Well, I certainly don’t expect this article to generate business for me. But it is a topic that needs to be addressed. People are more frequently trying their hand at handling their own legal matters. Do you need an attorney for every situation in life? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Let’s begin with a large part of my practice: automobile collisions.
Any time a car accident occurs, two claims typically arise: property damage and bodily injury. Property damage claims result in the other driver’s insurance company either repairing or totaling your vehicle. If the vehicle can be repaired, an insurance adjuster will evaluate it, an estimate will be provided by a body shop and the work will be done at no charge to you.
During the repair time, you should ask for a rental car. Your policy might also have rental coverage in the event that the other driver’s insurance company balks at giving you a rental car. You might also want to make a claim for diminution in value. The other scenario is if the car is damaged beyond repair, the car is said to be declared a total loss. This is when most people get miffed enough to call an attorney.
If the vehicle is totaled, the insurance company will typically pay the NADA Blue Book value for the vehicle. That figure is often less than what some people still owe on the car loan. Word of advice: if you have a car loan, purchase GAP insurance. This will cover the difference between the actual value of your vehicle and the current loan balance. In any event, if the insurance company has paid the NADA value, there is not much (anything) that an attorney can do on your behalf for a property damage claim. You should feel free to handle this portion of your claim on your own. Feel free to call a lawyer if you stub your toe along the way.
The other side of the coin is a bodily injury claim. Depending on the extent of your injuries and medical treatment, you may be able to DIY on this too. When people call my office after an accident, our general rule is this: if you went to the ER, went home shortly thereafter and maybe had one or two follow-up appointments with your family doctor, there is not much value that an attorney can add to your case.
If, however, you are still having pain and are referred to a specialist (for example, orthopedist or neurologist), you absolutely will be better served by an experienced personal injury attorney. If the medical treatment is minimal, as in the first example, there is not much that an attorney can do to strengthen your case. As they say, “It is what it is.” In that instance, you should feel free to negotiate your own bodily injury claim with the insurance company. Keep in mind that your health insurance may have a claim to be repaid sums that it has paid in the event that you reach your own settlement with the insurance company. But you should feel free, if there is only minor treatment, to handle it on your own.
The other area where people dabble in trying to DIY to save money on legal fees is preparing documents. Here is some free legal advice.
Do not write your own will. Do not write your own sales agreement to sell your business. Do not write your own real estate contract. Do not write your own lease. Do not write your own employment agreement
Feel free to write your own bill of sale to sell your 1984 AMC Pacer. Maybe write your own agreement to sell Grandma’s cookies at the church bazaar. For anything of real value in your life (things you really care about), hire an attorney.
Sure, the document you download from the Internet—or write at the kitchen table—might be “valid.” But will it address your specific situation? Keep in mind, attorneys prepare agreements to protect people when things go wrong, when people disagree and when lawsuits are filed. Do not bank on everything going smoothly when you decide to sell your company, or when you decide to sell your house “For Sale By Owner.” Murphy will always be lurking in the background, reminding you that “Nothing is as easy as it looks; everything takes longer than you expect; and if anything can go wrong, it will, at the worst possible moment.”
If you are looking for a lawyer in Newport News for a personal injury matter or any other legal issue, make Heath, Overbey, Verser & Old, P.L.C. your first call. Get help from a top-rated, committed firm.