Do I have a case? From a simple breach of contract case to the most unfortunate of injuries, the question springs up time and again: “Should I sue?” A thorough answer (or even a half-decent one) to that question is impossibly intricate from both subjective and objective perspectives and far too detailed to fully explore here. However, I’ve listed certain factors and suggestions that I find to be universally applicable to most case evaluations:
Get a lawyer’s opinion first.
Unfortunately, too many people rely on family, friends, and (worst of all) the internet to evaluate a set of facts before even speaking to a lawyer. Getting incorrect information can possibly steer you in the wrong direction or create unreasonable expectations that may ultimately end up hurting your case.
It should be easy enough to dupe a lawyer into a free consultation to hear out your set of facts and offer his or her opinion. Even if you have to pay a consultation fee, this is usually money well spent. If your heart is set on searching the internet and becoming a legal expert online (and also becoming a nightmare client), make sure you at least have some directed guidance first.
Find out if the Defendant is collectable (i.e. does he or she or the business have any money).
This is the most important item on this list. Sure, there are certain lawsuits that only seek to stop or enjoin someone or a company from acting a certain way. Other lawsuits are filed in hopes of obligating a party to do something (i.e. act in accordance with a contract). But for the most part, you’re looking to get paid. That being said, you can win a $10 billion dollar judgment against someone, but if the party you’re suing has no money or assets, or files for bankruptcy (save certain exceptions that cannot be discharged under bankruptcy laws) you will never see a dime.
So unless your potential defendant is Walmart or someone covered under an insurance policy, it is worth your effort (and money) to hire someone to perform an asset search on them.
Know your adversary.
This goes hand in hand with #2 above. Get as much information as you can about the individual or business you plan to sue. Ask around. Sometimes other people have insight on your potential adversary—or better yet, have sued them. Are they reasonable? Respectable members of society? Are they known to be liars? Fair? Litigious? Check the public records and find out if they’ve been sued 100 times before. All this information is paramount to help pan out a litigation strategy suited for that particular defendant.
Consider the cost.
It’s not worth suing somebody over $10,000 if it’s going to cost you $20,000 in legal fees to win. Some cases are taken by lawyers on a contingency basis—this means that the lawyer usually fronts all or most of the costs associated with the lawsuit in exchange for keeping a percentage of your recovery.
Most other cases, however, are handled by a lawyer on an hourly retainer basis. In this scenario, the client pays the lawyer a sum of money and the lawyer will bill hourly against that sum. When that money runs out, the lawyer will require more money from the client. The client is also responsible for paying court and other case related costs.
When speaking to an attorney, work together to estimate a budget. If the cost is too high, you may want to rethink the lawsuit, legal strategy, or may want to find a more affordable lawyer.
The good news is most contract related cases include attorney’s fees provisions. This allows the prevailing party to a lawsuit to also collect the attorney’s fees expended throughout the litigation in addition to the amount awarded at the conclusion of the case. Keep in mind however, that if you fail to win your case, then you may be responsible for paying the other side’s legal fees (See # 1 on this list). There are also several state and federal statutes that allow the prevailing party to recover legal fees as well (again, see #1).
Evaluate your evidence.
Think of all related and relevant witnesses. Speak to them before their memory fades, they move away, die, etc. Gather all of your contracts, letters, emails, phone records, etc., (don’t write or doodle on them) before they are either lost, destroyed, or unattainable and take them to your lawyer when you go for #1 (on this list, that is).
Hire a lawyer that you trust, feel comfortable with, and is willing to passionately represent you.
I’ve seen phenomenal attorneys do lousy jobs on cases they didn’t care about and I’ve seen less experienced and less skilled attorneys obtain incredible results based on their dedication to a client and the underlying case. Remember, your attorney is basically stepping into your shoes and handling the case on behalf. If you don’t feel the attorney cares about you or your case, regardless of his accolades, find an attorney that does.
The Law Office of Francisco Cieza, P.A., is a dedicated law firm formed to passionately represent its clients and help them win their legal battles in and outside of court. Call us to schedule a consultation: (305) 200-8748. firstname.lastname@example.org