You have the right to file lawsuits in order to reach a peaceful resolution to disputes and in order to be awarded compensation for your financial losses and, if applicable, medical expenses that were due to another party’s negligence. People can and do represent themselves in court all the time.
You have the right to represent yourself in court, but the bigger question is whether you should? The answer depends a lot on the stakes and the complexity of the legal action you are pursuing. When litigation (lawsuits) and trials are involved, representing yourself is risky, and it is best to hire a professional attorney.
Should You be Your Own Lawyer?
The simpler the legal action, the less risk you take if you choose to represent yourself and not hire a lawyer. Many people represent themselves in small claims court, but these claims, by definition, involve relatively small amounts of money and the issues are generally less complicated. It would not make sense to pay a lawyer’s hourly fee if you are simply trying to recover a $2,000 debt from a roommate who moved out of your apartment a month early and refused to pay her share of the rent for the last month.
Why it is Worthwhile to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer
In personal injury cases, the court will only rule in your favor, and award you monetary damages if you can prove that your injuries are the result of the defendant’s negligence. While you do not have to prove this negligence beyond a reasonable doubt (the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof only applies to criminal cases), you still must present your case adequately and this requires more legal skills than you might expect. You may know that you are required to present evidence to support your claim, but without a lawyer, you may be missing out on some of the strongest evidence and not know it, or, more likely, you may have strong evidence but do not know how to introduce it during a trial.
If you do not hire a lawyer, you run the risk of losing your case or having it dismissed because you were not prepared. Lawyers know which questions to ask, what evidence to introduce, and what arguments to make.
Even if you win, you may not be awarded the amount you are entitled to receive because you were not able to adequately prove your damages or even know what they are. Lastly, a perhaps most importantly, a judge will hold you to the same standards in a courtroom as he or she does with lawyers. By any measure, this can be an intimidating situation.
A Lawyer Can Help Even Before You Set Foot in the Courtroom
Many personal injury cases begin when an insurance company offers an injured person an insufficient settlement amount in relation to the accident that caused the injury. If you sign the settlement offer, you can no longer sue.
Even if you end up accepting the settlement and not suing, you should ask a lawyer first, before you sign away your rights. Even at the stage of reviewing documents, long before you get to the courtroom, you can still benefit from a lawyer’s expertise and years of negotiating with insurance companies Without an attorney, an insurance adjuster knows they have an advantage over you, and you can be certain they will use that to the benefit of the insurance company.
Dealing with the law, lawsuits, and courts are not typically “do-it-yourself” tasks. Much the same way you might entrust the construction of your home to an experienced builder, entrusting a lawyer who is familiar with and knows the “ins” and “outs” of the courtroom and insurance companies will produce the best result.
An experienced lawyer, and particularly a personal injury lawyer, can help you navigate the system and get you the compensation you are entitled to receive.