Should you ever represent yourself in court? Most lawyers will tell you no, and for good reason. The law has a language and a set of rules all its own, and it's difficult, if not impossible, for a layperson to learn them quickly enough and well enough to effectively represent themselves. But not every car accident case goes to court, and there may be times when you can handle a settlement on your own. Take a look at a few signs that you may be able to handle your car accident case yourself.
When There's an Admission of Liability
Half the battle is getting the insurance company to agree that you're owed a settlement in the first place. After that, it's just a question of how much. So, if the other driver's insurance company agrees that the other driver was at fault and that they're liable for the damages, you may be able to safely negotiate the settlement yourself.
If the insurance company denies liability, however, you've got a fight on your hands. In that case, you're going to need to prove legally that they are, in fact, liable and do owe you money. You can bet the insurance company will have lawyers ready to argue the reason why they aren't liable, and you will need your own legal expert to make your case.
When You Agree to Alternate Resolution
There are options in-between no negotiation and a full-blown court case. Many states allow and even encourage alternative dispute resolutions like mediation or binding arbitration.
Why is this important? Because when you go to court, you have to know all the legal rules, or you could end up losing out on money that you should be owed, simply because you made a technical legal error. But mediation and arbitration have far fewer technical rules. You will still need to do some research into the best way to negotiate for yourself before taking this route, and you should definitely make sure to read the fine print before agreeing to alternative dispute resolution. Most of the time, you won't have the option to pursue a court case if mediation or arbitration doesn't go your way, and that's a serious thing to consider. However, if you do opt for alternative dispute resolution, you won't necessarily need a lawyer to understand and navigate the rules.
When You Have Limited Damages
Some car accidents are more serious than others. If you come out of a car accident with a crumpled fender, minor scratches and bruises, and a sprained wrist, you may be owed money, but it's not going to be a huge settlement. On the other hand, if your car is totaled and you have broken bones and head trauma, your losses are going to be a lot higher, because your damages are more serious and more permanent.
In the first type of case, the stakes are relatively low, and negotiating for yourself is not a big risk. In certain very minor cases, you may have trouble finding a lawyer to represent you even if you want one, because the claim is so small. In the second type of case, if you negotiate for yourself and lose, the effects of that loss could financially devastate you. If you're going to risk negotiating with an insurance company without legal assistance, you should only risk it when the stakes are low.
Even if you plan to handle your own car accident case, it's not a bad idea to at least consult an attorney first. Many car accident attorneys offer free consultations, so you can check out your legal options without committing to anything. You may be owed more than you think, and an experienced attorney can let you know if you're overlooking any important points. Click here for more information.Share