I am seeing a trend that I thought I should write about. Over the last few weeks, we’ve received calls from people who are trying to represent themselves in personal injury cases. They call for advice and, sadly, most have learned from us that they should have found a good personal injury lawyer instead, as they have already done things that will limit the amount of money they can get from their case. Of course, that means their ability to receive proper medical attention or to recover personal property is limited.
It’s awful to tell people that their own attempts to advocate for themselves have ended up harming their case permanently.
Interestingly, a high percentage of these people are Millennials. I had to look up the characteristics of this generation to better understand why so many of them would opt to represent themselves in personal injury cases, instead of searching online for a good personal injury lawyer. I found exactly what I needed on WhatIs.com:
“Millennials grew up in an electronics-filled and increasingly online and socially-networked world. They are the generation that has received the most marketing attention. As the most ethnically diverse generation, Millennials tend to be tolerant of difference. Having been raised under the mantra “follow your dreams” and being told they were special, they tend to be confident. While largely a positive trait, the Millennial generation’s confidence has been argued to spill over into the realms of entitlement and narcissism. They are often seen as slightly more optimistic about the future of America than other generations — despite the fact that they are the first generation since the Silent Generation that is expected to be less economically successful than their parents.”
Lack of Trust vs. a Good Personal Injury Lawyer
I also read: “As of 2012, only 19 percent of Millennials said that, generally, others can be trusted.” The way I see it, the combination of their tech-savvy and their lack of trust may drive Millennials to believe two things: 1) All the information that they need to represent their own legal case must be on the Internet and, 2) Personal injury attorneys are just out to get their money.
I understand their feelings on a superficial level. I really do. First of all, you can find literally anything on the Internet, right? And there are a lot of untrustworthy personal injury attorneys out there. But, as the old adage goes, nothing beats 20+ years of experience (versus articles on the Internet), and a trustworthy personal injury lawyer can actually help you to make more money in the end than if you did it yourself, even with their fees removed.
Here are just a few questions to help you determine if you should handle your own case after a car accident or motorcycle accident:
- Did you know that there are many “pots” where you could access money beyond the other driver’s insurance company?
- Do you know the nuances behind MedPay?
- Do you know how to enact subrogation?
- How might you access funds from your own insurance company, even though you didn’t cause the accident?
- Did you know that you can use the amount that hospitals bill (which is usually much higher than what you paid) in determining the value of your case?
- Do you know how to challenge hospitals and other medical companies to bring down the amount you owe, thereby adding more money from the settlement to your pocket?
- Do you have time to do this right?
These are just a few of the many, many, many things that a good personal injury lawyer knows that you will probably never be able to learn for your case, which is also entirely unique from any case that you might read about on the Internet.
Costly Mistakes of DIY Personal Injury
The worst mistake I’ve seen was a person who was handling her own case and she asked for too little money from the other driver’s insurance company. She did a lot of things right, to her credit, but she didn’t know what her case was worth. How could she? She had no context for determining the value. I understand why a person would try to avoid attorneys’ fees. It might feel like money out of your own pocket. However, what if you ask for $5,000 for your case and a seasoned attorney would have asked for (and gotten) $25,000? In the end, even with attorney’s fees, you would have come out far ahead of where you landed by representing yourself.
Also, keep in mind that a good personal injury lawyer might spend a lot of money on your case without making anything until the settlement. If you need expert witnesses or a forensic analysis of the accident scene, those people and skills require payment before your case is settled. Do you have the resources to spend money fighting for your case without any income from it?
I understand the temptation to represent yourself, particularly if your case seems “cut and dry.” But I strongly encourage you to speak to a personal injury attorney before making the decision to do it on your own. That conversation may convince you that the cost, effort and results are better handled by a professional.
By the way, insurance companies love it when people represent themselves. That should tell you all you need to know.
If you have any questions about this article, please contact me at (303) 388-5304.