If you find yourself needing to take your insurance claim to court, it is important to decide whether you wish to hire a personal injury attorney or to represent yourself, which is known as pro se. No two personal injury claims and car accidents are exactly alike, so one person may find self-representation to be perfectly viable but another may find themselves overwhelmed and unable to properly advocate their case. There are several different factors at play that need to be taken into account when making your final decision. Here are some of the considerations that should be made.
The most straightforward type of personal injury case is one in which liability is clear and the only matter in dispute is the amount of money you will receive. These cases do not usually require hiring an attorney but you may consider consulting one if you have questions about the settlement terms. In situations where liability is disputed, however, an attorney may be more advisable. This is especially true if you were engaged in less-than-perfect driving behavior at the time or in scenarios like accidents at intersections where the actions of both drivers may be called into question. Other factors that can affect the complexity of the case include:
In these and other matters, the defendant (the insurance company) will likely try and argue that your injuries would not be as bad were it not for your own actions, which reduces their liability. An attorney can help challenge these assertions.
Personal injury cases may involve what are known as “non-pecuniary damages”, usually claimed under categories like “pain and suffering” and are meant to compensate the injured party for less tangible matters than, say, loss of income from being unable to work. Ontario has a mandatory deductible in non-pecuniary damages for motor vehicle accidents that means you won't see a dime if the amount awarded is below a certain threshold. At the time of this writing, the deductible was at $36,540. The deductible needs to be taken into account when deciding to use a personal injury attorney, especially if your candidate charges a fee rather than a percentage of awards.
Even seemingly open-and-shut cases can take multiple court dates to resolve. If you are representing yourself, then you are obligated to appear for all of them. Doing so can end up requiring a significant chunk of time, energy, and travel costs that you may not be in a position to shoulder. This is not counting other efforts you might need to undertake to support your case, like retrieving police reports and medical records, finding and speaking to witnesses, or attending depositions. If you find that you cannot successfully navigate and manage these duties on your own, a personal injury attorney is likely the best option.
Who you are making a claim against can sometimes affect how the proceedings will play out. This distinction is most likely to arise if you are filing a claim against a government entity or someone who was acting in an official capacity at the time of the accident—like if you were hit by a police car running a red light during a chase. Proceedings against the government sometimes carry different rules and deadlines than those against civilians and mixing the two up can hurt your case. Personal injury attorneys are experienced in the nuances of the court system and will be able to better handle the changes.