Why It’s Not a Good Idea to Represent Yourself in a South Carolina Car Accident Case

Dirk J. Derrick
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South Carolina Lawyer Dirk Derrick helps victims recover from car accidents, personal injury & wrongful death.

Charleston Car Accident Lawyer Derrick Law FirmNot every car accident requires an attorney. If, for example, you’ve done minor damage to your car by backing into a tree, no other vehicle or pedestrian is involved, you’re not hurt, and you have insurance, you can probably handle things by yourself. On the other hand, the DIY approach is not the best choice if you’ve been injured in an accident due to the negligence of another driver. 

Reasons Not to Represent Yourself in a South Carolina Car Accident Case

South Carolina law allows you to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company for your medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. However, there are several reasons why you’re much more likely to get the compensation you deserve with the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer. 

Reason #1: You Don’t Know How to Get the Evidence You Need 

The burden of gathering simple evidence like medical bills, wage statements, and accident reports is heavy enough if you are injured, hospitalized, and/or trying to recover from your accident. Different kinds of evidence might also be required, depending on the nature of your wreck:

  • Photos of your vehicle and the accident scene
  • Witnesses’ affidavits
  • Expert testimony
  • The at-fault driver’s driving record
  • Independent investigation reports

A car accident attorney knows how to collect all necessary evidence thoroughly and efficiently—taking the burden off your shoulders while you’re recovering.

Reason #2: You Can’t Put a Dollar Amount on Your Damages

In order to demand and receive fair compensation, you not only need to add up your medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. You also need to put a dollar amount on your:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life and daily activities
  • Psychological/emotional trauma

An attorney will be familiar with the complex formulas used to calculate these amounts so that you can seek the award you need and deserve.

Reason #3: An Attorney Is Skilled in the Art of Negotiation

The defendant’s insurance company will have insurance adjusters and lawyers whose job it is to deny or devalue your claim and offer you the lowest possible settlement. This is their job, and they are very good at it. Negotiating with them to get a fair award takes training and experience, as well as information about a variety of factors, such as:

  • Settlements and awards for past cases similar to yours
  • The defendant’s insurance policy limits
  • Whether there is more than one possible defendant
  • Your chances of winning at trial

An attorney has access to all this information, some of which can be gotten only with a court order.

Reason #4: An Attorney Understands Lawsuits and the Statute of Limitations

If the at-fault driver’s insurance company disputes your claim or offers you an unfairly low award, you may have to file a lawsuit and go to court. If you don’t have an attorney, you probably won’t know how to file the suit or how to proceed at trial. 

A personal injury lawyer will know how to do all these things and be sure you file in the time allowed by the statute of limitations. This is generally three years but can be shorter depending on various circumstances such as:

  • An accident that occurred on or damaged public property
  • An accident in which someone died, leading to a wrongful death claim
  • An accident that involved a minor

Your lawyer will know about all the exceptions and be sure you take the proper actions within the allowed time limits.

Reason #5: You Probably Won’t Save Any Money by Representing Yourself

In fact, you might lose some. Although it seems reasonable that you will end up with more money if you don’t have to pay an attorney, it’s important to remember that most law firms will offer you a free consultation to evaluate your case. If the firm chooses to represent you, it will probably do so on a contingency fee basis, which means that you pay no attorney fees unless or until your case is won. There is generally no up-front cost for retaining a personal injury attorney. 

The firm will take a percentage of your award if you win, probably something in the neighborhood of one-third of the settlement, depending on various factors. Your attorney, however, is very likely to get you a larger settlement than you can get by yourself, so you stand to be better off financially, even after you pay your lawyer, than you would be without one.

Law firms usually take cases they believe they can win, and working for a percentage of your settlement gives your attorney an incentive to fight for the highest award possible. If for any reason you do not win, you do not pay any attorney fees.

In addition to attorney fees, there are sometimes other costs involved in handling your case:

  • Investigations
  • Expert testimony
  • Postage
  • Mileage
  • Filing fees and other court costs

If you represent yourself, you’ll have to pay all these costs upfront, whereas your attorney might absorb these costs for you and take them, along with attorney fees, from your final award. 

Reason #6: Your Lawyer Might Be Able to Save You Money After You Win 

Once your case is won, doctors, hospitals, health insurance companies, and others might have claims against your settlement for bills that you owe and any interest or late penalties. Most personal injury lawyers also know how to obtain reductions on past-due medical bills and health care liens, so that you pay out less money from a larger award than you would without legal representation.  

Have You Been Injured in a Car Crash in North Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, or Anywhere in the Greater Charleston area? 

Take the first step toward fair compensation by consulting an experienced car accident attorney. Please contact us online, start a chat, or call our Charleston office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Horry County and surrounding areas, so we’re sure to have an office near you.