When considering whether to represent yourself in a lawsuit, there are a few key factors to consider. This article will examine whether someone can represent him or herself in a personal injury lawsuit in West Virginia, the potential problems with self-representation and the benefits of hiring a skilled attorney. While we will outline some basic principles here, each case will be different. For more specific answers, it is crucial that you speak with a skilled personal injury attorney who can analyze the facts in your particular situation.
Can I Represent Myself in Court in West Virginia?
Yes, people are permitted to represent themselves in West Virginia courts.
What are the Potential Challenges of Self-Representation?
First, you must file your complaint within the statute of limitations. For example, if someone injured you in a car accident, you must file your lawsuit within two years of the accident occurring. If you do not, you will never be able to sue for that cause of action again. Other personal injury claims such as medical malpractice have different statutes of limitations. A skilled attorney will make sure you file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires.
Another challenge with self-representation is figuring out the value of your case. You will need medical experts to testify as to the degree of your injuries so you can calculate the monetary value of your economic and non-economic losses.
More generally, the vast majority of civil lawsuits end in a settlement. A self-represented client would need to know the rules of evidence and court procedures. You will also need to make sure you file your claim in the right court and serve the other party according to the rules of civil procedure.
Similarly, you would need to answer the opposing counsel’s legal arguments. For example, if the opposing counsel filed a motion to dismiss your case for several reasons, you would need to prove those arguments wrong. If you do not, the judge may dismiss your case. In some cases, the judge can dismiss your case with prejudice, meaning you will never be able to bring that lawsuit again.
Finally, if you do represent yourself and lose your case, a judge may order you to pay for the winning party’s attorney’s fees and costs. This amount is usually significant because most personal injury cases are costly and require many billable attorney hours. In some cases, it costs more to sue someone that the amount that the injured party hopes to win in the case.
If a judge does order you to pay the opposing party’s costs and fees and you do not have the money to do so, there is no way to get out of it. A judgment is valid for six years, and a court can reinstate it for another six years after the first period is over. If you cannot pay the amount in question at the close of the case, a court can levy your bank accounts, place liens on your property, and garnish your wages.
What Will I Need to Prove to Succeed in a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
For a successful personal injury lawsuit to succeed, the plaintiff must demonstrate several elements. First, he or she must show that the at-fault party owed him or her a duty of reasonable care and breached that duty with a negligent act or omission. Then, the injured victim must prove that the negligence of the at-fault party her caused his or her injuries.
For example, in a car accident case, the injured person would need to show that the other driver was driving negligently or recklessly and that this negligent or reckless driving caused the car accident that in turn caused his or her injuries. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must show that the doctor or health care professional owed a duty of reasonable care and breached that duty with a negligent act or omission. For example, when a doctor negligently prescribes a wrong prescription drug and that drug causes the patient to suffer an injury, the case would meet the elements of a personal injury tort lawsuit. Of course, the legal issues can be more complicated than stated above. It is important to know if your case meets the requirements for negligence causes of action, and that is where an experienced attorney can assist you.
What are the Benefits of Hiring an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney?
An estimated 95% of personal injury lawsuits settle out of court, meaning, the parties reach an agreement before a trial in court begins. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney who is skilled at negotiating can increase your chances of settling without the expense of a trial. If you do go to trial, you’ll need an attorney with courtroom litigation skills because if you do not win the case, you will not receive any compensation.
How Much Does Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney Cost?
Most attorneys who represent clients in personal injury cases take a contingency fee. In this fee structure, attorneys do not receive payment until your case settles or you win a compensation award. Attorneys receive monetary compensation awarded by the court or a percentage of the settlement amount. This fee structure gives your attorneys an incentive to get the best possible settlement amount or award for you at trial. It also means that personal injury attorneys attempt to only take on cases with merit.
You will agree on the percentage-based fee with your attorney before he or she begins to represent you. Ask your potential attorney whether or not he or she will charge you “case costs” even in the event that you lose your case. If that happens, you will be required to pay for any costs of representation such as filing fees and the fees for expert testimony.
Have you or a loved one been involved in an accident that caused a personal injury? Have you been injured because of the actions of another person? Please contact your West Virginia personal injury attorneys today.