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Pro se litigation

We are sometimes asked if a person can pursue a lawsuit for injury without a lawyer. This would include a personal injury case, products liability, medical malpractice, premises liability, or wrongful death, among other major litigation matters.
While there is no law that a person has to have a lawyer, I think a person who delves into a major lawsuit without proper legal representation, will quickly find themselves way over their head. You can remove your gall bladder yourself without a surgeon, but it is obviously ill advised and you are risking your life by doing so.
First, you need to draft a summons and complaint. While a layperson could do it, without a lawyer, you are bound to make mistakes in doing so. If it is a medical malpractice case, you will need specific and complex allegations of where the doctor committees malpractice.
Once the lawsuit is drafted and filed, you will be required to properly personally serve the pleadings on all parties. Failure to do so, within the statutory time line of 90 days, will result in a dismissal of the lawsuit.
Once proper service is made, and the defense attorneys respond wth a written answer, be prepared to be bombarded with discovery documents, including requests for admissions, written interrogatories, requests for production of documents and notice if depositions. Failure to properly, fully and timely to comply with pre-trial discovery, cab result in court imposed sanctions or under certain circumstances, the dismissal of the lawsuit.
You will be required to attend all court dates on your own, including the initial scheduling conference. Once the court issues a scheduling order, including making witnesses, filing expert reports and permanency reports, failure to do so could result in sanctions imposed by the court, and under certain circumstances, dismissal of the case.
If it is a products liability case or medical malpractice case, you will need an expert or perhaps several experts. Experts cost money, and it is not unusual in a complex products liability case or medical malpractice case, to wind up spending over $100,000 in expert fees and court expenses. If you are pro se, you will have to pay for all those expenses on your own. Failure to line up experts and furnish their reports and curriculum vitaes within the confines of the deadlines imposed in the scheduling orders, can result in sanctions imposed or the dismissal of the lawsuit.
Expect defense counsel to bury you in pre-trial motions to wear you down and break your case. Expect emergency motions, ex parte orders, briefs, affidavits, motions to dismiss, motions to compel discovery, and motions for summary judgment. You will be required to draft appropriate legal pleadings in response including counter motions, affidavits and briefs and appear in court to argue your case. Failure to comply with statutory provisions, local court rules, or scheduling orders of the court, can result in sanctions or the outright dismissal of your case.
If you make it past all of these legal obstacles and the case makes its way ultimately to trial, you will be required to select the jury through voir dire, if a jury trial, make an opening statement, present witnesses, cross examine witnesses, follow the rules of evidence, introduce exhibits into evidence, argue motions, make appropriate evidentiary objections, and make final closing arguments.
Now, with all of those obstacles facing you, do you really need to all of you can do this without a lawyer?

For more information on this article, contact Karp & Iancu.

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