Top Five Ways People Screw Up When They Try To Handle Their Own Personal Injury Case.

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Top Five Ways People Screw Up When They Try To Handle Their Own Personal Injury Case.

Are you planning to handle your own personal injury case? Attorney Ben Schwartz reveals the top five ways people screw up when they try to handle their own personal injury case.

Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz,

Today we are doing a video called five ways people screw up when they try to handle their own personal injury case. I try to be positive, I try to avoid being negative, but every once in awhile I’ve just got to tell you what I think. We have a lot of people that come to us for personal injury cases; a lot of them are car accident cases. There are a lot of smart and very well educated people in the United States of America. I have to tell you that no matter how smart you are, and no matter how well educated you are, unless you are specifically educated and trained as an attorney handling personal injury cases, and the only way to get this training is on-the-job training unless you know what we know, you are not going to effectively handle a personal injury case in the way that a quality personal injury lawyer would do it.

We have a long stream of clients who’ve come to us over the years, who have given it a good attempt, who have tried their best to handle their own personal injury case. They come to us when the frustration level got too high dealing with the insurance adjuster, or the defense attorney got to be too difficult, or they just realized, God I am in way over my head. I want you to avoid this situation, but I want you to know why I want you to avoid the situation. The reason is that when people try to handle their own case and then they go to an attorney, the attorney has to clean up the mess. So I have been thinking about this. I have done it over and over and over, taking people’s cases after they have tried to handle them themselves. I can give you the top five ways that people mess up their own personal injury cases.

  1. When you have been injured in an accident in Delaware, your auto insurance, your personal injury protection or PIP pays your medical bills. If it runs out, typically your health insurance picks up where your PIP left off. If your health insurance has been paying medical bills due to injuries from your auto accident or injuries from a slip and fall or a dog bite when you get a settlement you probably have an obligation to pay back the health insurer. If it is Medicare or Medicaid, you have a statutory obligation to pay them back. If it is private health insurance, you probably have a contractual subrogation obligation that is written into the health insurance policy that says you pay them back. If you do not pay them back, you may lose your health insurance coverage. What we find is that when people try to handle their own case, they do not pay back the health insurer. They spend their settlement money and then they risk the situation where their health insurer does not want to be their health insurer any longer. This is a major problem because they have got thousands and thousands of dollars of medical bills that need to be paid. What you need is an attorney who handles personal injury cases and who is adept at dealing with health insurers. That attorney will identify the lien that has to be paid back to the health insurer, negotiate the lien to pay back to the health insurer less, to put more money in your pocket.
  2. People blow the statute of limitations. In any personal injury case, you only have a short period of time to file a lawsuit. In addition to the law that gives you a short period of time to file the lawsuit, there may also be a law that requires notice. For example, I had a case not too long ago where a woman slipped and fell on a piece of real estate belonging to the City of Dover, Delaware. The City of Dover, Delaware has a notice provision in its town Charter that says you have to provide written notice to the town within a shorter period of time, I believe it is one year. If you are handling your own case and you do not know about that requirement, and you do not put the defendant on notice of the case, you may ruin the case. You do not want to handle your own case. You do not want to handle your own personal injury matter because not only will you risk blowing the statute of limitations, but there are notice provisions that need to be followed and it is very difficult to know about these things unless you are experienced in handling personal injury cases in your jurisdiction.
  3. You may file what you think is a complaint, but it may not be a complaint. I am in Wilmington, Delaware as I am recording this video. In the State of Delaware, there are specific requirements for what must be in a complaint about the lawsuit complaint to qualify as a complaint. If you file a document with a court and you think it is an appropriate complaint, the statute of limitations runs and the defense attorney files a motion to dismiss, because you have not followed the specific minimum requirements for a negligence complaint in Delaware. It may be too late to do anything about it. You may have ruined your case. You may have tried to do the right thing, and it might only be fair to let you proceed with the case, but fairness and the law do not necessarily mean the same thing and so you can ruin your own case by filing what you think is a complaint, but what turns out not to be a complaint.
  4. You could mess up or ruin your underinsured motorist claim. So here is the concept. You are in an auto accident. You bring a lawsuit, or you bring a claim against the at-fault party. Their insurance company pays you everything available under that insurance policy. They pay you what is called a policy limit settlement. You could go to your own insurance company and get more, which is called an underinsured motorist claim. To do that, if you have a Delaware underinsured motorist policy, you have to follow certain procedures. If you have a Maryland underinsured motorist policy, you have to follow different procedures. It has to be done before you settle with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Unless you are practicing automobile accident personal injury law, you are not really going to ever be able to get yourself familiar with the procedures so that you can be certain that you are taking the right steps to protect your UIM claim. We see people mess up their UIM claims all the time. We see people screw up their UIM claims all the time. If you have had an automobile accident with personal injuries and you are dealing with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, one of the things you need to know is that it may not be the only claim that you are eligible to bring. You may be able to bring additional insurance claims. You need to figure out what those additional insurance claims are. You need to get with an attorney who has experience in this practice area in your jurisdiction who can make sure that everything is done properly to set those claims up so that you do not waive them.
  5. People screw up their personal injury cases because as an individual who does not give opening statements, does not cross-examine witnesses for a living, does not give closing arguments for a living, does not put together jury instructions for a living. As a layperson, as a normal everyday person, it is unlikely that you are going to be able to try the case to a jury the way that a jury trial lawyer would try the case to a jury. The settlement value, in part, is based on how well you would do in a trial. So if the insurance company for the at-fault driver, the insurance company for the at-fault landowner, knows that you are not going to be able to do well at trial, because you are not an experienced trial lawyer, you are driving down the value of your claim. People come to me all the time and they try to handle their own cases and when they get to the endpoint of what they feel they can reasonably do, they come to us. They say to me, “I just got to the end of the road, I cannot do it anymore, I need to hire you.” I say to them, “why did you not come to us right after the accident? Why did you try to handle it yourself?” They tell me, “I do not want to pay 1/3 to an attorney…” They are missing the point. The 1/3 that you are going to pay to an attorney is going to be less than what you are going to net from the settlement that the attorney is able to get for you. In other words, when I handle a case and the client has tried to get a settlement themselves, typically I can get 5 times as much, 10 times as much, sometimes even more for my client in settlement of their claim. When you figure that the difference is that wide, the 1/3 that they are paying me is more than made up for by the fact that I can get much much more in the settlement than the client typically can.

So those are five ways that I see my clients, or people in general, are messing up their personal injury cases. This is really not a practice area where you want to dabble or you want to try and do it yourself. There are practice areas where I think people can, and quite frankly should try to do things themselves. If you have a small claim case in Delaware and you want to sue someone for $500 or $600, that is a perfect example of a case that I think you should try to do yourself. I think people should educate themselves about the legal process. People should get used to involving themselves in the legal process. When you know how to handle small claims yourself, it gives you power as a consumer, and that is a good thing. But, when it is a personal injury case that might be worth tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars, that is absolutely not the type of thing that you should handle yourself. It absolutely is a type of thing where you need to get to a quality attorney who has a lot of experience handling personal injury claims in your jurisdiction.

So there you have it. I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz. I hope that you found this video to be informative and helpful. Hopefully, you have not had an accident. Hopefully, you have not been injured in an accident. I want to put this video out there so that if you come across it on the web and you are looking around trying to figure out what to do, if you can handle your own case, hopefully, you find this video and you realize that this is not something to tinker with. Go to an attorney & get quality representation. Thanks very much for watching. If you have questions for me that I can answer in video format, please send me an email below.

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