If you were injured because of another individual’s negligence, you are well within your rights to file a compensation claim. You may wonder if you are able to sue for a personal injury without a lawyer? Legally, yes. You can represent yourself, but that comes with a lot of work that could be lifted off your shoulders by hiring a lawyer.
To get a better understanding of how personal injury lawsuits work, this article will explain what you should know if you decide to be your own representation, compared to what a lawyer can do to secure compensation.
Serious Injuries That Qualify for a Personal Injury Claim
Sustaining an injury in an accident is not enough to entitle you to compensation in New York. You may only sue for damages if you meet the threshold of a “serious injury,” as defined by New York Consolidated Laws: Insurance (ISL) §5102(d). Examples of a serious injury include:
- Severe scarring or disfigurement
- Loss of a limb, organ, or other important bodily function
- Loss of use of a limb, organ, or other important bodily function
You may still qualify for compensation if you have not sustained any of these specific injuries. However, it is your responsibility to prove that your damages meet the threshold of a serious injury. Medical documentation of your wounds and how they progressed during the healing process can help your case.
Compensation You May Be Eligible to Receive for Your Damages
Compensation is money awarded to accident victims as restitution for injuries or any money lost due to the accident. Without a lawyer, it is up to you to convince an insurance company, or a jury, that you deserve the compensation you are demanding. The money you can recover is generally divided into three groups:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
- Punitive damages
Economic damages cover the costs that have a direct and easily identifiable monetary value. The purpose of compensation for economic damages is to directly replace the money that was lost or will be lost in the future. Common economic damages can include:
- Medical expenses: This can also apply to ongoing medical care for your injuries.
- Lost income: You stopped going to work for a while because of your injuries.
- Lost earning potential: You can not return to work or can only return in a diminished capacity.
- Property damage: Your vehicle or other personal property was damaged or destroyed in the incident.
- Other expenses: Any other out-of-pocket expenses that you incurred because your injuries prevented you from regular activities, such as childcare or housekeeping.
Non-economic damages are far more difficult to quantify. Appropriate compensation for these costs is tough to measure because the losses are priceless. Because of this, non-economic damages generally make up the largest portion of a compensation package. Common non-economic damages may include:
- Pain and suffering: Your injuries caused you physical and emotional distress.
- Disfigurement or scarring: Your appearance has been permanently altered in some way because of your injuries.
- Loss of consortium: Your injuries negatively impacted your ability to have an intimate relationship with your spouse.
Unlike the above damages, punitive damages are not meant as compensation for the victim for any loss they have suffered. Instead, these damages are designed to punish the responsible party. Punitive damages are only awarded when the actions of the liable party are deemed to have been particularly egregious.
Understanding Contributory Negligence
If you are partially responsible for the accident, under New York Civil Practice Law & Rules §1411, you are still eligible to receive compensation because of the state’s contributory negligence law. However, the greater your share of responsibility, the less money you may receive. And without a lawyer, you might end up taking more than your fair share of the blame.
What a New York Personal Injury Lawyer Can Do For You
By hiring an experienced New York personal injury law firm with a history of getting positive results, you can take the pressure off yourself and focus on recovering from your accident in peace. Some additional tasks an attorney can help you with include:
- Collecting evidence: Your lawyer can comb through all available evidence, including medical records and police reports, to substantiate your claims.
- Defining the damages for which you qualify: An attorney will verify that you ask for appropriate dollar amounts and that you do not forget to ask for money you are entitled to collect.
- Filing your lawsuit: Your lawyer can take care of the paperwork and communications associated with your case.
- Meeting with the insurance company: Your lawyer can advise you on how to approach a settlement offer from an insurance company. They can also walk you through what other legal measures to take if an agreement cannot be reached.
- Representing you in court: If you do not settle your case, your lawyer may take your case to court and schedule a trial.
The Cost of Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney
If you have financial concerns about hiring a personal injury lawyer, many law firms work on a contingency fee basis. These firms only collect their fees if you win compensation. This payment structure means that anyone can get experienced legal representation at no risk in a personal injury claim.
On average, those who hire a personal injury lawyer tend to receive far more money once the case has settled than those who attempt to represent themselves. Even after a lawyer has deducted their fee from the compensation pack, the amount a client is left with tends to be significantly larger.
A contingency fee pay structure can give injury victims the peace of mind that their attorney will do everything within their power to ensure a victory. Since the attorney’s fee is a percentage of the final settlement, you can also feel assured that your lawyer will work to get you as much money as possible.
While it might seem that you’re saving money by going into a personal injury case without a lawyer, your chances of obtaining a settlement or award are far greater with one.
Common Mistakes Accident Victims Make Without an Attorney
Without years of experience handling personal injury claims and being in a legal setting, it is common to make mistakes. There are frequent errors victims make in handling their accident claims without a lawyer. These mistakes can easily damage their chances of receiving a settlement.
Giving a Recorded Statement
Most insurance claims adjusters tell victims that they need a recorded statement before making a settlement offer. Insurance adjusters will use anything you say to deny your claim, or they use the information to cross-examine you at trial.
Your Settlement Demand Is Too Much or Too Little
While asking for too little means you are not taking full advantage of collecting compensation, demanding too much in recovery could also have drawbacks. If your demand is beyond what the case is worth, you are showing that you do not fully understand the value of your case.
Accepting the Insurance Company’s Final Offer
Insurance lawyers for personal injury cases want to pay you as little as possible and often present their proposal as a final offer. People representing themselves typically do not have any experience leveraging for a higher amount. Many victims take the first offer and walk away. Always keep asking for more money.
Ignoring Time Limits to File Their Personal Injury Claim
There is a state-imposed time limit on filing legal claims for each type of accident. Under New York’s statute of limitations, you have to file your claim within three years after the accident. However, in some cases, this timeframe can be much shorter. Not understanding these special situations can make you miss out on your opportunity to file altogether.
Not Including All Your Damages From the Accident
Make sure you know what New York state law prescribes for damages and make a claim for every dollar. You do not want to leave money on the table because that settlement has the power to change your future.
Get Some Extra Help From a Personal Injury Lawyer
Although you are legally permitted to file a claim on your own, you should not have to face any legal battle by yourself without a lawyer. Morelli Law Firm is committed to assisting accident victims with their lawsuits. Call our office or fill out our online form to schedule a free case review. We charge you no attorney’s fees until we help you win compensation.