If you or a loved one suffered an injury as the result of someone else's negligence, you want to make sure you are compensated for your injuries. It is very unlikely that the person responsible will offer to pay your medical bills and pay you for lost wages. Instead, you may have to file a claim with their insurance company. If they don't want to pay up, you may have to file a legal claim. In some cases, you can negotiate your own personal injury claim. However, before you decide to take on a personal injury claim all by yourself, make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.
While you can negotiate your own personal injury claim, remember that hiring a personal injury attorney may cost you nothing up front. Experienced Philadelphia personal injury attorneys may offer you a free initial consultation. They may also offer a contingent fee agreement, so you don't have to pay them anything unless you win your case. With so much at stake in a personal injury claim, you should at least consider talking to an attorney before you decide to go it alone.
Self-Representation in a Personal Injury Claim
There are generally two ways that a personal injury claim is handled. The first way is through a settlement. The insurance company and the injured individual may agree on terms and an amount to settle the claim. The other way is through filing a lawsuit. After filing a lawsuit, the defendants and plaintiff may still settle the case. However, if they can't reach a settlement agreement, the case will go to trial for a jury to decide who is liable for the injury.
Some people decide to try and handle their personal injury claim on their own. They may contact the insurance company, trying to obtain a fair settlement. If they agree to an offer, the insurance company will have them sign a release, which basically says the injured party is waiving their rights to sue. However, before you sign any waiver of your legal rights, you should consider talking to an attorney, so that you know what rights you are giving up.
When thinking about what amount of money would be adequate, make sure you consider all the ways an injury affects your life. An injury consists of more than just your medical bills. Compensatory damages in a personal injury lawsuit are intended to put you in the same position you would have been but-for the injury. This includes the economic costs of an injury, such as your medical treatment, lost wages, and future medical bills. However, it can also include noneconomic damages including pain and suffering, loss of consortium, loss of support, and more. Noneconomic damages can greatly increase the amount of your personal injury claim, and should not be ignored when negotiating a settlement.
Remember that the insurance company negotiates claim settlements for a living. They understand how to negotiate to get a better deal for the company, even if it means less money for you. Their claims representatives and lawyers may also try and get you to say something that they may later use against you. If you decide not to hire an attorney to represent you, you need to be very careful about what you say to the insurance company.
Small Claims Court
If an individual wants to handle their own legal claim, they can file a lawsuit as a pro se litigant. This means that they are representing their interests without a lawyer. The civil courts do allow people to represent themselves; however, they also require pro se litigants to understand court rules and requirements. Failure to follow the rules may result in their case getting dismissed.
If the injury case involves only a small amount of damages, an individual may decide to pursue their case through small claims court. In Philadelphia, the Municipal Court Civil Division has jurisdiction for civil cases involving an amount in controversy of $12,000 or less. However, many personal injury cases have damages which will greatly exceed the $12,000 limit for small claims.
Before taking your case to court, remember that the defendant and insurance company may have their own teams of attorneys to respond to your claim. They won't go easy on you just because you are representing yourself pro se. It is only fair that you have an experienced attorney working for you to deal with the insurance company and their lawyers.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys
At Gilman & Bedigian we have been handling Philadelphia personal injury cases for years. Our attorneys have extensive experience in all sorts of cases, from car accidents to class action lawsuits against large multinational corporations. Having an attorney on your side can help you navigate the complicated legal system and fight for your rights for you so you can focus on recovery. If you negotiate your own case, you may be limiting your own recovery, and risk getting nothing at all for your injuries. If you are considering filing a lawsuit for injuries you or a loved one suffered, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.