Thanks to television sitcoms, comedies, and bad jokes, lawyers have a reputation for lining their own pockets at the expense of those injured in car accidents and other personal injury incidents. It is no wonder, therefore, that the last thing a car crash injury victim would want to do after a car crash is hire an attorney who he or she thinks is going to take his or her hard-earned money and drag a lawsuit out for as long as possible.
You Can Represent Yourself … But Beware of Doing So
The law does not require that you retain the services of a California car crash attorney before filing a claim for compensation: You are entitled to represent yourself. Before you consider foregoing legal representation and handling your case on your own, consider the costs of representing yourself: When you represent yourself in court (called appearing or proceeding pro se), you will be held to the same standards as an attorney would be. This means you will be responsible for meeting statutory deadlines in filing your case and responding to legal motions, completing discovery in a timely manner, and properly presenting your case to the court. The judge, other attorneys involved in your case, nor the clerks or court staff are able to provide you legal advice, tell you what you must do, or assist you in preparing legal filings.
Benefits of Retaining a Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer
Even though you are not required to have the assistance of an attorney to file a car accident lawsuit or pursue your claim for damages in court, this does not mean proceeding without an attorney’s help is a good idea. Before you decide to proceed pro se, consider the advantages of having an experienced California car crash lawsuit attorney represent you:
- Knowledge of the law: It is not enough to simply appear in court and say you were injured in a car crash: the law requires that you prove specific factual propositions (sometimes called “elements”) before you will be able to receive compensation. An experienced car accident lawyer will know these elements and what evidence and/or testimony are necessary to prove them.
- Knowledge of procedural requirements: Not only will your attorney know the substantive law that must be proven, but your attorney will also know the procedures that must be followed to properly present your case. Failing to adhere to some of these procedural requirements (such as the statute of limitations) can cause your lawsuit to be dismissed before it is even heard in court. Once your case is filed, there are additional procedures that must be followed in order to depose witnesses, request evidence from the other party or parties, or bring matters to the attention of the court for resolution.
- Freedom from dealing with insurance companies and other attorneys: In the aftermath of your car crash, you will likely receive telephone calls and requests for statements from insurance adjustors and attorneys representing any other parties involved in the crash. While there are some limitations as to when and how these people may contact you, many victims find dealing with these individuals stressful, especially when the victims are attempting to recover their physical health and strength. An attorney can act as a “shield” for you from adjustors and attorneys so that you are able to focus on your recovery.
There are many other benefits that having legal representation may provide to you. You should not make the decision to represent yourself unless you have spoken with one or more attorneys and carefully considered the benefits and risks of proceeding without counsel.
Conclusion: It Is Better to Hire an Attorney
So while you do not need legal counsel to file a lawsuit or pursue compensation through that lawsuit, in most cases the benefits of having legal counsel far outweigh the drawbacks of retaining an attorney. At the very least, take advantage of the fact that many California car accident attorneys will offer free consultations with you in which they will go over the facts of your case and discuss with you the legal rights and remedies you may have.