If you are injured by an individual’s reckless or negligent behavior, filing a lawsuit will enable you to seek compensation for your medical expenses. Once you decide to file a personal injury claim, you’ll have to determine if you will file the claim or hire a personal injury attorney. Discussing your situation with a personal injury attorney in the Houston or San Antonio area will allow you to make the best decision for your case.
Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney in Order to File a Personal Injury Claim?
If you are a citizen of the United States, you have the legal right to file a lawsuit and represent yourself in court. Using this right is referred to as proceeding Attorney Pro Se, which stems from the Latin phrase meaning “on one’s own behalf.” When you act as Attorney Pro Se, you will be held to the same standards as a professional lawyer. Additionally, you will be expected to know all the rules and regulations that apply to your case.
To successfully pursue your claim, you will need to have a solid understanding of legal proceedings. Personal injury cases are complicated and require legal knowledge to complete successfully. It is common for individuals who handle their own claims to end up with settlements that do not cover the cost of their medical bills.
Keep Court in Mind
Many individuals overlook the fact that their claim could end up in court. For example, the at-fault party’s insurance company could refuse to offer you a reasonable settlement for your injuries or assert you contributed to the accident and attempt to avoid compensating you at all. In either case, you would have to convince a judge or jury of the validity of your claim to secure the compensation you need.
As most people are not familiar with the legal system, they will have difficulty representing themselves effectively in court. Typically victims who represent themselves in personal injury cases receive significantly smaller settlements than those who have a personal injury attorney manage their case.
Put Your Health First
It’s essential to remember that managing your claim will require enormous work. You’ll need to file the appropriate paperwork, collect medical records and witness statements, and negotiate with the insurance company. While all those tasks would be draining under the best circumstances, completing them while recovering from an injury will leave you exhausted and could compromise your body’s ability to heal.
Common Mistakes Victims Make Without a Personal Injury Attorney
Proving the Insurer With a Recorded Statement
If you choose not to hire a personal injury attorney, you will be responsible for handling all the interactions with the at-fault party’s insurer. When insurance companies learn that you are not working with an attorney, they will attempt to manipulate you. For example, the insurer may contact you and claim they need a recorded statement before making a settlement offer. Then the insurer will use this recording to justify denying your claim or blame you for the accident.
Asking for an Inappropriate Settlement Amount
Assessing how much money you should request is a challenging aspect of filing a personal injury claim. When you ask for too much money, the insurance company will quickly see that you are inexperienced and don’t understand your case’s value. However, asking for too low a sum will cause you to miss out on potential compensation.
When you work with a personal injury attorney, they will gather all your medical bills and missed wage statements and consider the pain and suffering you experienced. Then, they will add these values together to decide how much money to request in your lawsuit.
Steps for Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Consulting a Personal Injury Attorney
Before you commit to working with a personal injury attorney, you’ll have a consultation where you explain the details of your case to them. Bring any documents you have relating to your injuries, such as X-rays, police reports, and medical bills to allow the attorney to gauge if you have a valid claim. If the attorney is willing to take your case, and you want their representation, you will sign a contract stating the terms of your working relationship.
Your personal injury attorney will want to begin investigating your claim right away. They will be interviewing witnesses and collecting accident reports and security footage. This data will help them determine who is liable for the accident and prove that the other party is responsible for your injuries. In addition, if the insurance company tries to deny your claim, you’ll need evidence to verify that the accident occurred the way you said it did.
Every personal injury case involves damages, which are losses you experienced because of the incident. Your personal injury attorney will need to document the damages you’ve incurred so that they can request the appropriate amount of compensation.
Filing Your Lawsuit
Before filing the lawsuit, your personal injury attorney will contact the at-fault party, also referred to as the defendant, and their insurance company. The insurance company and your attorney will attempt to reach an agreeable settlement for both parties. If a settlement amount is agreed upon during this phase, you will not need to go to court.
The case will need to go to trial if the at-fault party and your attorney cannot reach an agreement. Once your personal injury attorney has filed a summons against the at-fault party, the lawsuit will have begun, and the defendant will have to respond to this formal complaint.
During the discovery process, both sides will share information. By exchanging evidence, both sides will have the facts they need to form their argument. It also ensures that each party is aware of the information the other has and can prepare how to best address it in court. This portion of the lawsuit can last for months, depending on the case’s complexity.
Texas requires the majority of civil cases to complete a mediation session before going to trial. A mediator will meet with the defendant, victim, and both parties’ legal representation in an attempt to bring both sides to an agreeable decision. The mediator can facilitate compromise but cannot provide legal advice or declare who is at fault.
After both parties become aware of all the evidence surrounding the case, one side may be more willing to settle. For example, if the at-fault party sees that you have irrefutable proof that they are responsible for your injuries, they may decide to agree to your requested settlement amount. When one side believes they will not fare well in court, they will often agree to the opposing side’s settlement request, or accept their offer, to avoid going through with the trial.
For situations where mediation was ineffective, and a settlement could not be reached, going to trial is the final option. Personal injury trials will occur before a judge or jury, depending on the parties’ request.
Both sides will present their arguments at the hearing, and then the judge or jury will determine which party is at fault. If the case is decided in your favor, the judge or jury will determine the amount of compensation you receive.
Contact a Houston or San Antonio Personal Injury Attorney Regarding Your Claim
Before you decide whether you should tackle your claim alone, consider scheduling a consultation with a personal injury attorney to discuss your case. Speaking with a professional will give you insight into your case’s strength and ensure you understand the challenge you are undertaking by deciding to represent yourself.
Filing a personal injury claim is an involved process best left to a skilled attorney. You’re entitled to fair compensation for your injuries, and working with a personal injury attorney in San Antonio or Houston will improve your chances of reaching a successful settlement. Contact the Gamez Law Firm for a free consultation, and let us handle your legal needs.