14 Mar The Dangers of Representing Yourself in a Personal Injury Claim

Sometimes injured persons attempt to advance their own claim without the assistance of a lawyer. Unfortunately, this often leads to disappointing results and unforeseen consequences that could have been avoided with the advice and advocacy that a lawyer provides.

Hiring a lawyer lets the Defendant know you “mean business”.  In addition, your lawyer takes on the important and sometimes complex tasks of compiling the evidence you need to prove your claim, coordinating with medical professionals, negotiating on your behalf and, most importantly, ensuring that you get the settlement that you deserve. Not hiring a lawyer, on the other hand, well…Starrett v. Campbell, 2015 BCSC 1424, provides a useful illustration of just what can happen.

In that case, Ms. Starrett claimed that she fell from a horse that she rented from Mr. Campbell’s business, “Back In the Saddle Again Horse Guiding”.  Ms. Starrett represented herself at trial. The court described Ms. Starrett as an intelligent, well-spoken, highly-organized person who seemed “well aware” of what she needed to do in order to prove her claim. On the other side of the lawsuit was Mr. Campbell, who also chose to represent himself rather than hire a lawyer. This was a highly unusual situation – most self-represented litigants are not as well-prepared as Ms. Starrett and most lawsuits are defended by experienced insurance lawyers. In other words, one would think that if any self-represented Plaintiff could succeed, it would be Ms. Starrett.

However, she did not succeed, at least in relative terms. She was asking for $250,000 in damages. The Judge awarded her just over $8,000. Ms. Starrett’s trial was in Supreme Court but the sum she was awarded was well below the $25,000 threshold for Small Claims Court matters, so she likely disentitled herself from recovering the costs of the litigation.

Again, this case had every appearance of being a best-case scenario for a self-represented Plaintiff.  Here was a well-organized, savvy individual, up against another person without legal training.  And yet Ms. Starrett ended up winning only a fraction of the damages she asked for.

Another common result, such as in Ali v. Surrey (City), 2016 BCSC 151, occurs where self-represented plaintiffs fail to recover anything at all.

With expert representation from Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota, a claim like Ms. Starrett’s might have resulted in a significant settlement or judgment. Call us today if you’ve been injured.