Not every personal injury claim will require a lawyer. For example, suppose you get into a relatively minor accident, and it’s clear the other party was at fault. Then, it may be possible to handle your personal injury claim without hiring an attorney.
Of course, there are some scenarios where you would be better off with legal counsel. However, just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. While it can be more economical to negotiate your personal injury settlement independently, you lose the opportunity for an attorney to negotiate a much higher settlement on your behalf.
Read on to learn tips on handling your personal injury case. You’ll learn how to determine the value of damages, how to establish liability, prepare the demand letter, and more.
Contact a Denver personal injury lawyer if you are unsure about your case. We will review your case for free and help determine if you need legal representation.
When To Consider Self-Representation
Representing yourself in a personal injury claim after an accident is possible. However, it might be challenging and confusing if you don’t have any experience whatsoever in legal matters.
Still, it’s possible to negotiate your own settlement and walk away with a satisfactory result. Likewise, you could have a successful claim if you are prepared to stand up for yourself and push through when the claims process gets complicated.
There are two crucial factors to assess when considering self-representation.
The Nature and Extent of Your Injuries
Let’s say you slip and fall in a public store and sustain injuries. The store may not put up much of a fight. Instead, they might offer you a reasonable settlement to cover medical bills. They may even provide extra compensation for your inconveniences. If you find the settlement fair and accept it, everyone wins and walks away happy.
But, let’s say you were involved in a serious car accident and sustained severe injuries. Then, you had extensive medical treatment and couldn’t return to work from the accident injuries. On top of that, you experienced post-traumatic stress and physical and emotional pain and suffering. In that case, you would undoubtedly be better off consulting with an experienced Denver car accident attorney.
When you have substantial losses or damages in a personal injury case, the stakes are increased for all parties. You probably want fair compensation for your losses; more significant damages usually equate to a higher settlement. The stakes are also higher for insurance companies. Their goal is usually to resolve the case as fast as possible and pay victims as little as possible.
An attorney would be able to help you deal with insurance companies. Sometimes the back and forth negotiation process can become hostile. Therefore, having an experienced legal professional handle those communications on your behalf will save you from frustration.
Can You Prove the Other Party Was at Fault?
The other party will often deny responsibility or even blame you for the accident. However, eye-witnesses who can testify on your behalf can be valuable evidence to support your claim. Such evidence will make it easier for you to establish the other party’s liability.
Again, you can expect more of a fight from the other party or parties if you have more severe injuries. This is especially true if it is even slightly unclear that the defendant is entirely responsible for causing the accident.
In fact, they may even point the finger back at you and assert that you were negligent and either caused or contributed to the accident. Again, in that situation, it may be worthwhile to hire legal representation. The exasperation you may experience from trying to represent yourself may outweigh the cost of hiring an experienced lawyer.
Important First Steps & Tips
Before sending a demand letter to the other party’s insurance company, you should take some preparatory steps. Before sending a demand letter, you’ll need to:
- Gather evidence
- Take pictures of the damage to your vehicle and any other personal property.
- Take pictures of the accident scene.
- Take pictures of your injuries.
- Obtain a copy of the official police accident report
- Seek medical attention and any necessary treatment as soon as possible.
- If you have personal injury protection with your insurance company, use that to cover any initial medical bills. Additionally, use your health insurance if applicable. Be sure to keep strict documentation of all medical records and statements.
- Refrain from providing a recorded statement to the other side’s insurance company.
- Pay attention to the statute of limitations. You have a time limit in Colorado to file a personal injury claim. If you do not take action within the statute of limitations, you might forfeit your right to recover damages.
- Avoid using social media and do not share any details about the accident. This information can inadvertently hurt your claim later. The other party may take what you’ve posted and present it out of context to damage your case. As a result, that could compromise your chance of winning a fair and full settlement.
Estimating Your Damages
In personal injury cases, there are two main categories of damages:
- Economic damages – are those which can be precisely calculated. These are also called special damages.
- Non-economic damages – are damages that do not have a price tag. Often these types of damages are referred to as general damages.
Special Damages or Damages Capable of Exact Calculation
Special damages are called economic damages because they have a fixed value. Therefore, you need to keep records of all your damage expenses to calculate special damages. Examples of special damages include:
- Property damage or any costs to fix or repair your property after the accident
- Lost earnings
- Lost earning capacity
- Medical bills
- Other financial losses as a result of the accident
Medical bills and property damage are pretty straightforward. It’s easier to calculate the exact amount you paid for a doctor’s visit, a neck brace, and a new bumper. However, it can be a bit more complex to calculate lost earnings.
Lost earning refers to the amount of money you lost as a result of accident injuries. In addition, lost earnings entail lost earning capacity. How much do you stand to lose in the future because of the accident injuries?
So how do you calculate lost earnings? Let’s say your annual income is $60,000. Then, you were disabled and unable to work for one year from a car accident injury. In addition, you now have permanent disabilities that only allow you to return to work part-time. As a result, your earnings are reduced to $30,000 a year.
That would mean your lost earnings are $60,000 from the year you were unable to work. Additionally, your lost earning capacity is $30,000 per year for the rest of your life expectancy.
Work-life expectancy is based on federal government statistics and measures how many more years a person is reasonably expected to work. The expectancy depends on your age and other life factors. Once you have a work-life expectancy, you can calculate your lost earning capacity. You would do so by multiplying $30,000 by the number of years left in your work life expectancy.
Future lost earning capacity involves calculating losses that can extend for years. Consequently, it’s generally calculated in terms of its present value.
Present value is a financial concept that involves determining the value of future income. It’s like calculating all of your weekly paychecks in the future into one lump sum. For example, how much money would your employer need to pay your salary for the next twenty years?
While present value is a complex financial situation, a skilled attorney can help you determine this value.
Problems in Calculating Lost Earnings and Lost Earning Capacity
The most common problems that often arise with lost earnings claims are:
- You were not working when the accident occurred, and you sustained injuries
- You planned to start a new job with higher pay at the time of the accident
- You are self-employed
If you are unemployed at the time of the accident, you may be able to claim your earning capacity from your previous job. However, if you have not worked for a few years, the defense attorney might argue that you have no earning capacity. Moreover, they would assert that you have no basis for earning capacity claims. While it will be hard to rebuttal this argument, a lawyer can help. With strong legal representation on your side, you will have legal professionals to help formulate your lost earnings claim and valuation.
Yet, another scenario is when you are retired and therefore have no lost earnings claim.
If you sustained injuries before the accident but could not start the new job, you can claim that higher income as your earning capacity.
What about if you are self-employed? In that case, the other party’s legal team would carefully examine your business or tax records. They would look for documents to support your lost earnings claim. Generally speaking, whether information on file with governmental tax returns regarding your income is the same information you should provide to the defense attorney or jury.
Non-Economic Damages or Damages Not Capable of Exact Calculation
Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and the actual physical suffering you endure from your injuries. There is no set equation for determining pain and suffering settlement value. They are often more complex to evaluate since they don’t have concrete price tags.
How to Value Pain and Suffering in Trying to Settle Your Case
So, how exactly do you determine the value of your pain and suffering? Lawyers sometimes use a multiplier in personal injury cases. Additionally, insurance companies may also use some algorithm or formula to calculate pain and suffering to some multiple of your special damages.
While it may work in some cases, others require more custom-tailored investigating and valuation. Juries do not use multipliers when they are in the deliberation room. Other factors that could affect the outcome of your case include:
- The nature and extent of your injuries
- Did the jury empathize with you? Or do they think you lied?
- How did the jury feel about the defendant?
- Does the jury believe any of the defendant’s witnesses lied?
- Do you have a past criminal record?
- Are your injuries easy for the jury to understand?
- Are you presenting soft medical bills? (i.e., the majority of your medical costs are from physical therapy and chiropractic treatment rather than doctors or hospital visits)
Sending Your Demand Letter
In the typical timeline of a personal injury claim, a demand letter is an onset for serious settlement negotiations. A demand letter is an official letter requesting money, possession of assets, or action on a legal matter. Therefore, it should be well crafted and strongly worded.
The main components of a demand letter include:
- An Introduction
- An objective, factual background statement about the incident
- Liability statement
- Description of damages
- A Formal demand
- Documentation of all evidence
Demand letters are not the first line of notice. Usually, you send one if you are still unsatisfied after remediation attempts with insurance companies. In addition, they are ty[ically only sent after conducting a thorough investigation. You will need evidence to back your claims regarding the circumstances of the accident. In addition, you need to prove the extent of your losses and any future medical care of anticipated lost income.
It’s best to send a demand letter only after you’ve conducted a detailed look at the impact of your injury on all aspects of your life. Then, you need to do a reasonable valuation for your injury claim. This is critical in the demand letter because you will provide detail to the insurance company about:
- Exactly how and why the insurance carrier or other party is liable for your injuries
- The nature and extent of your injuries and any relevant medical treatment
- All financial losses related to the accident and your injures
- Any other damages and losses you’ve incurred, like pain and suffering
Drafting and creating a demand letter can be a formidable task. If you are unsure or have doubts about your ability to write a compelling and thorough demand letter, hire a lawyer. A skilled Denver car accident attorney can help you navigate the complexities and legal issues related to the demand letter.
Countering and Accepting a Settlement
Always remember that the insurance adjuster will probably offer a lowball settlement. However, you can always negotiate the offer. If your demand letter is on the high side, this will give you more room to negotiate late.
Consider the Counter-Offer and Decide to Accept or Deny
Once you receive a counter-offer, you need to decide if you want to accept it or not. If you genuinely feel like the offer is a fair amount, you may accept it and sign a release. However, if you think the insurance company has made a shoddy counter-offer, you can file a personal injury lawsuit.
You Want a Fair Settlement, Not a Windfall
If you feel the insurance company offers an unfair settlement, you may want to proceed to court. In that case, hiring an experienced Denver car accident attorney with trial experience would be best.
However, bear in mind that there is a risk of going to court. A jury may decide that the defendant doesn’t owe you anything. However, if you settle out of court, you could receive compensation faster and avoid court and litigation costs.
Consult With an Experienced Denver Personal Injury Attorney
For many personal injury victims, hiring an attorney can seem unsettling. As a result, they may choose to go it alone rather than making a financial and emotional commitment to an attorney. In addition, while Colorado law allows you to act as your own representative in a court case, most experienced personal injury lawyers will advise against it.
In addition to the legwork that goes into building a case, you will also need to deal with insurers and the other party’s attorneys. Consequently, you’ll need to put forth considerable time and effort to win the fair compensation you deserve. Furthermore, legal duties can compromise the time you dedicate to healing and recovery if you are suffering from injuries.
We are experienced personal injury lawyers with the knowledge, experience, and resources to win your case. You can save yourself loads of frustration by letting us handle legal proceedings on your behalf. Additionally, you will be able to focus on your recovery rather than getting tangled up in complex legal battles.
If you are unsure about your case or have any questions, call us today at 720-500-HURT.
You won’t pay anything upfront as we offer a free initial consultation. Contact us today to schedule a case review. We can help you determine whether hiring legal representation is in your best interest.