Four risks of representing yourself during a personal injury case

People who handle personal injury claims alone may fail to meet legal criteria, miss out on recompense, make strategic errors and present weak claims.

Suffering a serious personal injury can be physically, emotionally and financially devastating. Fortunately, West Virginia law gives the victims of wrongful injuries the right to seek compensation to address these various damages. Securing this recompense is a critical concern for most injury victims, yet many may consider handling the legal process alone. Regrettably, though, this choice can put victims at risk for serious and entirely unnecessary complications.

1. Missed legal requirements

Errors during the personal injury claim process can delay the progression of a case or even preclude a person from seeking recourse. For example, in West Virginia, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims that are brought by adults is two years. Absent extenuating circumstances, such as personal incapacitation, claims cannot be made after this point.

Many individuals may not be aware of these requirements or the unique standards that certain types of personal injury claims, such as medical malpractice claims, must meet. Unfortunately, misunderstandings or oversights do not excuse a person from responsibility for filing a claim in a timely and correct manner.

2. Lost compensation

People who handle the claim process alone may also lose out on some of the compensation that they are legally entitled to. This can happen for the following reasons:

  • Victims may not adequately document the other party's role in the injury. In West Virginia, any compensation awarded to a personal injury victim is reduced by the amount of fault that is attributed to him or her.
  • Injury survivors may fail to seek all available damages. For example, some people might not be aware that they can request "non-economic" damages for their pain and suffering.
  • Victims may not accurately account for the short- and long-term costs of their injuries. An injury can result in ongoing medical expenses, lost wages and reduced earning power, but victims may inadvertently overlook some of these costs.

The risk of these errors may be especially high for people who are dealing with physically or mentally debilitating injuries.

3. Unsuitable legal strategy

Without qualified advice, it may be difficult for injury victims to settle on an appropriate legal strategy. Assessing whether a settlement offer is reasonable and advisable to accept, for example, may be challenging for someone who lacks experience in personal injury claims. Unfortunately, once a person accepts an offer, he or she loses the right to request changes or additional compensation later.

4. Unconvincing case

Putting together a compelling claim may also be more difficult for self-representing individuals. Besides lacking necessary legal knowledge, these adults may not know how to gather evidence and provide documentation to support a claim. Some people may also lack the persuasive writing and speaking skills needed to present a strong case.

For these reasons, most injury victims should strongly consider consulting with a lawyer before beginning the claim process alone. Our attorneys can help a person understand the relevant laws, the legal process and the unique challenges that the case may present.