Car Accident Lawyer:Do I Need to Hire One or Can I Settle Myself ?

This may come as surprise but in fender bender car accidents, you often do not need a car accident lawyer to represent you. However, it is important that you are educated about the claims process and to understand the pros and cons of attempting settle a claim yourself, and those types of claim which require a personal injury lawyer.

There are four major factors that I consider important, they are:

1. Did you suffer injury?

If you suffered a serious personal injury such as facial injuries, broken bones or back injuries (i.e. herniated disk) you should seek the advice of a personal injury lawyer. You likely have a permanent injury that will likely affect you for the rest of your life, you have a potentially large claim and should hire a personal injury attorney to present you in your car collision claim.

If you suffered significant soft tissue injuries for which you feel you need medical attention for you should at least consult and probably hire a personal injury lawyer.

If you suffered no injuries or just a few aches and pain you may wish to consult with a car accident lawyer / personal injury attorney, consultations are free and you can educate yourself on your rights.

Based upon my experience generally speaking the larger a claimant’s case for injuries the stronger the insurance carrier fights the claim.

2. Who is at fault for the car crash? Is fault contested in your matter or does insurance carrier for the other driver accept fault / responsibility for the car accident?

Where fault for a car accident is contested, you must prove that the other driver was negligent and caused the accident. If you cannot carry your burden of proof you will lose and will not be entitled to recover your damages. If your only damage is property damage and you have collision coverage your own insurance company will take care of the loss and you will only be responsible for your deductible.

However, if you suffered injuries and there is a dispute over fault then there is too much at stake for you to try and handle the matter on your own, you need a automobile accident lawyer’s help.

3. How much is your claim worth?

You might feel confident settling your own claim if you have minor injuries and minor out-of-pocket expenses. Perhaps you have a few hundred dollars for medical expenses and some loss of income. Perhaps under those circumstance you would feel a $1,000 or $2,000 is a reasonable settlement.

However if you suffered injuries and incurred medical expenses of a few thousand dollars and suffered loss of income then you probably not want to handle your own claim.

Ultimately you have to decide at what level your case is too big to handle yourself, and your personal comfort level may be higher or lower than these figures.

However, keep in mind that when you are trying to settle your own car collision claim with an insurance company you are at distinct disadvantage. The carrier and its agents have experience and will likely take advantage of your ignorance.

4. Do you really want to handle your car collision claim yourself?

If you are going to handle your claim yourself you will need to educate yourself that will probably take a good 10 to 20 hours learning how to settle car accident claims. There are many “self help” books available and you should read at least one before you take any steps toward evaluating your claim. Then you must present your claim to the insurance company a well drafted letter covering all aspects of your claim should take a couple of hours to prepare. Then you will need to negotiate with the insurance company which can be a frustrating and nearly endless process depending upon the issues involved. If you cannot settle your case then you need to file a lawsuit. Depending upon the size of your claim small claims court may be appropriate.. Keep in mind that representing yourself in a personal injury claim in the Superior Court of California is not easy and one generally needs a lawyer who knows how to litigate a case. Keep in mind that you have represented yourself many lawyers will decline your matter because you have “poisoned the well.”

While not always true the proverb is based on the opinion, probably first expressed by a lawyer, that self-representation in court is likely to end badly. As with many proverbs, it is difficult to determine a precise origin but this expression first began appearing in print in the early 19th century. Henry Kett (1814) an eminent lawyer of the period observed “I hestitate not to pronounce, that every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.” Abraham Lincoln has been credited with stating “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Keep the foregoing in mind when choosing to represent yourself.

In automobile crash claims there are many claims you can handle yourself if you learn how, but it would be foolish to handle large claims yourself. You should hire a personal injury lawyer if you suffered injuries that is.

In my practice I have handled hundreds of car accidents. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, please contact me, Richard M. Katz, Esq. at 626-796-6333 so that my office can help protect you or your loved ones legal rights. Visit us at our website

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