I had a plumbing problem at my house the other day and I was certain I could fix it myself. So, I spent three hours running plumbers’ snakes into the pipes, running to a “do it yourself” hardware store and taking a toilet apart, only to become totally frustrated and I didn’t fix the problem. In fact, I made it worse. After spending all that time, which I could have spent in the office, I hired a plumber to come to the house. In fifteen minutes, with the help of all the right tools, he fixed the plumbing problem and in an- other fifteen minutes, he fixed what I broke. Then came the bill. He charged 50 dollars to come to the house and 50 dollars to fix the plumbing problem and another 50 dollars to fix my screw up for a total of $150.00. Of course, when he finished, the job was done right and everything was cleaned up and put in its place. But, it cost me an extra 50 bucks
to have him fix my mistakes! After that experience, I realized the same
thing happens in the legal field every day. I regularly have people who come to me for help after they have tried to represent themselves, only now they need an attorney to try to fix the problems that have been created. Well, like the plumber, it is going to cost more for an attorney to fix the problem than if the attorney had been hired in the beginning.
It is common for someone to want to rep- resent himself when they or a family member are hurt in an automobile crash or other accident. Many people think it is simple enough. Just give the insurance adjuster the medical bills and records and multiply that by some number to come up with a settlement amount. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. At the outset, I must mention, without getting into the details because it is off the topic, the “multiplier” approach is a myth that doesn’t work. Regardless, there are hid- den problems in handling an injury claim that can be disastrous if they are not dealt with. One such problem is the potential for medical care liens. Whenever there are medical bills from an injury (and there always are), there is probably a lien against the recovery money. This means that if a claim is made to recover money for an injury, someone, generally a medical provider or the government, has the right to have their lien paid out of any recovery. If the lien is not paid, then the injured person, who may have spent the recovery money, may end up having to pay the lien or even being sued for non-payment.
It is also common for someone to represent himself or to hire a non-attorney who says they can prepare documents for purchase of something like a business. When the documents are prepared and signed, everyone has good intentions and is probably happy about the deal they struck. After time, however, things may not turn out as they expected or it turns out that the intentions of one party were different that the other. For example, maybe the business did not do as well as the seller said it would or the seller didn’t intend to allow the buyer to expand the business into multiple stores.
It is at this point when the seller and buyer then have to rely on the written contract to determine what their rights really are against the other. If, however, the written contract is not well written, is vague, improperly uses legal terms, is ambiguous, or simply does not address the potential contingencies or problems, then a legal battle is sure to hap- pen.
Of course, the two examples above are only a sampling of areas where people try for “Do It Yourself” legal help. There are dozens of other areas. The point is that sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to do it yourself because in the end, you are going to pay more to have it fixed.
Just as a side note, when the plumber at my house handed me the bill for $150, I told him that I was a lawyer and I didn’t even make $150 for a half hour of work. The plumber casually responded, “When I was a lawyer, I didn’t make that much either.” FBN
Chip Rabb is an attorney licensed in AZ, NM, CO and TX and is AV rated by Martindale- Hubble and listed in Law & Politics, “Super Lawyers of the Southwest” and Best Lawyers in America.