Caution: TV Law and Real Law Are Not the Same
After years of watching legal and courtroom dramas on television and in movies, many people think they can handle their own personal injury case without hiring a personal injury attorney. It may sound enticing to represent yourself in a court of law but there are many risks involved.
While the law allows you to represent yourself in legal proceedings, avoid adding insult to injury. TV drama and the real world are very different. Odds are you do not know how the system works, and TV is not going to deal with the fine points of law. You wouldn’t perform a medical procedure you saw on TV, so why would you think you knew the ins and outs of the legal system?
Here are four reasons to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to represent your interests if you are injured due to someone else’s negligence.
Knowing how the system works
As with anything in life, there is a process in place and certain rules that must be followed when pursuing a claim for personal injury. Failing to understand and to follow the rules can result in dismissal of your claim regardless of whether you are right or wrong.
The law allows you to represent yourself in a legal proceeding but also requires that you be bound by the same rules of procedure and evidence as that of a licensed, practicing attorney. A judge will not give you leeway in presenting evidence or witnesses, or give you extra time to properly explain your claim simply because you did not know the rules.
The defendant will likely hire an experienced attorney who knows these rules and will try to take advantage of those who do not. You can level the playing field by hiring a personal injury attorney to represent your interests. An experienced personal injury attorney can properly evaluate your claim and protect your interests during the claims and litigation process.
Properly preserving evidence and anticipating defenses
Big corporations and insurance companies defend millions of claims every year. Their attorneys will always present some kind of defense even against what appears to be an “open and shut” case. Knowing the rules of evidence and rules of procedure are crucial to a successful outcome in your case.
For example, the law creates a statute of limitations that outlines a specific time limit in which you must file a formal claim in a court of law or forever be barred from pursuing a claim. And once your claim is filed, there are specific procedures that must followed and deadlines to file evidence, or important facts and information may be excluded from your claim or worse, your claim dismissed. You may need to hire an expert witness but how do you know whom to hire or who would be a good witness on your behalf?
An experienced personal injury attorney who knows the law can objectively evaluate your case, determine all elements of damage for which you should be compensated and get the most out of your claim.
Choosing the best court in which to try your case
How do you decide where to file your claim? You may have options in choosing between state and federal court, or in a different county or state. Some places are historically more or less conservative than others in awarding money damages. It’s important to know the best venue and jurisdiction in which to pursue your claim to maximize the value of your claim.
Similarly, a defense attorney may try to move a case to a different jurisdiction more favorable to their point of view and less likely to award you money damages for your injuries, loss of income, pain and suffering and occupational disability. An experienced personal injury attorney knows what jurisdictions are more favorable, and how to prevent defendants from changing jurisdictions.
Settling your case for its maximum value
Settling too soon may result in less money and may leave you exposed. Insurance adjusters may seem helpful, but they are not your advocates. Their job is to settle your claim as quickly as possible for as little as possible. Before you sign any settlement release, you must fully understand what claims you are releasing and against whom. Does the settlement truly cover all elements of damage?
A settlement must compensate you not only for your injuries and any expenses incurred because of those injuries such as medical bills, property damage and lost time from work, but must also include compensation for any long-term consequences from your injury including future medical expenses, future pain and suffering, and permanent impairment of your ability to work and earn money. All of these factors are elements of damage for which you can be compensated if you are injured due to someone else’s negligence.
It is also important to know if there are any outstanding liens that must be paid out of any settlement you receive. Health insurance carriers and workers’ compensation carriers will pursue reimbursement for any claims paid on your behalf. A personal injury lawyer can have more success in negotiating a reduction in these liens and thereby maximize your settlement because of prior experience with and a long-standing relationship with insurance carriers and medical providers.
Do not deprive yourself of the value and expertise an experienced attorney can provide simply because of cost. It may end up costing you more in the end without representation. At the Becker Law Office, we only get paid if we win or settle your case. We’ve been representing injured people in this community for 30 years and are here to answer any questions you have and to help you get the compensation you deserve.