How do I settle a case on my own?
As Pennsylvania personal injury and car accident lawyers, we often get asked how to settle a car accident case on your own, without a lawyer. While we strongly advise against representing yourself (remember the old maxim, “he who represents himself has a fool for a client”), in some limited circumstances you may not need a lawyer (although it’s always advisable to at least have a free consultation with one).
Subrogation and Liens on a Personal Injury Settlement
If you’re looking at settling a case safely, you need to be intimately familiar with Pennsylvania subrogation law and how liens against your settlement are treated. The last thing you want to do is settle your case for $X.XX and then have a health insurance company, the Department of Human Services, or even Medicare come back at you demanding you pay them $X.XX long after the settlement money is long gone! To understand this, you’ll need to research the laws, research statutory liens, research equitable liens, and research contractual subrogation rights you may have agreed to when accepting health insurance. Subrogation and liens are the #1 thing that people trying to settle their own cases—and even general-practice attorneys that are dabbling in personal injury law—mess up.
Know the full extent of your injuries and don’t settle too soon!
After an accident, insurance adjusters will typically call you a couple days later offering settlements of $1,000 or $2,000. Don’t accept any offers to settle your case that soon after an accident! While it may seem like a good deal (and might even be a good deal if you have minimal or no injuries), it’s simply too soon to know if your injuries are minimal. It’s all too common to not realize your injuries are serious until months, or even years, later! I’ve had a number of clients who have rejected $1,000 offers before realizing things were more severe, coming to my office, and proving damages of one hundred times their initial offer.
Watch the statute of limitations for your personal injury case
This piece of advice goes hand-in-hand with the “don’t settle too soon” advice: don’t settle too late, either! If you wait too long, your claims might be forever barred by the “statute of limitations,” which is a law that every state passes that puts a time limit on how long after an accident you can bring a claim. In Pennsylvania, you typically need to settle your case (or file a lawsuit) within two years from the date of the accident. There are, however, many exceptions and caveats to this rule (e.g. certain parts of minor’s claims). If you want to know what the statute of limitations is for your individual case, do NOT rely on this paragraph or anything you read online—you NEED to call a personal injury lawyer, given them your facts, and ask!
Call a personal injury lawyer for a free consultation
I don’t mean to sound too facetious here, but there is no way to write a complete guide on how to properly or safely settle your case without a lawyer, because that guide would entail going to law school and spending years practicing personal injury law in the jurisdiction where you claim arises. While some minor cases that only involve property damage or bumps and bruises might safely be settled without a lawyer, any case with significant injuries requires a lawyer (in my professional, legal opinion). I’m not just saying that because I’m a lawyer, either. If I were injured in a car accident, I’d call a lawyer myself (as I said earlier, “he who represents himself has a fool for a client”). As such, if you’re considering settling your case, give a personal injury attorney a call and at least sit down for a free consultation to make sure you’re doing things correctly. If you’re in Erie or Smethport, or anywhere in Western Pennsylvania, give me a call at 814-452-6232. I’m happy to discuss your case for free. If you are interested in hiring me, I don’t charge a fee without a recovery.
It’s worth noting that a good personal injury lawyer almost always ends up paying for himself or herself.