If you were injured due to somebody else’s negligence in California, you have the right to seek compensation through a personal injury claim. However, you may wonder whether you need to hire an attorney to get compensation.
While it is possible to pursue a claim on your own, it’s important to consider how hiring a lawyer affects the outcome of your claim and your potential settlement. Learn if you can file a personal injury claim without a lawyer and the effect filing without legal representation may have on your case.
Steps for Filing a Personal Injury Claim
You can file a personal injury case without legal assistance in California. If you choose to proceed with your claim without an attorney, you will need to gather evidence, estimate your damages, file the claim, and negotiate with the insurance company for a settlement. You can review resources from the California Department of Insurance to help you start the process.
You must gather evidence to support your personal injury claim when filing independently. You’ll need to show a few elements to win compensation, including:
- The other person acted negligently
- Their negligence led to the accident
- You sustain injuries due to the accident
- The economic and non-economic damages you suffered due to your injuries
Evidence you can gather to prove these elements includes medical records, police reports, eyewitness statements, property repair bills, W2s, and any other documentation related to the accident or injury.
Calculate Your Damages
To file your claim, you need to calculate the full extent of your damages. This can include medical expenses for treatment and rehabilitation, lost wages, and the cost of adapting your home for a disability.
If you choose to pursue compensation for non-economic losses, like pain and suffering, you must also calculate the cost of such losses. Non-economic losses are typically calculated by multiplying your tangible costs by a number between 1 and 5, depending on their severity.
Send a Demand Letter and File Your Claim
After gathering your evidence and estimating damages, you can file your claim with the negligent party’s insurance company. You will do this by sending a demand letter, a document that lays out your evidence and asks for a specific settlement amount.
Your demand letter should contain the following to start your case:
- Discussion of liability for the incident
- Description of the accident
- Details describing your injuries and property damage
- List of evidence, including medical bills and income statements
- The final settlement demand
Negotiate Your Settlement
In most cases, the insurance company will not agree with the initial settlement amount in the demand letter. Instead, they will likely offer you a much smaller amount, which may not be enough to cover your damages. If you don’t accept their offer, you’ll have to negotiate a fair settlement based on the evidence of your case.
The insurer will do everything possible to pay you less than you deserve. This may include using statements you’ve made against you, downplaying the severity of your injuries, or pressuring you into accepting their lowball settlement.
File a Lawsuit
If you cannot settle with the insurance company, you may need to file a lawsuit to seek compensation. You must file paperwork with the court, pay a filing fee, and adhere to deadlines or requirements.
If your case goes to trial, you’ll need to present your evidence and make your case in front of a judge or jury. The judge or jury will listen to both parties involved in the case and decide in one party’s favor.
Challenges of Filing Without an Attorney
Although it’s possible to file a legal claim and negotiate a settlement without an attorney, you may face several challenges when representing yourself. Many of these obstacles to fair compensation are due to the complexity surrounding personal injury accidents like car collisions, slip-and-fall incidents, and construction accidents.
Complex Legal Process
Many rules and procedures apply to personal injury cases, and they vary depending on the type of personal injury you suffered and the circumstances. For example, proving negligence for a car accident claim may require phone or GPS records, whereas a slip-and-fall might require camera footage or witness statements of the hazard.
Without a lawyer to guide you through the legal process and advise you of your rights, you may not know what steps to take when filing or how to protect yourself during the claim. This could significantly lower your final settlement or cause you to lose your case.
Limited Negotiation Skills
Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and they’ll often try to minimize the amount of money they have to pay out on a claim. They often use loopholes or technicalities to reduce your settlement amount. If you’re not experienced in negotiating, you may have difficulty getting a fair settlement from the insurance company.
Difficulty Proving Your Case
To succeed with a personal injury claim, you’ll need to prove that someone else’s negligence caused your injury. However, depending on the circumstances of your injury, you may have limited to no evidence that the other party was negligent or responsible for your damages. While a lawyer knows where they can obtain evidence, most injury victims do not.
Some evidence may also be difficult to access on your own. For example, if a business’s security cameras capture your injury, the business is not obligated to provide you with the security footage. Without an attorney, you may be unable to obtain this footage for your case.
Benefits to Working with a Skilled Lawyer
When filing a personal injury claim, a skilled lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system and ensure that your rights are protected.
A personal injury attorney understands the legal process and can warn you against actions that could jeopardize your claim. They can advise you of your legal options for your specific case, help you gather evidence, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
If your case goes to trial and you must present your case to a judge or jury, a lawyer can represent you in court and put forth the most persuasive case possible. Your lawyer will also have access to resources that can strengthen your case, like testimony from medical professionals.
Contact The Shirvanian Law Firm for a Free Consultation
If you are considering filing a personal injury claim in California, schedule a free consultation with The Shirvanian Law Firm. We specialize in helping injury victims get the compensation they deserve and work on contingency, so you will owe no fees unless we settle your claim or win a verdict in court.
Contact us today to take the first step toward getting the justice and restitution you’re owed.