Risks of Self-Representation in Personal Injury Cases
October 21st, 2016
Although there may be specific reasons that individuals resort to self-representation, the outcome may not always align with initial objectives or expectations. Self-representation in personal injury cases has more than its fair share of pitfalls, and those representing themselves can lose out on much more than compensation. You are more likely to achieve the optimal outcome in a personal injury case if you have a lawyer protecting your rights and making sure your case is put forward in a way that is in your best interests.
A recent decision from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench served as a bleak reminder of the financial downside of self-representation gone awry in personal injury matters.
Costs and Refusals to Accept Reasonable Settlement Proposals
In Blicharz v. Livingstone, 2014, ABQB 373, the Court awarded the Plaintiff, a self-represented 51-year-old woman who had suffered six automobile accidents in the space of just five years, a total settlement of $11,500. Worse still, the Court awarded costs against her of approximately $325,000.
The trial followed the Plaintiff’s decision to reject an offer totaling over $500,000 to settle the matter before trial, an offer that was obtained due in part to the efforts of her legal counsel at the time. However, instead of accepting the offer, the Plaintiff chose to proceed with the claim and ultimately run the trial on her own, without the assistance of legal counsel.
Knowing What Evidence to Present and How to Make Your Case is Critical
The Plaintiff’s showing of evidence left the judge highly critical of the nature and presentation of her case, including the evidence of the medical professionals she had retained to support her claim. The case was appealed, and the Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the trial judgment.
An Objective Assessment of the Risks of Trial is Invaluable
A personal injury lawyer has the experience needed to assess the merits of a claim. He or she also has a thorough understanding of the necessary evidence to call in support of a claim and how best to present this evidence to the court or a mediator. Equally important (and particularly so in this case), a personal injury lawyer is in the best position to make an objective determination about whether a claim has a reasonable chance of success at trial. If that answer is no, there is a significant risk of gaining nothing or, as in this case, being penalized with significant costs.
In this case, the Plaintiff initially had the benefit of legal counsel but chose to act against advice to her detriment.
Legal Training Does Matter
Hiring a skilled and experienced personal injury lawyer who is familiar with the legal process will give you a realistic picture of your situation and can help to avoid the kinds unreasonable expectations that can undermine receiving any kind of reasonable compensation.
At KMSC Law, we will give you a practical assessment of your case and a realistic appraisal of what fair compensation would look like under your specific circumstances. If you retain us, we will, gather evidence, obtain reports from appropriate experts, advise you on your options, and negotiate on your behalf with the responsible party’s insurance company. Our fee is based on a percentage of your recovery, so you are not out of pocket for legal fees or doctor’s reports while you focus on your recovery.
We offer a free initial consultation and, unlike self-representation, there is no downside to free legal advice. If you or a loved one has been injured we invite you to contact one of our personal injury lawyers for a free, no obligation consultation.