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Martindale-Nolo Research recently published a survey of people who had been involved in a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Pro se litigants were successful 51% of the time—as opposed to 91% with representation—and received $60,000 less in compensation on average. Hiring a personal injury lawyer is very beneficial, but those who choose to represent themselves can take steps to put themselves in a better position to succeed.
There are four key components of a personal injury claim that you have to prove. You must demonstrate that the at-fault party had a legal obligation—or what is called a duty of care. Another driver, for instance, is responsible to you to operate a vehicle in a safe manner. You must prove that the at-fault party was negligent and that the negligence was the proximate cause of your damages. Finally, you must show that those damages are measurable, such as medical bills or lost wages.
All states require that you file a civil lawsuit within a certain period of time. New Jersey provides injured persons a two-year window in which to file a personal injury lawsuit. The clock begins the day the injury occurred. It is possible to toll—or pause—the statute of limitations, but this is the exception and not the rule, and most lawsuits filed after the statute of limitations are refused by the court.
It is imperative that you gather any evidence as soon as possible. This includes physical evidence, photographs, video, eyewitness testimonies, official documents, and so forth. The longer you wait, the more difficult evidence is to acquire and, potentially, the less valuable it is.
If you begin preparing your personal injury lawsuit immediately, then you have a considerable amount of time in which to proceed. Avoid the tendency to feel hurried. Wanting to be done with it is a position by you that could put an insurance company at an advantage. Be mindful that at any point in this process, you can stop representing yourself and hire a personal injury lawyer instead.
While you should not be quick to accept the first offer, you also should not reject a reasonable one. If you are prepared and present your evidence, an insurance company will usually make a reasonable settlement offer. If you reject it and go to court, there is no guarantee that you will get as much.
Negotiations may stall. Despite all your efforts, you may find yourself with an insurance adjuster, for instance, who simply chooses not to negotiate with you in good faith because you are not represented by counsel. In a scenario like this, it is probably in your best interests to hire an attorney to assist you.
A preponderance of the evidence is the standard by which you fulfill the burden of proof mentioned earlier. Collect evidence as soon as possible, but never stop collecting it as the claim or lawsuit unfolds. Dated photographs, videos, and surveillance camera footage are all extremely important. Another strong piece of evidence is a police report that indicates that you are not at fault and that the third party is. You should also acquire testimonies from yourself, eyewitnesses, police officers, medical professionals, and so forth. Other valuable evidence includes current medical records, prior medical records, and assessments from medical professionals concerning your future medical needs.
The law firm of Rebenack, Aronow, and Mascolo has handled numerous personal injury cases and know that the outcomes are generally better with the appropriate legal representation. It costs nothing to have your case evaluated by one of our personal injury lawyers. Contact us online, or call our New Brunswick office at (732) 247-3600 or our Somerville location at (908) 448-2560.
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