Should You Represent Yourself in a Personal Injury Case?

Representing yourself in court is called “pro se” – Latin for “for yourself.” If you are a personal injury attorney, you may be able to successfully represent yourself in a personal injury case. Short of that, the advantages of having an expert lawyer on your side far outweigh any perceived benefits of going on your own. 

Why people may want to go pro se

Why do people sometimes want to represent themselves? Sometimes they perceive that hiring an attorney will be expensive. This is not true, since most attorneys, including our law office, work on contingency fees, meaning there is no upfront payment. 

Some believe they will keep all the money for themselves by representing themselves. However, people who represent themselves receive much smaller awards, even as much as three times less compensation than those with attorneys, even after subtracting the attorney fees. That is if they even make it to court or settlement. For example, in a hypothetical situation of two similar injury cases in which one has a lawyer and the other does not, the injured person who has a lawyer might walk away with $100,000 after attorney fees while the one who represented himself may receive $30,000 to keep all to himself – again, if the case even gets to settlement or court.

Reasons why having an attorney is important

There are several reasons why it is better to engage an experienced attorney than to represent yourself: knowledge, experience navigating the system, the availability of resources, and the ability to negotiate or play hardball.

  • Knowledge: An experienced lawyer knows the law and knows how insurance companies work. We spend years learning our trade and are required to constantly remain abreast of any changes in the law. To serve our clients well, we continually research the law so that we’re prepared to help our clients increase their settlements or court awards. We understand how insurance companies try to manipulate injured parties to intimidate them into taking the lowest possible settlement or even denying their claims entirely. Remember, insurance companies want to keep the money they have been paid by their clients. They will do everything legal (whether it’s ethical or not) to try to avoid paying it out. It’s my job to stand by your side and demand the best possible payment for your pain and suffering.
  • Navigating the system: Unfortunately, many pro se plaintiffs fail to even be heard in court or they have their claims denied because they make mistakes. Insurance companies have confusing policies that you could accidentally violate, voiding your claim. If you try to file in court, the procedure is even more complicated, and since court cases can go on for some time, you may miss a deadline or a court date and your case may be dismissed due to procedural error or you may receive a summary judgment against you – which means you lose because you did not adequately state a legal cause, missed a deadline, or failed in some other formality.
  • Resources: Presenting a powerful case requires an investigative team to comb through evidence and find hidden details and nuances that can strengthen your case. It also requires expert witnesses in a variety of disciplines. Expert witnesses can also help determine the likely long-term impact of your injuries in order to properly calculate the real costs of the accident, something most people are not capable of accurately calculating. This leads pro se plaintiffs to undervalue the worth of their case and settle for much less.
  • Negotiation: With many years of experience negotiating with insurance companies, I know their strategies and I come to the table ready to counter their attempts to undermine our case. This is the reason for engaging the services of expert witnesses and investigators. When we come to the table armed with significant evidence of negligence and injury caused by that negligence, insurance companies are much more willing to negotiate. They know that juries are often sympathetic to injured people. However, they will usually still try a low offer first. Negotiating and rejecting the first offer almost always leads to a higher settlement. Threatening a lawsuit or filing a lawsuit can even double the payout. But this must be handled carefully, and they have to know that the lawyer has a history of significant payouts in court. If you represent yourself, you are not much of a threat to an insurance company, since they know that, chances are, you will make mistakes and lose the case. 

As a personal injury attorney and resident of Florida, I hate to see Floridians with legitimate claims lose their opportunity to be appropriately compensated for their injuries, loss of income, and pain and suffering. I believe in “fighting for the rights of the little guy” against the highly lucrative businesses, insurance companies, and medical institutions that have the financial resources to squash your efforts to recover damages due to negligent behavior or faulty products. Please contact me at (954) 448-7288 from anywhere in Florida, 24/7 for a free consultation to see how I can help you.

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