I do know there are many people out there who are intelligent, capable, proactive people who may be tempted to handle their personal injury case on their own without the help of an injury lawyer. However, this can be a very tricky, laborious and stressful undertaking. I do NOT recommend it. Seriously, if you think you are going to save money by doing this, I would urge you to reconsider, because any respectable personal injury lawyer should more than earn his or her fee AND take on all the work and stress of handling your bicycle accident, pedestrian accident, motorcycle accident or auto accident case.
Tiny (or non-injury) cases are the exception to the rule:
One exception to the rule of not being your own personal injury lawyer is if you have a tiny case, like no injury or just a very minor injury. In those cases, the injured person can most likely handle it. Let’s say they were in a minor car accident that gave them some pain. The went to their primary care doctor once for a check-up, and then saw the chiropractor three times. They can probably handle that type of simple traffic injury case on their own. It’s a small situation, and they’ll get a few hundred or thousand bucks and move on. However, there are some personal injury attorneys out there who will take on these case.
I don’t do my own taxes:
I similarly note that I am an intelligent, capable human being, yet I don’t do my own taxes. I hire a CPA to do that because I know my CPA can save me a lot more money than if I were just to do it on my own. Again, if my taxes were as simple as entering my W2 into the EZ form, I could handle that on my own, but because I own a business and thing are a little more complicated, I defer to a tax expert.
If you have a serious issue, you need serious help:
When you have a complicated or serious issue (like a serious injury traffic accident) you naturally seek out somebody who has studied and practiced their lifetime doing what it is you need. There’s a big difference between being smart and thinking you can handle something complicated yourself, and being REALLY smart and saying, “Wait. I should hire somebody else – an EXPERT – to handle this.” I love working with this second type of client! They’re very intelligent, they’re capable and they’re communicative, but they understand that a personal injury attorney is an expert at handling personal injury cases.
These clients like to know what’s going on in their cases, and they like to help make some of the decisions in the case, which I enjoy. I think working with clients collaboratively on their cases is just so rewarding for me and empowering for the client. They get to make decisions, but they get to make carefully thought-out, informed decisions with the help of an expert – me.
Don’t mess things up for your personal injury lawyer:
Another reason I don’t recommend that people handle their own serious personal injury case is because they often keep going and going through the process until they realize they’ve sort of messed it up. Or, they hit a wall and come to the realization that “Oops, this is actually way harder than I thought it was going to be, now I’m going to hand it over to a personal injury lawyer.” I (and probably many personal injury attorneys) don’t like to take on these cases, because there are a lot of steps that you need to follow early on in the case to build the strongest case possible and poise yourself for a solid result with the insurance company. Self-represented people usually disclose too much information to the insurance company, say the wrong things, don’t provide the right documentation, get the wrong medical treatment and don’t build the case as powerfully as possible. All things that can be avoided if you have a kick-ass personal injury attorney on your side.
For instance, you want to take photos, gather witness contact information, and you want to preserve evidence. (Not that your injury lawyer will be able to tell you to do this before you get into that accident, but still good to know.) You want to get the right medical care and follow a full checklist of stuff to do to strengthen the case early on. Who wants to be following this “case-building checklist” when they are in pain and trying to make time to see their doctors, spend time with family and get back to work? It’s too much. Too stressful.
Don’t be a “late-bloomer:”
Another reason I often reject these “late-bloomer” cases is because the client failed to follow the appropriate medical and legal steps to build their case from the start and they come to me eight months down the line, or a year after the accident. I have to be “Sorry, you might have already messed this up.” I don’t want to be the bad guy who ends up getting a poor settlement because the work wasn’t done up front. Most of the time I’ll have to let those people find another lawyer who’s more desperate to take that sort of thing. I think sometimes these people think they are going to “save a buck” by not hiring a personal injury attorney, but they end up with way less money and way more stress than if they had just had proper legal representation from the start. If you have questions about a bicycle, pedestrian vs. auto, motorcycle or auto accident case in San Francisco or anywhere in California, submit your case to find out if we can help. Don’t wait another day. The more time that goes by, the more you are jeopardizing your case. I don’t even care if you hire us, just find a cool personal injury attorney that you like and put him or her to work! You’ll be grateful you did. Just make sure you look for a very experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney who has similar values and objectives as you. Check out my video blog series on how to find the right attorney for you for more on how to do this.