WHY CAN’T I DIY?
We live in a time where there is a mother lode of information available, where the spirit of DIY seeps into every part of our existence. With nothing more than a mobile phone, you can find out the weather forecast, pay your bills, send a video of the concert you went to, post to Facebook, and text your friend that you’re running late. And that’s just in the 5 minutes you spent waiting for the El.
Many people assume that they should be able do just about anything themselves. Companies exist, and make a huge profit, convincing consumers that they can handle their own legal matters merely by providing documents without the requisite legal knowledge and judgment. For example, many people think by merely forwarding their medical bills to the insurance company after a car crash, they will get a fair settlement. They fail to understand all that goes into evaluation of a personal injury case, or how much of a disadvantage they are in compared to the wealthy and expert insurance company or defense attorney.
There are a plethora of reasons why lawyers have not gone the way of the telegram. Much as you would not want me to tile your floor for you (there are some things I am not good at doing, and that would be one of them); I wouldn’t want you to prepare my tax return for me. That is, unless you were an accountant whom I trusted.
By the same token, handling a personal injury, workers’ compensation, or medical malpractice case is often fatal to the claim. There are several major reasons for this:
- You are going up against an insurance company that has dozens, if not hundreds of years experience doing this. The adjuster handling your claim may have 500 claims or more just like yours on their desk just this year alone.
- Much like YouTube and the Internet, there is a lot of information out there, but a lot of it is either wrong or misleading. There are actual websites to calculate the value of your personal injury case, just as there are all kinds of allegedly simplified but complete estate planning documents available online. But if you don’t know how the insurance company is evaluating your case, then how can you evaluate it yourself? Take damages for example. In Illinois, there are various types of damages available for injured people, such as medical damages, lost income, pain and suffering, and loss of a normal life. Can you quote the types of evidence that the jury is allowed to consider in assessing these categories? Are you aware of how the insurance carriers evaluate various injuries and claims? If not, you have no idea of the value of your injuries nor how to prove your claim’s value.
- It’s personal and you want to talk about it. There are two main things you can do to destroy your personal injury case. One is to provide a statement to the insurance company and another is to get angry when the insurance company challenges your legitimate injuries and their value. Having an advocate on your side who understands the insurance carrier's mindset can aid you immensely and reduce your stress during an already stressful time.
- Unless you went to law school, you do not know how to try your case. Let’s say the insurance company insults you with a low offer. What do you do now? Do you even know how to file a lawsuit that won’t be dismissed as inadequate? Are you aware of the rules of evidence and jury instructions that apply? What are the time limitations within which a lawsuit must be filed? In short, having a lawyer who can and will go to trial means your case becomes more valuable right off the bat. Nothing scares an insurance company like the possibility of getting hit for a large verdict at trial.
- You are busy and you have lots of things to keep track of. Your lawyer can help you organize your bills, follow up on medical treatment, remind you to keep a journal of your difficulties performing different activities, and help you photograph your visible injuries.
We all think we can do whatever we want without having to involve paid professionals. Then again, we are smart enough to recognize that there are tilers, dentists, accountants, and lawyers for a reason.