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Whether you’ve been injured at work, in a car accident, or because of someone else’s negligence, we know that facing a mountain of medical bills and lost income from time off work is the last stressor you need.
Although you’re well aware that having a personal injury attorney on your side is ideal, the reality is that you can’t afford one.
Maybe you even feel like you can handle your personal injury settlement on your own, without a lawyer.
If you’re planning on going this route, you’ll need to do some serious planning and strategizing to win a fair settlement amount.
Read on to learn how to handle an injury claim with no lawyer.
Is Going Without a Lawyer the Right Move?
Deciding whether or not you want to hire an attorney to represent you in a personal injury case isn’t a decision you should make lightly.
In some instances, opting to represent yourself makes sense.
For example, if you have represented yourself before, have legal experience, or weren’t injured seriously, you may be able to properly represent yourself.
If you’re certain that the records and reports clearly show the other party is at fault (or even if they’ve admitted it) you may also be able to avoid hiring an attorney.
However, if fault isn’t clear, of it you have a serious injury, then you really do need a lawyer.
Don’t handle something like a traumatic brain injury lawsuit on your own.
If you’ve decided that you can handle personal injury claims without the help of a legal professional, then keep on reading to learn what to do.
Step One: Gather Documentation
First, you’re going to need to collect all the proper documentation in order to support the claims you plan to make in your case.
This means you’ll need to collect a police report, any photos or videos you took at the accident’s scene or of your personal property/your injuries, and all your medical records from the care you received after the injury.
Make sure you also have copies of all your health insurance information, as well as any bills from your doctor, mental health professional, or health insurance provider.
Ensure that you’ve kept careful track of how much time you’ve missed from work and calculate/estimate your lost wages (known as “special damages.”)
You’ll also need to study up on the statute of limitations surrounding your potential personal injury case according to your state.
Step Two: Draft Your Demand Letter
Once you’ve gathered your evidence and documentation, it’s time for you to start writing your demand letter.
This is the official “beginning” of your personal injury settlement negotiations, so make sure that you understand the full extent of your losses.
So, what kind of information should a successful demand letter contain?
First of all, you should always discuss your injuries and the medical treatment you received. You should also clearly outline why either your insurance company or the person you’re writing to is to be held liable for your injuries.
Next, discuss in detail the financial losses that this injury/accident has caused you. Ensure that these losses are truly a consequence of the injury and not any sort of pre-existing medical condition.
It’s also the place to discuss the amount of pain and suffering you’ve endured, as well as any psychological problems that are a result of the injury.
We know that drafting a demand letter can feel quite intimidating. Check out these examples to get a better idea of how yours should look and what it must include.
Step Three: Receiving and Responding to a Settlement Offer
Once you’ve sent the other party your demand letter, you’ll need to properly evaluate any offers for a settlement amount that you’ve been given.
This final phase is the most difficult one to handle without a lawyer, and it’s not a decision that you should rush into.
Especially if you’re working with your insurance company, you should expect a much lower offer than the one you initially submitted.
Never accept the first offer, no matter how much the company swears that this is the “highest amount possible” — it’s not.
The same goes for the offer from the other responsible party.
If you feel the offer is too low, you can and should make a counter-offer. You may choose to attempt to handle this over the phone, but most elect to send their counter-offer in writing.
Along with the counter offer, send any kind of bills, medical reference letters, and even a letter from your employer explaining lost income.
Then, submit your counter-offer — and expect to have to repeat this process several times before you get a number you’re happy with.
Do You Really Want to Handle a Personal Injury Settlement on Your Own?
We hope this post has helped you to feel a bit more confident about negotiating a personal injury settlement without the help of a legal professional.
However, especially if the offer and counter-offer letters just aren’t going as smoothly as you’d hoped, the best thing may be to make the invest in legal help.
Many personal attorneys will only collect a fee for their services if they’re able to win your case, so you often have nothing to lose.
Looking for advice on what to look for in a great attorney? Need to study up a bit more on state laws regarding personal injury?
Keep reading through our blog to make sure you’re ready for your day in court or in a mediation session.