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Why Is It a Bad Idea to Represent Myself in a Personal Injury Case?


At some point you may have heard the proverb, “I hesitate not to pronounce, that every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.” The exact origin of this expression is unknown. But the sentiment is timeless.

To put it another way, while every person has the legal right to represent themselves in court, it is generally a bad idea. Lawsuits are complex, particularly personal injury claims. There are a number of rules and procedures that must be followed. It is not enough for an injured plaintiff to show up and demand compensation from the defendant.

Court Dismisses Lawsuit Over Woman Who Fell from Deck

A recent decision from the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Graham v. Weaver, offers a helpful illustration of what we are talking about. This case involves a woman (the plaintiff) who was injured after falling from a collapsed deck. The plaintiff said she was invited to the property in question by the defendant, and he was therefore liable for her injuries.

Both sides represented themselves in court without the assistance of a personal injury lawyer. The case was tried before a Circuit Court judge sitting without a jury. At trial, the defendant denied she ever invited the plaintiff onto the property. And in any event, she neither owned the property nor built the deck.

The plaintiff had also named another defendant, possibly the property owner. But as the trial judge explained, this second defendant was never formally served with the lawsuit. And since Tennessee’s statute of limitations for completing such service had long expired, the judge was required by law to dismiss this second defendant from the case.

As for the remaining defendant, the judge found there was no evidence to support the plaintiff’s premises liability claim. Indeed, the plaintiff did not present any evidence that showed there was a collapsed deck. The defense also produced evidence of the plaintiff’s “long history of medications,” including prescription painkillers, which led the judge to conclude the plaintiff’s judgment was compromised.

Ultimately, the judge dismissed the lawsuit. Both parties again represented themselves. This did not impress the Court of Appeals, which noted that both sides “failed to comply” with the rules regarding appellate briefs. The court decided to overlook this and rule on the merits. This led to the same outcome as before the trial court–the plaintiff “failed to establish the Defendant owned the property where Plaintiff fell or that she built the deck.” There was therefore no basis for holding the defendant liable.

Speak with a Tennessee Personal Injury Attorney Today

You might think representing yourself on appeal will save time and money. But the reverse is more likely to be true. When parties handle their own litigation, it often means more work for the court and leads to unsatisfactory results for plaintiffs.

So if you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, it is in your best interests to work with an experienced Clinton personal injury lawyer who can fully investigate and prepare your case for trial. Contact Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys today.




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