Think Before You Sue
For those who are wondering why I am posting so much this week, it is because I am away on vacation. I would like to take this opportunity to ask those of you who read my blog to ask questions and suggest future blog posts.
This post is not directly about contractor or homeowner issues, but I have been thinking lately about the stress of dealing with a lawsuit. Parties vary regarding their involvement in their own disputes. Some are happy to hand their claims over to an attorney and check in now and then, and others want to be directly involved and strategize about their claims. However, no matter how much or little involvement you choose, you should realize that lawsuits are extremely emotionally taxing.
First of all, the financial burden cannot be underestimated. Lawsuits are unpredictable. Even if your own attorney is prudent about expenses, he or she has no control about how the other side conducts themselves. Opposing counsel and/or parties can make life miserable and drive up costs. That's just the way it is. Even if you prevail in a lawsuit, there is frequently no guarantee that a judgment will be paid. Different states have different measures available for collection, but it is not usually easy.
Emotionally, lawsuits are difficult. You will be living with your dispute for a long time, and re-living unpleasant experiences every time there is discovery (written questions, document requests and depositions). Your suit will become a part of your life that feels like it never goes away. It is unlikely that a win will be a slam dunk. Ultimately you will probably settle for less than you had hoped for at the beginning.
Why would a lawyer say all of this? The truth is, I am like a surgeon who does not want to do surgery unless it is medically necessary. Most cases settle. Clients have to understand that resolving disputes short of filing suit is usually a better option. Legal expenses have not accumulated extensively, and statistically, parties are much more likely to comply with negotiated settlements. Resolution is not left up to chance where twelve arbitrary jurors are deciding your fate, or a judge is making the decision for you. It is much better to maintain control over your own outcome.
I do not hesitate to advise my clients to file suit when it is necessary and recovering a judgment is feasible. Litigation is my forte along with arbitration and mediation. However, I do not recommend filing suit unless it is worth it, because the emotional and financial consequences are too high.