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To Sue or Not to Sue?

Many clients ask me if filing suit is better than settling a personal injury case. For the past twenty years in my personal injury law practice, I have taken many cases to court, but I have settled a much larger percentage of cases before filing suit. While each case is different, many times settling is a better option, if a fair settlement offer is on the table. Filing a lawsuit against the person or company that hurt you may sound like the way to go, but one should not rush into litigation without considering the following factors: (1) Lawsuits are inherently risky. Bottom line, most personal injury lawsuits are not a “slam dunk.” Filing a lawsuit exposes the weaknesses in the case. If the cause of the accident or injury is in question, you stand to lose the case at trial altogether. If the extent of your injuries is questionable, expect to be hammered about that as well. Your opponent will have a lawyer who is paid to attack the merits of your case and reduce the amount of damages. (2) Lawsuits are expensive. Just the filing fee alone can cost around $700 in many jurisdictions. Other expenses include depositions, expert witness fees, travel expenses, trial exhibits, and many other expenses required to prepare and present your case. Under many contingent fee contracts, these costs come out of your money if the case is brought to a successful conclusion. In other words, if you win, you pay back the expenses incurred along the way.  Settling before expenses get out of control saves you money. (3) Lawsuits are time consuming. It is not unusual for a personal injury case to stay in the court system for years waiting to be set for trial and resolved. Settling a case gives you closure and puts money in your hands now. In order to try a case, you must take time off work and away from your family to be present in the courtroom for the duration of the trial. This could be a week or more off work, costing you money. All of these things are worth considering before you turn down a reasonable settlement in the hopes of doing better in litigation. Litigation does not always work out for the best.

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