A couple of potential clients have recently approached us after months of running their own litigation. One was a claimant and the other one was being sued after he had knocked over a child while riding his bicycle.
The defendant in person came to us just two weeks before a final assessment of damages hearing, judgment having already been entered in default of a defence being filed. He had already incurred hefty interlocutory costs order having applied to set aside judgment and then failing to attend the hearing.
The other was a claimant who had suffered a head injury in a road traffic accident. He had issued proceedings on his own for a significant sum but had failed to serve a medical report or a schedule of loss. He too had incurred a number of costs orders for failing to comply with the defendant’s solicitors’ requests for evidence and only came to us two years into proceedings after his claim had been struck out twice and he was facing another Unless Order.
Litigating in person can be a false economy. Although these two litigants had avoided having to pay fees to their own solicitor, which, in the case of a claimant, are recoverable at the end of the day, they ended up having to pay large sums of money to the other party for avoidable procedural errors.
Additional dangers lurk between proper representation and no representation with the rise of some McKenzie Friends who offer lay representation at a reduced fee. These are sometimes former solicitors who have been struck off - which raises ethical concerns - and their service usually comes without professional indemnity insurance in the event that the McKenzie Friends’ assistance goes wrong.
The stress of conducting their own litigation, making expensive errors and not fully understanding the process can be avoided. The Penningtons Manches personal injury team has helped a number of clients who have got into trouble handling their own litigation and we always recommend that a good lawyer is instructed from the outset.