The Risk in Representing Yourself

There are many attorneys in Boston. But sometimes, in lieu of consulting and hiring an experienced attorney, many Massachusetts residents try to navigate the Massachusetts court system on their own. The attorneys at the Boston Law Office of Neil Burns know that this is often a mistake. Trying to represent yourself, whether in court or when dealing with insurance companies, for example, in negotiating personal injury settlements, can be tricky; worse yet, your claim may not survive.

In the field of legal malpractice, we often get clients who want us to represent them. However, sometimes we don’t feel that they have a case that would win and result in a collectable money judgment. Many feel so strongly that they go on to represent themselves. They often come back to us and hire us to figure out what has gone wrong with their case against their former lawyer. Often it is that they don’t know the Rules of Civil Procedure. They are complicated. They require precise and timely pleadings.
A case recently decided by the Appellate Division, a default judgment was entered against pro se litigants because they failed to answer interrogatories (written questions) on time. This was not a legal malpractice case, but a personal injury case. Nevertheless, the Rules of Civil Procedure must be followed or, based on that technicality the case can be dismissed. Under Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 33(a)(4) the case was dismissed. Typically, the trial courts give a fair amount of leeway to pro se litigants, however, at some point, if they simply fail to follow the rules, the courts will dismiss the case. Furthermore, a trial court judge has “broad discretion” to both give some leeway and to dismiss a case for rules violations.
In the instant case, Kraytsberg v. Kaplan, 2010 Mass. App. Div. 158 (2010) the Court held that the Dedham trial judge did not abuse his discretion. It was noted in the written decision that the plaintiff appellant failed to appear for the oral argument too.