To Sue or Not to Sue?
Should you file a lawsuit?
If you feel you've been wronged, you may be tempted to file a lawsuit. After all, it's become the American way. But winning a lawsuit takes time, energy, and money. And even when you win a money judgment in court, actually collecting on it isn't always a sure thing.
Successful lawsuits can bring monetary rewards and satisfaction, but lawsuits take time, energy, and money. Consider the following seven factors when deciding whether or not to sue.
1. What type of suit do you have?
While the lawsuits that get the most attention generally involve extraordinary situations and huge awards, lawsuits are filed every day. Here are a few examples of common types of lawsuits:
- Contract claims to enforce the terms of a contract
- Civil claims for monetary damages to compensate a victim of a criminal act
- Property claims, such claims for damage caused be intentional or negligent acts
- Personal injury claims such as “slip and falls” and premises liability claims against stores
- Product liability claims against manufacturers of dangerous products.
- Discrimination and harassment claims, usually brought by an employee against an employer
- Proceedings to end a marriage or change a custody or spousal or child support order
2. Do you actually need to sue?
A lawsuit can be a lengthy and costly process. Before suing, consider whether or not you may be able to resolve your issue out of court with a negotiated settlement. A lawyer can help you draft a “demand letter”, which is a letter to the other side identifying your claim and the remedy you seek, to get the settlement process started.
3. Why do you want to sue?
Identify your motivation for suing. Is it the money? To prove a point? To protect others? For revenge? Recognizing why you are suing can help you determine whether you are likely to be satisfied by the outcome of a lawsuit.
4. Can you sue?
In order to successfully bring a lawsuit, you need a legal cause of action brought within a certain time period (called the “statute of limitations”). For example, just because you slipped in the grocery parking lot six years ago does not mean you have a viable negligence claim against the store for your injury. A lawyer can help you determine whether you have a legal claim within the appropriate statute of limitations.
5. Could you be counter-sued?
Will your adversary bring a counterclaim against you if you sue? A counterclaim could reduce or eliminate your award or make a trial longer, more complicated, and more expensive.
6. Can the other side pay?
If the business or individual you are suing is insolvent, bankrupt, or hard to track down, winning a lawsuit might cost you more than you can recover. Winning a money judgment in court is a hollow victory if you aren’t able to collect upon it. But in certain situations, an insurance company or employer may be responsible for paying a judgment against the defendant, which increases the likelihood of collecting.
7. Are your judgment expectations realistic?
Although no two cases are identical, it’s a good idea to research similar cases to find out what kind of judgment is typical. You can perform an internet search or ask a lawyer to provide you with information on verdict and settlement awards for similar lawsuits.