Small Claim Court – Do i need an attorney or can I represent myself?

Our vehicle was struck and totaled by a drunk driver. His insurance company didn’t cover the cost of our loss when the vehicle was totaled out. We only owned the used truck for 5 months but had receipts for 8k worth of work done to the truck. I’m suing for our loss on the vehicle. The kid was charged in a court of law with DUI and in proper lane change. I would like to represent myself in court to sue him but don’t know if it would be better to have an attorney instead, thoughts?

Asked on September 22, 2017 under Accident Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

In small claims court, you can reasonably represent yourself. That's not to say that a lawyer would not do better than you, but you need to balance the likely $1,000 - $1,500 (typically) cost of an attorney vs. gaining some advantage--remember: you have to pay your own lawyer fees in the U.S legal system.
If you received the then-current fair market or blue book value of the vehicle when  it was totalled, that's essentially all you are entitled to: the law gives you the monetary equivalent of the destroyed vehicle--what it was worth when destroyed--and does not take account of what you paid for it, what you put into it, or how much (if anything) was left on its financing. Therefore, if what you are looking to recover is the $8k in work, you very likely cannot get that back in a lawsuit.

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