Understanding When to Sue

by Frank

Have you been wronged by someone and feel like you have a strong case to sue them? Having a good case is important but it’s not the only consideration in filing a lawsuit. You should always make a careful review of the case and how likely you are to recover anything afterwards. In many jurisdictions filing suit can cost hundreds of dollars and you certainly don’t want to throw away good money after bad.

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What are the Disadvantages of Suing?

There are several issues that can arise and prevent you from recovering on your claim even if your case is solid. First, does the other party have any assets? You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip just like you can’t squeeze assets from a judgment-proof debtor. If the other party has no income, no real estate, and no assets that can be liquidated it may not be worth proceeding even if you would prevail. The end goal is to collect what is owed not win a judgment that may not be worth the paper it’s written on.

Second, do you know where the other party is? To bring them into the lawsuit you’ll have to serve them with notice to appear and defend themselves. If you’re not able to serve them you can’t prevail in the suit. Finally, are there other options you haven’t exhausted before filing suit? If your damages stem from a criminal act your county sheriff may be able to require restitution of the other party if they’re facing charges. If your dispute is based on contract there might be a clause that allows for mediation. It’s possible you might resolve your claim through mediation and save some of the costs of your suit.

What is the Process of Suing?

The rules and law that govern how and where you file a lawsuit vary depending on your state and local laws. Generally speaking, the first step is draw up the document that initiates a lawsuit, known as a complaint or petition, and filing it in the appropriate court. Once the suit is filed the court will issue a document known as a summons that gives the party you are suing notice to appear in court to answer the suit. It is often your job to have the other party served with the complaint. If the other party fails to show up you will often win by default.

To Sue or Not to Sue Advice

The practice of law is complicated. An honest mistake can cause you to miss a deadline or fail to properly file a document in the time required. To avoid these mistakes it’s best to seek the advice of a licensed attorney before you sue. Seeking advice from counsel will not only give you an idea of whether you have a strong case but also a realistic view of the possibility of collecting on any judgment.

If you need legal assistance you can also find additional legal aid here and you can search for a lawyer here.