As an individual, you are entitled to bring suit against any party under any circumstances outlined by civil statutes. You can also choose to do so without an attorney. The legal term for this is pro se, which is Latin for “for self.”
Lawyers rarely make absolute statements, but we are fairly confident in saying no attorney will ever advise you to sue an insurance company without a lawyer. The courts will not be able to assist you or give any legal advice; only a competent attorney can give you legal advice.
The rest of this post expands on what pro se representation entails, and why working with an attorney is a better option. We cannot stress enough that this is not a substitute for legal advice, and your chances of success are far higher when you work with a car accident lawyer.
What Pro Se Representation Entails
Reading and Research
Practicing law requires a lot of reading and research. No amount of independent research will equal a car accident lawyer’s legal training or practice, but many relevant regulations can be reviewed online. N.J.A.C. Title 11, Chapter 17B outlines Insurance Producer Standards of Conduct.
Insurees can also opt for a limited or unlimited right to sue, which determines whether someone can seek compensation for pain and suffering, or only economic damages including medical bills and loss of income. Insurance companies and their representatives cannot be held responsible for which coverage options an insured selects, except when they fail to act in accordance with the law, per N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.9.
Building, Legal Representation
You’ll need to obtain all of your medical records to show that the accident caused your injury, not something else. You may also need to obtain security footage, witness statements, or other evidence. You will then need to file your complaint with the court, and continue managing your case on an ongoing basis. All of these things are costly: not just economically- although they can easily total thousands of dollars- but also to your time, which could otherwise be directed toward healing.
If you do decide to sue an insurance company without a lawyer, you’ll have to negotiate with an experienced legal defense attorney. In an ideal world, insurance companies truly would be looking out for you. However, we’ve dealt with them too often to know that this isn’t the case. In the past, insurance companies have baselessly denied legitimate claims. They’ve also made insultingly lowball offers to people representing themselves– one client had obtained a $25,000 offer negotiating for himself, but after retaining us, the insurance company settled for more than 12 times more than what they offered him. A car accident lawyer is far better positioned to negotiate the settlement you deserve.
What’s the Fastest, Easiest Way to Pursue a Claim?
If that sounds like an arduous process, then we’ve represented it accurately. It takes years of intensive study to learn the law: most attorneys pursue higher education for at least seven years. Some undergo additional training as a clerk for a judge, or take other internships. All licensed attorneys have passed their state’s bar exam, a notoriously difficult test of legal knowledge, analytical thinking, and writing aptitude.
Obtaining a Juris Doctor degree and passing the bar are tough– they’re also the bare minimum requirements to practice law and call oneself a lawyer. Insurance company lawyers will have both of these advantages, and will usually also have years of practice representing the company’s best interest. It’s a tall order to go up against all of that yourself.
The good news is you don’t have to.
Some people who opt to represent themselves pro se believe they can’t afford an attorney. However, most personal injury attorneys operate on a contingency fee basis, which means they only get paid when they win a case or receive a settlement on their clients’ behalf. They often advance all the costs of your case: it’s expensive to obtain your medical records, pay court fees, and in some cases obtain the testimony of a medical expert witness.
Your only concern should be recovering from your injuries and moving on with your life.
If your circumstances mean it’s necessary to sue an insurance company, you deserve the best possible chance at success. Contact a skilled attorney to represent you.