Is filing lawsuit a good option for you?
Have you ever been in a situation where an insurance company made a settlement offer for your case that seems completely unfair and way less than what you believe your case is worth? Well if you have, you probably considered the option of filing a lawsuit.
While you should always consult with an attorney for their professional opinion as to what is best for your specific situation, you are still the one making a final decision. Here are some answers to the most common questions. Hopefully, these answers can help you decide if litigation is the right solution for you:
- How much will it cost and who will be paying for those expenses? The litigation process can become very expensive. Depending where your lawsuit is filed, some of the costs you may incur are the court filing fees, process of service fees, investigative costs, depositions and transcripts, expert witness expenses, and mediation fees. These expenses can amount to thousands of dollars and although your attorney may advance the funds for these expenses, they will be deducted from your settlement or judgement reducing your net recovery amount. However, the costs may vary significantly if your case involves a smaller claim. Generally, claims in the range of $20,000-$30,000 in Maryland or Virginia can be tried in a court of lower jurisdiction where the costs are minimal.
2. How long will my case take if I choose to litigate it? This also depends a lot on what state you are in and in what court your case is filed. However, on average you can expect the litigation process to take 9 months to 2 years for larger claims, and less time for smaller matters.
3. I have a lawyer; Will I need to be involved in the process and testify in court? Yes, you will absolutely need to be participate in the process. Although your lawyer will be doing most of the work, you will need to be involved in responding to discovery requests from opposing counsel and may be required to attend a deposition, which is questioning under oath in front of a court reporter. You may also be required to attend an independent medical exam paid for by the Defendant or the Defendant’s attorneys. Finally, you will have to testify in court at the actual trial date.
4. Is there a risk in going to court and can my judgment be less than a settlement offer? Yes, there is absolutely a risk in going to court – you are putting your case in the hands of a Judge or a Jury. Typically, the judge or jury has discretion to award any amount from $0 up to the maximum amount requested in your complaint. Ultimately, if you do not agree with the court’s decision, you can file an appeal, which would come with additional costs and time to be invested. If you have an unsatisfactory judgment, you should consult with your attorney as to whether filing an appeal would be beneficial for your circumstances. Finally, sometimes even if you obtain a judgement, you may not be able to collect the entire amount. There are sometimes post judgement motions filed by Defense attorneys to reduce the amount of the judgment, or ask for a new trial, or that ask the judge to set aside the judgement of the jury etc. Therefore, there are many possible outcomes that are hard to predict.
5. If my judgment is less than what insurance offered prior to trial, can I choose to accept insurance company’s offer? Generally, no. Unfortunately, once a judgement is entered, it is usually binding. Therefore, if you lose in court, and are unable to appeal, you cannot simply accept the insurance’s previous offer. In fact, at any point during litigation process insurance company can increase their settlement offer or they can withdraw any previous offers they made. Negotiation is a fluid process but it usually ends when the Judge or Jury’s verdict becomes final and all routes of appeal have been extinguished.
In conclusion, although filing a lawsuit may seem like an easy solution for a bad settlement offer, it is important to consider all the factors when you are deciding if you are ready to be financially and emotionally involved in this process for possibly an extensive period of time. And of course it is essential to have an attorney on your side to help you make the best decisions for your case and to represent your interests in litigation.