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Challenges and risks when representing yourself in court

“You only get one bite of the cherry, so make the most of it and make sure you are getting all that you are entitled to.” Shine Direct.

When you have been wronged, it's important to ensure that you not only consider the present, but also what the future may hold for you.

Self-represented claimants are often seen as soft targets and an opportunity for insurers to secure a quick and cheap resolution. The quicker your matter resolves, the less the insurer pays and the greater their profitability.

An offer made early may seem too good to decline, particularly if you are finding yourself in financial difficulties due to the very same circumstances that have caused you to contact the insurer in the first place. It might seem like a quick fix to help you get your life back on track but once accepted, that is it. Once the release is signed and the money is paid, your claim is finalised for good.

Understanding the legal jargon, the legislation and how compensation is awarded can be quite daunting at the best of times. When you have been wronged, understanding the legalities is often much harder than you could ever have imagined. Not to mention that you're not focussing on what you should be focusing on more than anything – your recovery.

Insurers will not tell you what your entitlements are. They will not provide you with advice on what you can claim or assist you to gather the necessary evidence to prove your case. The onus of proof is on you, not the insurer. They won’t make allowances for you if the evidence has not been provided by you.

The difference between self-representation and having someone on your side could be the difference between losing everything or securing your financial future. It could also make a difference to your recovery.

Many insurers have specialist claims teams that handle self-represented claimants. The person who handles your claim will be friendly, they will listen, they will come across as someone who really cares about your circumstances and really wants to help you through your time of need.

Is that what they’re really doing?  Or are they simply building a rapport with you to gain your trust to prevent you from seeking advice? This will become clear when you try asking them to outline what your entitlements are.

Over the last 5 years at Shine Lawyers, I have been fortunate and privileged to have acted for a number of clients who initially chose to go it alone or where forced into that situation due to circumstances beyond their control. Thankfully, when they were given advice or were offered settlement amounts that they felt were wrong or unjust, they contacted Shine Lawyers.

By way of an example, one of our previous clients came to Shine Lawyers after attempting unsuccessfully to secure necessary compensation. Our client had been represented by another firm and the treatment was supported by her doctors and specialists. The insurer refused, the law firm was not prepared to fight for the funding and the client was forced to contact her insurer directly.

Our client had great difficulty liaising directly with the insurer, and despite her desperate attempts to obtain the funding she required, her requests fell on deaf ears. After she was offered a few thousand dollars to go away, our client contacted Shine Lawyers. We were able to help her not only secure the funding, but an additional compensation sum close to $400,000 which secured her financial future.

It is important to remember that each case needs to be assessed on its own merits. While the client mentioned previously may have secured hundreds of thousands more than originally offered by her insurer, the case highlights the significant risk of self-representing and the difference having representation can have on the outcome.

In other cases, self-represented claimants who’ve sought advice on low offers from insurers have secured thousands if not tens of thousands more simply by questioning whether the offer made is reasonable.

An offer made to you may be right and it might be in your best interests to accept it. But how do you know if you don’t ask the question?

Shine Lawyers has tailored solutions to assist you no matter what your claims is worth and it costs nothing to make the call and ask the question.

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