If you’ve been injured in an accident, often the first thing friends and family will advise is to get a lawyer and sue. However, most personal injury claims are settled without going to court, and if yours is a simple case, you may not even need a lawyer.
For complex accidents or severe, life-altering injuries, a lawyer can help ensure you receive fair compensation. For straightforward claims, though, you can follow the same procedure a lawyer would and avoid the legal fees. While a lawyer might get you a 25% larger settlement, the fee is usually a percentage of that settlement, sometimes as much as 40%. Simple math suggests you would do better on your own.
Consider representing yourself in the following types of cases:
- Simple vehicle crash (automobile, motorcycle, or even bicycle)
- Slip and fall accidents
- Animal bites
- Defective product injuries
- Any other accident where your injuries are simple to define and fault is obvious
First Steps in an Injury Claim
If you do choose to represent yourself, the first thing you will need to do is gather all the information that a lawyer would ask for. This includes:
- Police report and information on any tickets issued
- Photos of the accident scene
- Name and contact information for any witnesses
- Witness statements
- Photos of your injuries
- Medical records and bills
- Paystubs to prove amount of wages lost
This information will help you show who was at fault and determine how much your claim is worth.
The Injury Claim Process
Once you’ve gathered all your documentation, you will determine the value of your case, notify the insurance company of your demands, and then convince the insurance adjuster that your claim has merit and warrants the settlement you have requested.
You do not need to understand legal terms. Adjusters do not speak legalese. They base their decisions on the facts of the case, including who did what and how badly you were injured.
After you calculate what you believe to be a fair value for your case, you will send a demand letter to the insurance company. This letter will describe the accident, your injuries and any damages, including medical costs and lost wages. It will also explain why the other person is responsible and end with a demand for a specific dollar amount.
An adjuster will contact you after reviewing your demand letter, and you will begin the negotiation process. This will be a back and forth series of conversations or letters in which each side presents arguments in their favor, but also gives a little leeway on the settlement value. The goal is to reach a mutually acceptable settlement.
Finally, you will confirm the agreement in writing, the company will send you a check, and your case will be complete. As long as you have put a reasonable value on your case, the entire process should be simple enough for you to handle yourself.