Beware that you are not the attorney or party who misanalyzes the strength of your case. You might be aggressive and conclude that victory is at hand because you are determined to win rather than actually being right.
You might conclude this because of all the information that you now know assures your victory but there is needed discovery to understand the problem from the opponent’s perspective. What is the other side saying?
You might read a crucial contract provision, deed restriction, or e-mail from your perspective. Read it slower to see any ambiguities or other possibilities.
You might give greater weight to the evidence that goes your way than to opposite evidence that doesn’t. Be careful of weight given to evidence.
You have looked at this case so long, you cannot see it from the perspective of either the judge or jury because they only see a fraction of what you see. How would eyes that see this for the first time see it?
You might think that you have a statute or case that concludes the matter. There may be another statute from a different perspective. Many times cases are not completely “on point.”
Even if your case is very strong, it still might be worth settling:
You want money and a judgment for money is not the same as money.
You might really want something other than what the judge can give you and a settlement will get what a judge can’t give you—e.g. peace or a creative solution.
The cost in time and money needed to win the lawsuit might exceed the value of the victory to you.
Just because you think you will win doesn’t mean that you should always pursue trial.
According to the Press-Enterprise, judicial caseloads in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties are the heaviest in the state. (“I.E. Courts Shortchanged,” 12/21/13, page A2) Columnist Cassie MacDuff concluded, “It means Inland judges can’t devote the time they’d like to weighing decisions. It means victims and witnesses must drive many miles to reach courthouses that haven’t been shuttered.” What does this mean to you if you have a legal problem that needs to be decided? It means you should consider mediation as a first—and hopefully final alternative to a trial. As it turns out, mediation is often a very happy alternative to trial.
You can benefit from having an early mediation rather than waiting until just before trial. One advantage is that you give your perspective and understand your opponent’s. A big mistake in lawsuits is assuming you know what the case is really about. Take the situation of homeowners who hire a contractor to do build a house. If the contractor doesn’t complete the work according to specifications, the homeowners may conclude that they will certainly win at trial. Mediation may reveal a reason why the contractor didn’t complete the work. If there was granite underneath the ground and the contractor hadn’t agreed to do extraordinary work without extra compensation, this information would be most helpful.
Early mediation can show you what further information is needed to determine whether you are really right. It can show you what questions are important if you go forward. What are the factual issues? What are the legal issues?
You might be able to resolve the case right then. But even if you don’t, you have the opportunity to focus on what is important and save you time and cost throughout the preparation phase before trial.
What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “Litigation is expensive”? You probably think of the money. And, you are right.
The court cost to file a general civil lawsuit in Riverside County now costs $450. Attorney fees are much more than that. Attorney fees can be $200 to $400 per hour. Sometimes $2,000 or more must be paid before work even begins. A simple trial can take hours to interview witnesses, take depositions of your opponent, obtain necessary documents and prepare documents needed by the court for trial. This is not taking into consideration the cost of paying a process server to serve court papers, legal transcriptionists, and possible jury and court reporter fees. Complex cases can make these legal fees look small. Litigation is financially expensive and unforeseen circumstances can arise to increase the cost.
There are other costs that some don’t consider. How much is your time worth? Some people are mad that they are not entitled to be paid for their time. Going to trial is time-consuming. Your opponent may demand documents which you will have to find and copy for them. There may be many phone calls with your attorney, depositions, and pre-trial motions. All of this takes time—time that would be much better spent working on your business, pursuing a promising new client, or taking a vacation. You could miss many opportunities which will not present themselves again before you even get to trial.
Consider, too, what the stress will cost you. After you’ve spent your money, your time and endured the stress, there is still no guarantee that a judge or jury will see the facts from your perspective. What will be the emotional cost to you? Often, we do not consider this—but it may be the biggest cost of all. Frustration, vengeance, and bitterness take a toll on our physical and emotional health.
Before rushing to sue, seriously consider whether you can resolve the problem without filing a lawsuit. A mediator can help you seek and negotiate a reasonable solution and spare you the financial, time, and stress-related costs of an unnecessary lawsuit.