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Can I Sue for Personal Injury Without a Lawyer?

personal injury on the construction job

For some people, the idea of hiring an attorney sounds expensive…and in some cases, unnecessary. After all, we live in a time when DIY and self-help is getting easier for a lot of things. Online legal forms can replace the need to involve a professional in things like establishing and registering a business, writing a will or trust, appointing a power of attorney, or even filing a divorce petition. 

personal injury on the construction job Image by Nes by Getty on Canva.com

But how easy is it to represent yourself in more complicated legal matters? Everyone has the right to file a lawsuit, but it is not always best to do so without the knowledge and experience of a personal injury lawyer. Trying to sue for personal injury without help is a gamble, especially when a case could be worth a lot of money. When the stakes are high, as they are with personal injury cases, an attorney can help increase the chances of a successful outcome.

Do You Have to Sue for Personal Injury Compensation?

People deserve compensation for personal injuries caused by the carelessness or negligence of someone else. They could be hurt in a car, truck, or motorcycle accident, suffer a dog bite, or slip and fall in a public place. Fair and full compensation means reimbursement of all medical bills and lost wages, as well as a dollar value placed on pain and suffering.  

It is important to understand the difference between seeking compensation for personal injuries and filing a lawsuit. Most cases (roughly 95%) end with the victim accepting a settlement offer from the defendant’s insurance company. A lawsuit is only filed if the two sides can not come to an agreement on a fair amount of money to compensate for the personal injury.

Handling a Personal Injury Case By Yourself

A victim might have confidence that they can deal directly with an insurance company on their own, especially for minor injuries in a simple fender bender. While it is possible to try this, they likely will not get the amount they ask for. Insurance companies have one goal: To pay out as little as possible. Most individuals do not have the experience to anticipate, let alone fight against the company’s tactics.

It is even more important to get the help of a personal injury attorney if the case goes to trial. Even though a case has only a 5% chance of progressing to the point of filing a lawsuit, the pressure on an injured party trying to do it themselves is multiplied. So is the time, energy, and knowledge of the law and legal proceedings needed to file all of the correct forms with the court and prepare a case for trial. Imagine standing up in court to present evidence or answering the other side’s lawyers without the advice of a professional. And don’t forget—all of this is happening while the victim is recovering from what could be very substantial injuries. 

victim of an accident wondering if he should sue without a personal injury Image by Andrey Popov by Canva.com

Personal Injury Cases in New Mexico

Filing one’s own personal injury lawsuit is rare in New Mexico, as in most states. Pro se litigants (Latin for “on one’s own behalf”) can refer to the Judicial Branch of New Mexico for guidance. Most people find the process overwhelming, which is why hiring an attorney is preferable. Especially in a case that can be worth tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, the chances of making a mistake are simply too great. 

Even before a case gets to this point, dealing with insurance companies is stressful with so much money on the line. Attorneys provide important services to their clients without even needing to set foot in a courtroom. The following tasks are necessary for getting a fair settlement from an insurance company or winning a case in court:

  • Gathering evidence. Personal injury lawyers know what evidence is important and how to get it. They will gather police reports, medical records, and witness statements. In some cases, like slip and falls, surveillance video might be helpful, but businesses will be unlikely to hand it over to just anyone.
  • Establishing proof of liability. Attorneys understand what will sway an insurance company or jury when it comes to proving who is at fault. A personal injury attorney can defend their client against an insurance company trying to blame them from the accident. New Mexico is a comparative fault state, so if a victim is partly responsible for an incident, their damages are reduced by that percentage. If they are partially liable, the attorney will make sure the percentage is fair.
  • Calculating what a case is worth. Lawyers know how to gather current costs as well as determine future costs after an accident. For example, a victim might need ongoing treatment for their injuries. They also know how to work with government statistics regarding life expectancy to calculate lost earning capacity for those who will never be able to work again.
  • Placing a value on pain and suffering. The more serious an accident, the more likely it is to cause non-economic damages like pain, suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment in life, among other emotional and psychological issues. Deciding a dollar amount to ask for and backing it up with documentation is a particular skill of personal injury lawyers. 
  • Filing appropriate paperwork. Suing for personal injury comes with a lot of administrative tasks. The staff at law firms that handle personal injuries know how and where to file all of the necessary forms and documents like demand letters. They will pay special attention to the statutes of limitations to make sure everything is handled in a timely manner.
  • Negotiating on your behalf. The bigger the case, the harder an insurance company or a defendant’s attorney will fight. Having a personal injury lawyer provides a buffer who can handle the tough negotiating that it takes to win a fair settlement.
  • Advising on settlement offers. Attorneys will not coerce their clients into accepting or rejecting a settlement. They can, however, provide expert advice to decide if an offer is reasonable or if it makes sense to hold out for more. 
  • Have a network of experts. Sometimes, an expert witness or specialist’s professional opinion can help make a case for the victim. Lawyers can find the appropriate people to call on as witnesses at trial.
  • Representing you in court. The most important thing a lawyer can do if you sue for personal injury is stand by your side during the trial. They can speak for you when necessary and will explain things in ways you can understand. 

While an individual can try to do many of these things, certain tasks are better left to professionals. 

Is Suing Without an Attorney Worth It?

Deciding to sue for personal injury without a personal injury lawyer is risky. There is no guarantee that going head-to-head with an insurance company will result in the amount of compensation that a victim is hoping for. And if the case goes to trial, the outcome is even more uncertain. Without proper preparation and understanding of the process, a judge or jury could rule against a victim and award them nothing at all. 

A victim’s priority should be resting, healing, and getting back to a normal daily routine. A personal injury attorney like Kane Personal Injury has one job—to get full and fair compensation for our clients. There is no need to go it alone. 

Please note that this article was created for advertisement purposes, and it does not constitute any contractual legal relationship, nor imply one.