Many of us have found ourselves in a situation where we’ve considered filing a lawsuit. Perhaps you sustained an injury while working for a past employer? Or perhaps you hired someone to fix your car or do some home improvements and they did a botch job?
Suing can be a way of getting some financial compensation for the wrongdoings that have been committed against you, as well as a way of holding the perpetrator accountable. But is a lawsuit always the best option? Suing requires time and money and you need to make sure that you have a strong case if you want to win. Below are just some of the things to consider to help you decide whether it’s right to sue.
Has someone’s poor actions caused you damage?
You’re more likely to be able to build a strong case if you can prove that someone’s poor actions have caused damage to your life in some way – whether it’s damage to property, your physical health, data loss, financial damage or psychological damage.
For example, you can’t sue a company for slipping on a wet floor if the fall didn’t cause you to injure yourself or break something that you were carrying. Similarly, you may struggle to sue a client for paying you late if it didn’t have any major negative effect on your finances (like not being able to pay bills or having to make emergency cutbacks).
Have you tried to settle the matter privately?
Many matters can be settled privately outside of a courtroom. For example, if a vendor failed to show up for a wedding and you paid for their service, it is likely you will be able to ask for a refund and possibly even compensation on top of this if you feel it ruined your wedding. This is much less hassle than having to hire a lawyer, explain your situation and go to court.
Of course, there may be some cases where you cannot get hold of the person responsible or feel too intimated. In these cases, it may be better to resort to a lawsuit straight away.
Do you have solid evidence?
It’s hard to build a case if you have little to no evidence. For example, if a contractor promised you something but did not deliver, you’ll likely need to have that promise in writing or have a witness to argue your case – otherwise it’s impossible to prove what someone may have said. You also want to make sure that you haven’t erased evidence, such as getting car damage fixed without taking photos (although you may be able to get a witness statement from the mechanic).
A lawyer can of course help you to collect some evidence. For example, if a child was born with cerebral palsy and you think it was due to a birth injury caused by medical malpractice, it may be necessary to hire a cerebral palsy lawyer to look into the cause to ensure that it wasn’t a natural defect or injury sustained during pregnancy. This could include some level of medical understanding that only a specialist lawyer can provide.
Can you afford the legal fees?
In many cases, the party that loses the case has to pay the legal fees. This means that if you win, the person you’re suing pays your lawyer. If you lose, you have to pay. You should therefore consider whether the case is strong enough for you to definitely win – if there is any doubt you may win, make sure that you can afford the legal fees.
‘No win no fee’ legal services do exist and could help you to file a lawsuit without having to worry about paying money if you lose. However, these services may only be available for relatively small claims. A lawyer’s reputation is also worth researching in these situations – some attorneys may not charge anything to make up for bad press.
Is it too late to sue?
For many acts of negligence, there is a limitation period within which you are able to sue. If you try to file a lawsuit later than this limitation period, your lawsuit may be rejected in court.
This limitation period varies depending on the nature of the case, but it is typically three to six years. There are exceptions where damage may not come to light until 20 or 30 years down the line. For example, many people exposed to asbestos in workplaces 20 or 30 years have been able to successfully sue companies after developing mesothelioma later in life as a direct effect. That said, there is likely to still be a limitation period of 3 years starting from the diagnosis date.