You do not lawfully have to hire an attorney to bring a personal injury claim in Texas. No law makes it mandatory to retain legal representation during insurance claims or lawsuits. You may choose to represent yourself during your claim instead. The legal term for a plaintiff who represents him/herself is a pro se litigant. Learn the pros and cons of pro se litigation to decide whether it is right for you.
What to Expect as a Pro Se Litigant in Texas
Being a pro se litigant gives you important responsibilities. It will be up to you to protect your rights and look out for your best interests. You will also need at least a basic understanding of the laws that pertain to your case. You will need to know the grounds on which you are basing your case, as well as how to meet the burden of proof. In general, when bringing a personal injury claim, you will need to prove four main elements.
- Duty of care. The allegedly at-fault party (defendant) owed you specific duties of care, such as a duty to protect your safety.
- Breach of duty. The defendant did not fulfill his or her duties of care. You will need proof of negligence on the defendant’s part – a breach of the duty of care.
- Causation for your accident. The defendant’s negligence caused the accident or incident that injured you.
- Damages accumulated. You have proof of compensable damages due to the defendant’s negligence, such as medical expenses or lost wages.
As a pro se litigant, it will be up to you to prove these four elements more likely to be true than not true. If you do not believe you can successfully meet the burden of proof alone, hire a personal injury lawyer in Texas to represent you instead. The decision to hire a lawyer over being a pro se litigant could be critical to your recovery. Pro se litigation may only be an acceptable choice if you do not need legal advice from an experienced attorney.
When Is Pro Se Litigation Appropriate?
One of the pros of being a pro se litigant is saving money in legal fees. You will not have to pay a retainer or attorney’s fees. You will get to keep 100% of the settlement or judgment award you win, if you win. You may also be able to resolve your case faster than a lawyer, who might be representing multiple clients at the same time. The cons of pro se litigation, however, can be significant. Pro se litigation can be dangerous and damaging to a plaintiff’s case.
The drawbacks of pro se litigation can be as serious as unintentionally sabotaging your claim and receiving nothing in compensation. Without an attorney’s legal advice, guidance and skilled representation, you could make a critical error that destroys your ability to recover. You could miss Texas’ statute of limitations, for example – a mistake that will bar most plaintiffs from recovery. You will need the knowledge, skill and ability to pursue your claim to completion on your own if you choose pro se litigation.
Pro se litigation is generally not a wise option for a claimant with high-value or serious damages. If you have catastrophic injuries such as broken bones or permanent disabilities, for instance, hire an attorney to demand fair and full compensation on your behalf. Handling a serious case by yourself when you have a lot to lose could put your future at stake.
Pro se litigation might also not be the right choice if your case involves complicated factors, such as multiple defendants, lack of insurance coverage or a liability dispute. A lawyer will have the education and experience to handle complications. When in doubt, consult with an attorney about your specific personal injury claim. A lawyer can give you honest advice about whether going pro se is right for you.