The practice of using the law to resolve conflicting claims has existed since Hellenic times, and Americans in particular have embraced the courtroom with exceptional fervor. A new lawsuit is filed every two seconds in the United States, with more than 15 million nationwide in 2011.
Demand has become a growing industry; The American Bar Association, the professional bar association, says there were over 1.1 million lawyers in the country in 2007, and law schools continued to produce more than 50,000 new lawyers each year since then. The profession as a whole has taken seriously the old adage that “one lawyer in a city goes bankrupt, two or more lawyers get rich”.
Reasons you might need to sue someone
In a modern society, there are a number of cases where you might consider taking legal action:
- To enforce a contract. You may find it necessary to sue someone to collect a debt or to force someone else to do something, such as transferring title to a car you bought. Disagreements may arise over the interpretation of the language of the contract, the existence of an actual contract, or how to apply the terms contained in a contract.
- To recover from damage. If you are injured by the actions of a second game, whether you are hit by a baseball in a major league baseball stadium or food poisoning at a local pizzeria, you may need to take legal action to cover hospital bills or receive payment for lost wages. during his convalescence. Your success depends on a legal finding that the other party was negligent – the opinion of a court that you knew or should have known that your action (or inaction) caused you physical, financial harm. or, in some cases, emotional.
- To protect your property. Disputes over the ownership of movable and immovable property frequently arise in today’s complex business and social environment. If your neighbor’s fence spans your property, you may need to sue to have them remove the fence and reclaim your property (the land behind the fence).
- Dissolve a marriage or partnership. Half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. While some are resolved amicably, most involve varying levels of stress, anger, and effort to financially punish the opposing party. Family law is an important and distinct system of courts, judges, specialized lawyers and unique procedures to fairly end partnerships in the fairest way possible for all participants, including the children involved.
- To replace a trustee. People often hire other people (“trustees”) to act on their behalf for a variety of reasons. For example, you can set up a financial trust fund with a bank to take care of your children, your beneficiaries, in the event of death. Trustees can be, and often are, sued by trustees or beneficiaries for real or perceived failures in the management of trust property.
Lawsuits are brought every day over extremely important matters (including the eligibility of voters to elect the President of the United States), as well as seemingly trivial matters, such as a person’s hair length or how much lawyer. consumes. included in a product to be labeled “guacamole” rather than “flavored guacamole”. Whatever the problem, if someone is convinced and is willing to invest the time and money to remedy a perceived injustice, legal action will be taken.
Alternatives to a trial
Lawsuits are invariably stressful, costly and time-consuming cases with uncertain results. As a result, most lawyers recommend that legal action be taken only as a last resort after all other methods of resolving a disagreement have been considered or tried.
However, there are several alternatives to legal action:
- Direct negotiations. In many cases, the other party may not be aware of the crime you have committed until it is reported to them and is often willing to take corrective action when notified. Most retailers, for example, will refund the purchase price of a defective product, replace it, or repair the damage when they receive a complaint. Likewise, neighbors may stop an action when they learn that it is distressing to others. Negotiation is generally an easier, cheaper, and faster way to resolve issues.
- Use of Small Claims Court. Most states have a small claims court system where you can sue another party up to a specific maximum limit set by each state. Every legal action is the subject of a trial in which a judge makes a final decision and neither party is represented by a lawyer. The process is generally quick and much less complicated than filing lawsuits in other federal or state courts. If your neighbor’s dog, for example, destroys an expensive lawn on your property and the neighbor refuses to accept responsibility, you could sue the neighbor for the damages (as long as it is below the legal limit for the court. ). ), appear in court together and let the judge decide if you are entitled to compensation within 30 days.
- Threat of prosecution. In the event that you are unable to obtain satisfaction after filing a complaint directly with the party at fault and it exceeds the limits of the small claims court, you can escalate the case by having one lawyer contact the other. party with the implicit suggestion that failure to act will result in costly legal action. The cost for a lawyer to review your situation and write a letter or make a phone call should be minimal, but it’s proof that you understand your options and are willing to prosecute, if necessary, to achieve satisfaction.
- Mediation. Sometimes an independent third party can help both parties come to an agreement that is acceptable to both. While the mediator does not have the power to enforce an agreement, his knowledge of negotiations and ability to understand complex legal issues allows each party to understand whether they have a strong case if no agreement is reached. In poker parlance, this is called “checking your card closed”. As a result, the pressure increases on each part to arrive at a solution. Lawyers may or may not be included in a mediation. Mediation is useful in all types of trials because it is a basic dress rehearsal of the trial in which each party presents their strongest arguments. As a result, the weaker side is more likely to make reasonable settlement offers which, if accepted, eliminate the time and expense of a full-fledged lawsuit. Both parties are winning to a point.
- Arbitration. Unlike mediators, arbitrators may have the power (previously granted by each party to the dispute) to determine a legally binding agreement. For example, the contract between a securities brokerage firm and its clients typically requires arbitration rather than legal action to resolve disputes as a condition of opening an account to buy or sell securities through of the brokerage house. Arbitration is like a lawsuit in which the parties do not negotiate the outcome of the case, but the final outcome is decided by the arbitrator. It is also much cheaper than a trial in court. As with mediation, lawyers may or may not participate in hearings.
What to expect when you file a lawsuit
While the average length of a civil lawsuit in the United States is less than four days, the time to get to court can be several years, depending on the backlog and the schedule of the court under whose jurisdiction the lawsuit is being filed. . Legal experts say it typically takes two to five years between filing the complaint and the actual trial.
The time that elapses between presentation and trial is often due to delaying tactics being an effective defensive strategy. Many plaintiffs waste energy or lack the capital to pursue legal action for what appears to be an indefinite period of time. Even if you win a lawsuit, there is no guarantee of satisfaction, as the court’s decision can be appealed. Superior appeal courts struggle with their own cases waiting to be heard, and when the appeal case is finally heard, they can overturn the lower court’s decision as if the road never happened.
Deductions and fees
A popular misconception is that lawyers generally represent their clients on an “emergency” basis, or a percentage of any judgment obtained as a result of a successful trial. In fact, most lawyers do not represent clients in this way, but are paid based on time and expense like other professionals.
After hearing your point of view, an experienced lawyer calculates their time to file a complaint for a full lawsuit, as well as any third party expenses that may be incurred. Your lawyer will likely ask for a deposit equal to 20% to 50% of the projected costs before agreeing to represent you.
For example, if your attorney’s estimated time and expense to handle a custody dispute is $ 10,000, he or she will likely request an advance of $ 2,000 to $ 5,000. This ensures that the lawyer will receive part of his fees, regardless of the outcome of the case. As the advance is offset by fees billed later, you are expected to replenish the deposit. Any remaining amount of the advance will be returned to you at the conclusion of the lawsuit, whether it is withdrawn, settled or a judgment is rendered.
You should know that most lawyers are excellent timekeepers and often divide their work days into 5 or 10 minute billing segments. You should also always know that your lawyer is “on the clock” – a five-minute phone call about Sunday’s football game could cost you $ 25.
Although filing a complaint is relatively inexpensive, taking a legal matter to court can be very expensive. As the plaintiff, the party initiating the lawsuit has the option to drop the case at any time. This is an important right that should not be forgotten as expenses increase and circumstances change.
After filing the complaint
The ‘discovery’, the time that elapses between the filing of a complaint and the trial, is filled with periods of intense activity and endless delays awaiting court decisions, information from the other party and of producing your own avocado. During this time, your witnesses and any experts you might use to substantiate your case are asked to provide voluminous documents and are questioned about any aspect of your life, degrees, education, and business practices that may impact your business. the result. the suit. You can expect to face the same scrutiny.
As a result, you are likely to alternate between periods of extreme anger, frustration, and depression; your sense of privacy, justice and truth can be tested. Your pocket is probably also badly bruised. Although less than 5% of lawsuits that are actually filed go to trial and a final judgment is rendered, the threat of a long and costly process that ends in an uncertain outcome is often necessary before a settlement can be reached. find. . Filing a lawsuit and bringing it to completion is not for the faint hearted, nor for those with less than 100% commitment.
The US legal system is the most expensive in the world and is often cited as a reason for overspending in one industry or another. Some economists, for example, claim that the excessive lawsuits against doctors have led to the practice of defensive medicine and have dramatically increased health care costs in the country. In short, around every corner you can find a critic of our legal system. But what is the alternative?
Some issues can only be resolved through our legal system, especially when the issues are complex, the underlying facts are uncertain, and the parties are widely separated, denying the possibility of compromise. Filing a complaint can be the most practical and humane way to move forward, despite the cost and the cost to the parties involved.
Have you ever sued someone? If so, was the process worth it?