Can I file a civil lawsuit myself without a help of an attorney?

How much will it cost me? If it goes to trial, can I represent myself? I was injured in a car accident 4 years ago. The insurance company offered me a very low settlement not even equal to the medical bills incurred, saying my bills were overpriced. I would now like to file a lawsuit against the insurance company if I can? Also, let’s say I choose to take nothing as a settlement. What will happen if say one day in the future way after the statute of limitations is over, I get re-injured in another car accident. Will the insurance company look at it as a pre-existing condition even though I didn’t take a settlement?

Asked on November 7, 2011 under Personal Injury, Missouri


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You can represent yourself in a lawsuit, but it is not advisable.  As for the cost, when you file the lawsuit, you will need to pay a court filing fee which varies from state to state and from court to court.  You will also need to pay a process server to serve the summons and complaint on the opposing party.  The complaint is the lawsuit attached to the summons.  The process server fee varies from one process server to another. You can find process servers listed under attorney services in the Yellow Pages or online. Most cases settle without going to trial.  If the case goes to trial, you can represent yourself, but again that is not advisable.

Instead of suing the insurance company because the settlement offer is low, you should sue the at-fault party in the accident.  You would sue the at-fault party for negligence.  It is unlikely that you would prevail in a lawsuit against the insurance company based solely on the fact that the settlement offer is low.

If the same part of your body is re-injured in a future auto accident, that would be a separate case.  It may be difficult to distinguish the injury from one accident to another, but medical reports will establish that your previous injury was exacerbated by the subsequent accident.  Also, if the other party caused some future accident, that party is liable for your injuries because the defendant takes the plaintiff as is which means a future defendant is liable for your injury regardless of your pre-existing condition.  Whether or not you accepted a settlement in a previous case would be irrelevant.

As for your current case, it is not unusual to reject a settlement offer from an insurance company and file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver/registered owner of the vehicle for negligence.  You will need to file your lawsuit prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or you will lose your rights forever in the matter.



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