So you’re angry, frustrated and you are asking “Should I sue?” Before you know what the answer is, you need to first understand all the implications involved.
Most of us have thought about taking a matter to court at some point, particularly when going through other (and less extreme) means to resolve the issue has failed. After all, personal injury, harassment, fraud, malpractice, and discrimination are very real problems people face every day.
The first question to ask yourself is whether the matter requires the kind of legal action involved in a lawsuit or not; the next is whether a suit would be successful even if that was the course decided upon. For example, the following questions should be considered before pursuing legal action:
- Do I legitimately have a legal case?
- Are there alternatives to suing the other party?
- If I do win the case, will the other party pay?
Legitimate Legal Action
The decision to sue a person or entity is a serious one. Frivolous lawsuits are brought all the time – often as a ploy to get someone to settle without going to court. In order to prevent one coming from you or from another party toward you, the issue of whether there is legitimate cause for legal action should be carefully considered with the help of a reputable attorney who has expertise in the matter at hand.
If and when you do decide to proceed with a lawsuit, the question then becomes whether you should sue, as bringing a case to court can often be a huge waste of time and money for everyone involved.
Before proceeding with a lawsuit, you might consider the following:
- Is the other party legally at fault?
- Did you have a binding agreement with the other party? If so, can you prove a breach of contract in such a way that the other person/entity can be held responsible?
- Is this a truly legal matter or a personal one? In other words, is the neighbor who plays loud music or who allows the dog to bark all night actually breaking a law or just driving you crazy?
- Is money enough to settle the matter or is the principle of the matter most important to you? Either way, winning a lawsuit can never restore what was lost, nor will costly legal action stop unscrupulous people.
- Is the legal process worth all the time, money, stress, and other resources it will cost? Even a “successful” lawsuit can result in appeals that can go on even longer.
- Is taking legal action the best use of your resources?
- If you do win the lawsuit, does the party you’re suing having money to pay the claim?
Whatever you decide, weighing all the pros and cons is important.
Alternatives to Legal Action
Take the time to research as many of the legal aspects of what you are facing and then consider the best course of action for your specific case.
When possible, consider mediation or arbitration as an option.
Resolution can come in many forms.
The Other Party’s Ability to Pay
While a court can and may decide in your favor, it will not collect any judgment for you. People who lose lawsuits may not actually pay what they are ordered to pay for a variety of reasons. For example, sometimes they hide assets, while at other times, they simply do not have them. Before you decide to pursue compensatory damages, then, you should know whether the other party actually possesses the resources to pay.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
While the services of a lawyer are not required in every case, there are times when a professional is clearly needed.
When you may need a lawyer:
- If your case is complicated or may become complicated (think malpractice or construction defect cases, for example)
- If you need legal advice, such as specific strategies, where and how to file a lawsuit, or when a jury is involved
- If you are concerned that you need legal protection from those who refuse to work with you or compromise (as in wrongful termination or discrimination cases)
- When you are too emotionally involved in the case to be objective
You may not need a lawyer
- If the case is simple and straightforward
- If there is no opposing side or you and the other party are in agreement about everything
- When you clearly understand all your options and can make informed choices about your case
- If you are able and willing to learn all aspects of the law and understand the rules and procedures that apply to your specific case
- If you have the time necessary to prepare your own case
Doing your homework and knowing if and when you have a solid case is the first step to avoiding costly and frivolous lawsuits. Determining whether you have a good case is vital before pursuing any kind of legal action. When in doubt, always seek the counsel of a reputable attorney who can help you determine if bringing your case to court is indeed the best course of action.