Representing Yourself in a Civil Litigation Case: Should You Do It?

The Risks of Self-Representation

Remember the popular saying, “a lawyer who represents himself has a fool as a client”? Well, unless you are dealing with a small claims court matter, it is highly advisable to avoid representing yourself in a civil litigation case.

Imagine playing a chess match against someone who has been playing the game for over ten years while you have no knowledge of the rules. Do you think you would stand a chance? Understanding the intricacies of the legal system is even more challenging than learning chess or speaking a difficult language.

To put it into perspective, let’s imagine you suddenly find yourself in Russia without any knowledge of the Russian language. Undoubtedly, survival would be a great challenge. Similarly, unless you are willing to dedicate years to studying the law, it is best to hire an attorney for any legal case you may face.

A Real-Life Example: The Importance of Legal Representation

Let me share with you a story from our own experience. A few years ago, our firm represented a family who was sued by a woman claiming that they had failed to disclose certain defects in the house they had sold her. Leading up to the trial, we offered the plaintiff a settlement of $80,000, urging her to avoid going to trial. However, despite her lack of legal representation, she insisted on demanding a staggering 1.8 million dollars.

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Despite our warning that she would be at a severe disadvantage against our experienced trial attorneys, the woman proceeded with the trial. After three days of presenting testimony from the plaintiff, her witnesses, and her experts, she, representing herself, rested her case. At that moment, our trial attorney swiftly requested a directed verdict on liability, which the judge granted after just five minutes of oral arguments. Consequently, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed without the need for our attorney to call a single witness. This outcome was solely due to our attorney’s knowledge of the rules, while the unrepresented plaintiff was left unaware. Don’t let yourself fall into the same situation!

Settling Your Civil Litigation Case: The Timing Is Up to You

As long as both parties agree, a civil litigation case can be settled at any stage of the litigation process. Settlements can take place as early as the day the lawsuit is served or as late as after closing arguments when the jury is deliberating.

The Settlement Process: Bringing Closure to the Lawsuit

Once the parties reach a settlement agreement, both attorneys will draft the necessary paperwork. This agreement will signify the end of the lawsuit, with the terms of the settlement, release language, and other relevant provisions outlined. As part of the agreement, the plaintiff is typically required to file a “Request for Dismissal” form with prejudice, officially closing the case.

Understanding Mediation: A Path to Resolution

Mediation is an informal meeting involving the disputing parties, their attorneys, and a mutually selected mediator who is well-versed in the subject matter of the dispute. At a certain point during the litigation process, the parties may agree to attend mediation, or a judge may order them to do so. It is important to note that during mediation, the mediator does not make legally binding decisions.

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What to Expect at Mediation

Assuming there is no physical hostility between the parties, mediation usually starts with a joint session. This is where both parties, along with their attorneys and the mediator, come together around a conference table. The mediator informs everyone present that everything discussed during the session is confidential and cannot be used against any party in subsequent hearings or trials. The mediator then emphasizes their neutral position, the advantages of reaching a settlement, and the potential risks and expenses associated with going to trial.

Following the joint session, the mediator will separate the parties into different rooms and engage in shuttle diplomacy. They will go back and forth, attempting to negotiate a settlement that satisfies both sides.

It is worth mentioning that, on average, 70-80% of all cases are settled through mediation. However, it is important to consider the cost of mediators, who typically charge $500 or more per hour, with the fee typically split between the parties. On the bright side, though, you do get to enjoy unlimited free soda, chips, and candy!

For comprehensive legal advice and representation in civil litigation cases, visit Garrity Traina. Our experienced attorneys are ready to guide you through the complexities of the legal system. Don’t face your legal battles alone!