The right of pro se, also known as self-representation, is one of the basic rights of the legal system.
According to legal experts, there are several advantages to self-representation in a car accident case. First, some litigants feel that nobody completely understands their position as well as they do themselves. Others think they have a slam-dunk case that does not need a legal team’s input.
The common advantages of self-representation include the following pros of handling the case yourself:
Saving money by not needing to pay a lawyer
Total control of how you choose to handle your case
Ability to change your strategy at will
Ensuring that you focus enough effort on the case
Fighting harder to win the case
No conflicting strategies
The Disadvantages of Handling Your Case
There are also many disadvantages to self-representation in a tort case. For example, you could find yourself in contempt of court for failing to follow proper procedures and end up serving jail time for your transgressions. Legal scholars, law professors, litigation experts, and judges agree that many of the disadvantages involve the status of your case and include the following:
You might actually lose money that an experienced lawyer would win or negotiate in a settlement.
The legal system has built-in disadvantages of self-representation.
The judge or jury might be biased against someone representing themselves.
You might not know when your rights are being violated.
You must stay on top of filing deadlines and myriad procedural issues.
You have a few resources that you can consult.
You might not understand some legal terms or the intricacies of legal procedure.
Insurance companies routinely make low-ball settlement offers to victims not represented by counsel.
Inherent Right to Self-Representation
The sixth amendment guarantees the right to represent yourself in criminal cases, but the law glaringly fails to cover civil cases. However, it’s assumed that civil litigation parties have the same rights as accused criminals. One federal statute mentions that any person can plead and conduct their own case in “all courts of the United States,” so the statute is considered legal justification of self-representation in most districts.
Regardless of your decision, it’s important to begin your case promptly to meet filing deadlines and conduct a successful investigation while memories are fresh. Consult a car accident lawyer serving Bay Shore no matter what you ultimately plan to do. The lawyer might think of important issues you hadn’t considered and give you a few pointers on building your case better.
You Can Represent Yourself
Despite a longer list of disadvantages than benefits, more and more people choose to represent themselves. Access to digital resources allows anyone to research legal procedures in their state, and articles abound with tips and tricks to represent yourself. Courts have evolved to be more friendly to people handling their legal cases. Hard-nosed business leaders often have the negotiating skills to deal with insurance companies on equal terms.
However, most injured accident victims worry excessively about their financial circumstances and don’t want to take chances on winning a settlement. Both viewpoints are valid, and only you can decide whether you have the skills, energy, and ability to do everything necessary for successful self-representation.
If You Don’t Hire a Lawyer, Assume the Risks and Consequences
The biggest risk of self-representation is that your inexperience and lack of knowledge will manifest in losing the arguments you want to make in court for procedural reasons. You might fail to recognize a prime opportunity to push for a settlement, and your objections probably won’t cover every issue that opposing counsel will try to sneak past an inexperienced opponent. These issues will probably hurt you in the pocketbook. Despite not paying a lawyer, most attorneys justify their fees by winning larger settlements than you could ever negotiate yourself. It is your choice, but consider all your alternatives and choose wisely.
About: Leland D. Bengtson
As a journalist, Leland dedicated most of his career to law reporting. His greatest satisfaction is to convey legal matters to the public in a language that they can understand. He is active on various platforms and media outlets, writing about common legal issues that people confront with every day. While medical malpractice is his strong suit, Leland covers plenty of other topics, including personal injury cases, family law, and other civil and even criminal legal matters.
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