else caused your accident?
- Do your financial losses – mainly medical bills and lost income – add up to less than $10,000?
- Do your injuries consist of whiplash, sprains, strains, bumps, bruises, or minor lacerations BUT NOT head or brain injuries, herniated discs or broken bones?
- Did you fully recover from your injuries . . . in less than 180 days?
- Do you prefer to resolve your claims through an out-of-court settlement or in small claims court?
- Are you willing to invest 2 to 3 hours learning about the car accident claims system and another 5 to 10 hours actually handling the claims?
Before you finally decide whether representing yourself is right for you, let’s look at these questions in a little more detail.
Fault an issue. Although some car accident claims are “no-fault,” fault is usually an issue in car accident cases. Where it is an issue, if you cannot prove fault – called “liability” in the claims industry – you can’t recover money for your damages. You will lose and recover nothing! So you can’t take chances with this. If there is going to be a fight over fault, especially if that fight will be waged in a court that applies the technical rules of evidence, you need a car accident lawyer’s help.
Amount of out-of-pocket losses. The $10,000 limit on out-of-pocket expenses – which the industry calls “special damages” – is not absolute. It is simply a guide to make the point that the more that is at stake, the more strongly you should consider hiring a lawyer. Your personal “that’s-too-much-to-risk” cutoff may be higher or lower than this suggestion.
Seriousness and duration of your injuries. The kind of injury you had and how long it affected you are critical factors in your car accident claim. If you had a serious injury such as a broken bone or a herniated disk that affected you for a long time, and especially if you have a permanent injury that will haunt you the rest of your life, you have a large claim and should hire a lawyer to present it.
Going to court. Of course, if you must take your case to court, and you can’t use the consumer-friendly small claims court, you need a lawyer who knows the court rules to have a fair chance to win and get what you deserve.
Investing the time. It will probably take 10 hours, or more, to learn about the claims settlement process and then to settle your own car accident insurance claim. If you don’t want to spend that much time, or if you would simply prefer to pay a lawyer to do if for you, decide that now and hire a lawyer.
- Settling your own car accident claims avoids legal fees and saves 1/3 (or possibly more) of your recovery, and that’s a good thing. But doing it yourself and losing is a bad thing, a very bad thing. Two-thirds (2/3) of something is better than all of nothing! So, when in doubt, consult with a lawyer.
- Settling your own car accident insurance claim does not simply mean accepting what the insurance company offers. With a little time spent educating yourself about the system, you should be able to get FULL VALUE for your routine car accident claims without a lawyer. In fact, I’m so sure of this that I have written a book which provides the necessary information, examples, forms, templates and checklists. It is called The Car Accident Claims Kit, and it is now in its SECOND EDITION. It also comes with a free ACTION GUIDE that guides you through the 20 steps required to settle your own insurance claim.