Filing a lawsuit is a common course of action whenever anyone feels wronged by someone else. When someone gets injured or if a company breaches a contract, we immediately think “can I sue him/her?” However, filing a lawsuit against someone has major consequences and may not necessary be the best option. Rather, take an objective look at your situation and weigh the pros and cons. The following are three important factors to take into consideration before deciding to sue:
1. What are your damages?
This is the most important factor to consider before filing a lawsuit. What is the monetary amount that you are trying to seek through this lawsuit? We all want to be able to sue someone for millions, but if your injury only realistically cost you $500, then it may not be practical for you to spend the time and energy to go after $500.
Courts are very opposed to rewarding someone more than they deserve. This means that you can definitely demand a higher amount, but be prepared to be able to provide supporting evidence for that amount. Look closely at your situation and make an honest determination of how much your damages are and then determine whether going after that amount is worth it.
2. Is the person you are suing collectable?
Getting a judgment is one thing, but collecting on the judgment may prove to be difficult or near impossible. Let take a simple example of Smith versus Doe in a lawsuit.
Smith sues Doe for medical costs, pain and suffering, and emotion distress related to a car accident. Smith wins this lawsuit has a judgment is entered against Doe in an amount of $50,000. Unfortunately, Doe is broke and does not have the money or assets to pay Smith. Smith is now stuck with what lawyers call an “uncollectable judgment.”
This scenario is very common. People think they have the best case, which could very well be true. However, if the defendant does not have the money or assets to pay the judgment, it may be pointless to sue. Definitely do some research to find out what assets, income, and savings the person has before deciding to sue that person.
3. Is it worth my time and money?
Many people have this view that once they have a lawyer for their lawsuit, they do not have to do anything else. Lawsuits are long and tedious and actually require a lot of time and support from clients to help lawyers win the case. Additionally, the courts have tons of cases, which means that it can be months or years before a lawsuit is resolved. During this time, clients could spend a good amount of time being deposed or reviewing drafted documents.
Furthermore, lawsuits are very costly and it is only practical to pay their hourly fee in situations where the damages far exceed the amount paid in attorney’s fees. Even in contingency cases where the client does not pay the lawyers upfront fees can be costly. In some contingency cases, the client still pays for costs of filing a lawsuit. This includes filing fee, service of process fees, deposition fees, expert fees, and other fees related to the case. All these fees could add up to thousands of dollars, which the client will have to pay depending on the attorney fee agreement. Therefore, definitely consider whether your time and your money is worth filing a lawsuit.
Look closely at your situation and make an honest assessment on whether filing a lawsuit against someone is your best option in resolving a dispute. Weigh the pros and cons and speak to an attorney to do further analysis on your situation.
Eric W. Ching is a real estate attorney with Ching & Associates, a real estate and business law firm in San Diego.