Sometimes, depending on the complexity or simplicity of your accident you will have to decide whether you would like to hire an attorney or represent yourself. This is because there is no rule that requires you to hire an attorney to handle your case. Why would you consider representing yourself? When the amount you are seeking is within the limits of the jurisdiction of the small claims court ($5,000 or less in Maryland) it may not make financial sense to hire an attorney if you feel that you can handle the matter on your own. When you represent yourself in court, the term used to describe you is a pro se litigant therefore Maryland uses pro se to describe self-representing litigants.
In the Maryland Court System - while the clerk's office does not provide legal advice - you can request and obtain some resources (including online sources) to provide you information on representing yourself. That said, Maryland has 'Self-Help Centers' which may provide an opportunity to speak with an attorney who can help you go through and understand the documents needed to file your case in Court.
Maryland Small Claims Court
Cases with a small amount in controversy are usually filed in a small claims court. Given that every state has a small claims court, rules may vary in your state. In the small claims courts of Maryland, you have the option to represent yourself in a claim for personal or property damages. In some states you cannot have an attorney represent you in small claims, though this is not the case in Maryland. The District Courts of Maryland handles all the small claims cases in the state. The following requirement must be met in order to file a small claims case:
your claim is for $5,000 or less
you are only seeking money
you are not planning on doing any discovery
Why file your case in small claims court? Well, the process and applicable court procedures are much simpler, the case moves much faster (with hearing dates generally set within 60 days of when you file), and the filing fees are relatively cheap.
While you always have the right to pursue a personal injury case on your own, there are several reasons that you may still wish to contact an attorney. First, some cases can be extremely complex with multiple claims and multiple parties. In some cases the defendant may file a counter-claim so you would not only be preparing your case to prove liability, you would also need to come up with a defense against the defendant’s claims. Another reason to contact an attorney is that the court system has a complicated set of procedural rules that everyone who files a case must follow. Failure to follow proper procedure can result in cases being dismissed or damage awards being overturned.
We have been practicing personal injury and auto accident law for decades and have extensive litigation experience. Hiring an attorney would help assess the viability of your case to ensure a protection of your rights, case value and ensure that you receive a fair recovery. Please contact us if additional information is needed regarding your auto accident case.