Can I Make a Pain and Suffering Claim Without a Lawyer?
Most car accident cases, regardless of attorney representation, are settled through negotiations, before even getting to the trial phase. If you were involved in a minor car accident, you may be able to successfully handle your case without an attorney. However, in order to represent yourself, you should conduct sufficient research and get advice on the best way to proceed with your claim. Read on to discover some basic procedures and tips on how to make a pain and suffering claim without a lawyer.
What Is Pain and Suffering?
Pain and suffering is any mental or physical distress for which you may seek damages in your car accident claim. Pain and suffering damages are based on the type of injury and the seriousness of the pain you suffered. Most states consider pain and suffering damages as a part of noneconomic damages (or also called general damages), which refer to any intangible losses where monetary values are difficult to assign. Unlike economic damages (e.g. medical expenses and lost wages), pain and suffering damages are highly subjective.
Whether to Proceed With or Without an Attorney
Depending on the type of your case, obtaining legal representation may save you time and money. Consider the following factors to determine whether you would need an attorney to represent you or not.
Seriousness of Your Injuries
If you have been involved in a fender bender, an insurance company could offer a settlement without dispute to cover your property damages and medical expenses. However, if you were involved in a more serious accident, involving serious damages like pain and suffering, you would want to at least get a case evaluation by a personal injury lawyer. The more serious your injuries are, the more likely you are to receive an underestimated settlement offer by the insurance company.
Sufficiency of Evidence
You will need evidence, such as witness testimony and supporting documents, to make a successful claim. If there is no evidence of your pain and suffering, the insurance company or the court will assume that you did not suffer such damages. If you're having a hard time obtaining evidence for your case, you should consider getting help from a lawyer.
Proof of the Other Driver's Fault
If you are making a claim against the other driver or his or her insurance company, make sure the other driver was at fault for the accident. As long as it's obvious that the other driver caused the accident, it'll be easy to proceed with your claim without an attorney. However, if there's a dispute about who is at fault, or if the other driver makes a counter-claim, you should seek advice from an experienced attorney to evaluate your case. You don't want to proceed with your claim against the other driver or his or her insurance company until you are sure that the other driver was at fault.
Calculation of Your Pain and Suffering
You need to state a specific amount of pain and suffering damages, even though there's no set equation to calculate this type of damages. Some lawyers use the "multiplier" method to calculate pain and suffering damages. If you're unable to come up with a specific value of your pain and suffering damages, you should contact a personal injury lawyer. Personal injury lawyers are trained to use their professional knowledge and experience to calculate a maximized amount of damages you suffered.
Making a Pain and Suffering Claim on Your Own
In order to make a pain and suffering claim, you will need to send the insurance company a demand letter, which is a summary of your claim and damages. In your demand letter, you should discuss your pain and suffering damages, supported by relevant documents and evidence.
To prove pain and suffering, you must have evidence supporting your claim. You should obtain medical records and police report yourself. If you let the insurance company obtain those documents for you, you are letting them control which documents to consider. The following documents, if available, should be attached to your demand letter:
- Medical records and receipts
- Doctor's note
- Police report
- Witness statements
- Photos of injuries
Statement on Your Pain and Suffering
In your demand letter, you need to state how you came up with the value of your pain and suffering damages. You can do this by explaining how your pain and suffering impacted your daily activities since the car accident. Consider the following factors in your discussion of pain and suffering: severity of your injury, location and nature of any scarring or disfigurement, recovery time needed, potential for ongoing consequences, amount claimed in special damages, socio-economic factors, and your state's damages cap.
Get a Free Claim Evaluation
You should carefully consider the above factors when deciding whether to proceed with or without legal representation. Although you may think you can save attorney fees by handling the case on your own, an experienced personal injury lawyer will likely be able to maximize the amount of damages you can recover. Even if you've decided to proceed with your claim on your own, you should still consider getting a free claim evaluation from a car accident attorney to make sure you are on the right track with your claim.