Should I File a Lawsuit?
Like most areas of the law, the answer to the question “Should I file a lawsuit?” is not black and white but various shades of grey. If you believe you have suffered a loss and another party is responsible, a person has the option of filing a matter in small claims court without the assistance of an attorney. However, small claims court cases are limited in the amount of compensation one may seek (in Missouri, to less than $5,000.00).
Often losses extend beyond the monetary. There are many things that are compensable in a case beyond out of pocket expenses.
For that reason, it is often wise for someone who’s been injured and believes they have suffered a loss to at least consult with an attorney. An attorney can help determine the value of a loss, what losses may be recovered and from whom. An attorney also can assist in navigating the legal system. These consultations are free at Brown & Crouppen and at most plaintiffs’ firms.
Does Every Case Require a Lawsuit?
Once you have consulted with an attorney, determined there is a case, and found an attorney whose team of paralegals can assist you, the next questions are 1) will a lawsuit be filed and 2) when?
Not every matter and personal injury case requires a lawsuit. There may be times where it is not in your best interest to file a lawsuit. Many matters are often resolved pre-lawsuit in an informal settlement process. The reasons a pre-settlement lawsuit may be appropriate include:
Limited insurance and/or assets– If there are limited insurance and assets from which you may be able to collect, spending money available to you as compensation on filing a lawsuit, expert witness and medical professional costs could result in less recovery than a pre-suit settlement.
Time and Stress-Your ability and desire for going through a lawsuit are also important factors! Some clients prefer to avoid the emotional toll and time that depositions and lawsuits can take. These are understandable concerns. Your lawyer will be able to assist in determining whether these factors make a pre-lawsuit resolution more appropriate.
When Should My Legal Team File a Lawsuit?
There are some cases that your attorney may advise a lawsuit be filed immediately. This advice may be the result of the attorney’s prior experience with the insurance company, insurance adjuster, opposing counsel, or type of case. The attorney may know due to these experiences that the best way to obtain full value for your loss is a lawsuit and/or trial.
Other factors in cases where lawsuits may be immediately filed include:
Certain types of injuries- Some losses and injuries are hard to monetize. Things such as a long course of medical treatment or loss of enjoyment of daily activities may not be fully appreciated by an insurance adjuster or attorney pre-lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations- There are time limits on when cases can be filed. Depending on the type of case and when you begin a case, a lawsuit may need to be filed to meet these time deadlines.
Evidence- Because of pre-lawsuit limitations on gathering evidence, there are cases that all important facts and evidence cannot be gathered without filing a lawsuit.