In the following personal injury case the claimant represented herself against a horse-riding business offering guided trail rides to customers. The claimant fell off a horse that she had rented while on a trail ride led by one of the guides (Starrett v. Campbell,2015 BCSC 1424). The claimant did not hire a lawyer to represent her at trial and her lack of objectivity caused the court to refuse most of her claim.
The claimant said that she suffered serious injuries and had lost income, future earning capacity, future costs of care and out of pocket expenses. She claimed over $250,000 in damages but the judge only awarded the claimant less than $9,000.00.
Although the court concluded that the defendant was liable for the accident the claimant, without a lawyer, did not prove that her injuries were anything but very minor or that they impacted her life in a material way.
With respect to the claimant’s failure to have hired a personal injury lawyer to assist in her the judge pointed out,
 Unfortunately one of the problems when a litigant represents herself is a lack of objectivity. I found that the plaintiff’s presentation of her case was shaped very much by her perspective that she should overstate facts that help her claim and downplay or ignore facts that do not assist her claim.
 I did not find the plaintiff to be a reliable witness. At times I also did not find her credible. I found her perspective was quite skewed. Confronted by evidence which contradicted her own version of events, she used the phrase “this is my truth” in closing submissions, which I felt an accurate way of describing her view that reality does not matter so much as her perception.
 I also observe that if evidence necessary to prove the plaintiff’s claim was missing, I of course cannot simply infer the evidence out of thin air. I am especially reluctant to infer that missing evidence was a mere oversight as opposed to a calculated choice given the problems with reliability that I have noted above.
I would also add that the claimant’s lack of legal training and failure to understand the evidentiary requirements of her personal injury case lead her to essentially lose the case. If she had hired a competent lawyer, expert evidence would have been obtained and legal argument would likely have made an enormous difference to the outcome of her case.
As a personal injury lawyer for over 20 years I am loath to read a case like this because I know a lawyer could have made all the difference. A good lawyer may well have advised on a better out of court settlement and avoided a trial altogether.
It is rare that the court in BC will require a claimant to hire a lawyer, especially for a personal injury case, and it is the claimant’s responsibility to ensure they are properly represented at trial. To learn more about hiring a personal injury lawyer watch our short video:
Posted by Vancouver Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.