Can I represent myself after an injury?

Jul 7, 2017 | Legal Article

Stefanie Pereira

Personal Injury Lawyers

During our free consultation with potential clients, we are often asked if retaining a law firm is really necessary to obtain fair compensation. In Ontario, injured people can bring a claim for damages without a legal representative. This is known as self-representation. While you have the legal right to represent yourself, managing your own claim while trying to recover from any injury is extremely challenging, expensive, and complicated. Most importantly, failing to get proper legal advice at the outset of a claim can prejudice your right to financial recovery.

At Grillo Barristers, we are pleased to meet with you for free, with no obligation to sign us up. We would love to meet with you and talk to you about all of the ways that our experienced law firm can advance your claim.

In deciding whether or not to take on the case yourself, you should consider the following factors:

1. What’s at stake?

Serious injuries should return a high monetary award or settlement. When a large monetary award is at stake, you should consider hiring a lawyer to manage the claim on your behalf. Insurers are more likely to make low-ball offers on claims where litigants are self-represented. Defendants, who will almost always be represented by experienced counsel, will take advantage of your lack of legal knowledge and pressure you into an improvident settlement of your claim.

It will also be difficult to focus on your medical recovery if you are bogged down by legal filings, deadlines, and procedures. At Grillo Barristers, we do all the work so that you can focus on returning to your pre-accident lifestyle.

Hiring a lawyer gives you the peace of mind that your claim will be handled properly from day one. Our lawyers are insured and are in good standing with the Law Society which means that you can trust that your claim is in good hands.

2. Proving Liability

In order to be compensated in Ontario for personal injury, negligence or fault must be proven as against the defendant(s). Fault is often tricky to determine and in most cases, the parties allege that that the other was at fault. Fault is not always as clear cut as one might think. In civil law, there can be a split in liability where fault is apportioned on multiple parties. Fault can even be pinned on the injured person which can make running your own case very difficult. A lawyer knows the law and understands how liability is apportioned among parties. A good lawyer knows how to minimize their client’s exposure and maximize exposure on adverse parties.

Self-represented litigants lack the expertise required to win a liability dispute. The lawyers at Grillo Barristers are able to draw on their many years of experience and have access to a myriad of resources to best serve their clients.

If you are thinking about being self-represented, you should still consult with Grillo Barristers immediately to discuss liability and your legal options.

3. Can I afford the litigation?

At Grillo Barristers, our clients are afforded with the option of retaining one of our fantastic lawyers on a contingency fee basis, which means that our law firm carries all of the expenses of the litigation on your behalf. Aside from paying a lawyer for their time, there are many costs associated with a personal injury claim, which a self-represented litigant would be required to pay out-of-pocket.

Costs associated with advancing a claim are known as “Disbursements”. Disbursements vary from file to file, but can be numerous and expensive. Generally, the longer the case is alive, the greater the amount of disbursements. More complex cases tend to incur higher disbursements as well.

Disbursements that a self-litigant can expect include, but are not limited to, filing fees at the court, costs of hiring process servers, photocopying and binding expenses, postage and printing expenses,  costs of obtaining medical documentation to support your claim, costs of hiring physicians to provide expert opinions, parking and travel costs, booking fees, private investigators, and other investigative costs.

Insurers and Defence counsel typically have a large amount of money at their disposal and they can easily carry an expensive litigation for several years. The same cannot be said for a self-represented litigant and the Defence will be live to this issue. The Defence will take steps to delay your case and will attempt to drown you in legal costs with a goal of getting you to drop your claim. Retaining Grillo Barristers would give you equal bargaining power and allow you to advance your claim for as long as it takes to obtain fair compensation for your injuries.

4. How hard can it be?

The legal system is very complex. Lawyers have a very particular skillset and are well-versed in case law. Self-represented litigants are vulnerable in this respect because experience insurance adjusters and defence counsel can manipulate the process to their benefit. The playing field will not be equal and self-represented litigants should consider the power imbalance before deciding to run their own case.

Self-representation is no small task; you have to be aware of the proper forms to file, all deadlines and limitations, as well as the Rules of Civil Procedure. While the Court gives self-represented litigants some indulgences throughout the litigation, you will be expected to run the claim in accordance with the law and Rules of Civil Procedure. Missing a simple deadline or misfiling a form can be fatal to your case or drag it out unnecessarily.  If you are considering representing yourself you should also be aware of adverse cost consequences in Ontario which are used to penalize parties for errors and delays in the litigation. Without proper legal advice, you may make decisions that could end up costing you thousands of dollars.

While the internet can be a great place to apprise yourself of the basic principles of law in Ontario, it cannot replace the case-specific legal advice that a lawyer can give you. Lawyers are constantly learning about the law and are required to update their skills and education on a yearly basis; getting a good lawyer is the first step in getting a good settlement.

Our lawyers have access to a large legal database of cases and precedents. They know what to do and when to do it. Our lawyers have developed relationships with defense counsel and insurers that has always and will continue to benefit our clients.

With over 30 years of documented success, Grillo Barristers can provide you with exceptional legal representation. Don’t do it alone; we are here to help!