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Can I Handle My Own Personal Injury Case Without a Lawyer?

Americans have long prided themselves on being self-sufficient and independent. That attitude may resonate even more strongly in Oregon and across the west, where a DIY mentality has existed for a long time.

But with the advent of the internet and its free-flowing information on virtually any topic, the DIY movement has hit epic proportions. In fact, Inc. magazine cites research predicting that the DIY marketplace will be worth more than $13.9 billion by 2021, with much more growth in the future. People are attracted to DIY projects for many reasons, including stress release, creative expression, and saving money.

So, while it may be worthwhile to take on your own landscaping or remodeling project, what about representing yourself in a lawsuit? In this article, we’ll discuss whether it’s wise to take on a personal injury suit without a lawyer.

Not All Legal Cases Are the Same

First, let’s make it clear that not all legal cases are the same. Certainly, people can, and do, represent themselves with reasonable effectiveness in small matters that have limited consequences.

For example, the cost may not justify an attorney for minor issues in traffic court or small claims court. Some people are able to negotiate effectively with insurance companies when there is slight property damage, no personal injury, and no real concern over a finding of fault. (However, mistakes in even these cases could have grave consequences if any person suffered harm from an accident).

Personal Injury Cases

The stakes are much higher in personal injury cases, and so are the consequences from making a mistake. Insurance companies become involved and will hire lawyers who fight hard to protect the insurance companies’ financial interests.

Thus, it’s not a good idea to try and handle a personal injury case on your own.

We’ll discuss a few of the issues you will face if you decide to represent yourself (referred to as appearing “pro se” in legal terms).

  • Understanding Substantive Law – Do you know when the statute of limitations runs for your case? Is it the same for each cause of action? Is it tolled for some reason? Will you face any comparative negligence issues at trial? Are you up to date on federal and state statutory and regulatory law? Remember, federal laws can apply to certain types of cases, such as interstate trucking and nursing home malpractice cases. And what about insurance contract law? Do you know the legal ramifications related to different types of coverages, such as liability, no-fault, and uninsured motorist provisions? Are you prepared to litigate over a policy dispute?
  • Understanding Procedural Law – Do you know how to file a complaint and conduct discovery? Do you know or can you learn the rules of civil procedure? Will you know how to respond to a motion for summary judgment or a motion to dismiss? These motions are very technical, occur in many personal injury cases, and can result in the loss of the case before ever getting to trial.
  • Handling a Trial – If your case goes to trial, do you know the rules of evidence? You can have a great case but hit a roadblock if you don’t know how to get your evidence introduced in court. Do you know which experts you will need at trial and how to cross-examine the other party’s expert witnesses?
  • Miscellaneous Issues – Do you know whether or not you are required to talk to an insurance adjuster and give a recorded statement? Do you know what to expect if you do? Stating your position incorrectly can lead to disastrous results for your case.

These are just a few considerations that should demonstrate that even the smartest of people should hire a trained and experienced Oregon personal injury attorney before taking on a personal injury lawsuit. It’s just too risky to try and go it alone.

Call with Questions

If you have suffered personal injuries as a result of the negligence of another, we know you will have questions. Please call us and we will answer them for you. And once your questions are answered, if you need help, we’ll be there to help you navigate the complicated world of personal injury litigation. At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, our experienced personal injury lawyers take pride in helping to protect Oregon’s society by ensuring that wrongdoers are held responsible for their actions when they injure others.