**Please note that this blog article is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does it create an attorney / client relationship. Please consult an attorney or contact our office should you desire a consultation**
So you’re getting stonewalled by the insurance company. They either don’t want to pay you or they’re offering you some ridiculously low number to compensate you for your injuries sustained in a car accident. Maybe a business partner screwed you over and they’re jerking you around, refusing to pay you, and just playing games. Let’s sue!!!! It is a common trend that people seem to be quick on the trigger to file a lawsuit in order to speed things up. Just because you’re not getting the number you want after a few weeks, doesn’t mean you should be so quick to sue the other party in all cases. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a faster or more efficient way to do things in all cases.
Before you pull the trigger on filing a lawsuit, consider the following things in your equation:
- Litigation is COSTLY. Yep, it can be very expensive. People are quick to tell us to “just sue them” to get the settlement. What they don’t realize is that even in a simple car accident, the costs of litigation can be significant. If you’re already hard-up for money, can you afford even the basic filing fee that the Court charges for filing the case? In LA County, a civil unlimited suit at the time of this writing, is $435. Then you have to pay a service to find and serve the defendant. And no, the real costs haven’t even started yet.
Depending on how far you get into the litigation, there are costs of deposing the defendant and other witnesses, with simple depositions costing over $1,000 per deposition since you have to pay the reporter, rent a boardroom, etc. As you get closer to trial you’ll need to hire expert witnesses which can run anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 for just one single day. And no, they don’t get paid on a contingency. Even for a simple car accident case you may have to front $20,000 in expenses just to get to trial and that’s being conservative in some cases.
Yes, in some cases, depending on the size of the case the law firm you hire will front a lot of these costs, but unless your case justifies those costs, many law firms will want you to front those fees if your case doesn’t merit the investment.
- Filing a lawsuit can actually slow things down. Usually when we have a car accident client that is quite desperate for money in their personal life they want us to sue to get the ball moving faster so they can get paid faster. What they don’t realize since they’ve watched too many Hollywood television lawyer dramas, is that you don’t sue someone on Monday, have a trial on Tuesday, and get your settlement check on Wednesday of the same week.
When you file a lawsuit, a few things happen. A court calendar is set with different dates. In LA County, although they are trying to make things move faster, you may not have a trial date for a year, not to mention the typical slew of continuances that could go beyond a year. Add to that the fact that once you file a lawsuit, the adjuster with whom you were working may get replaced with a new adjuster, and your case assigned to a lawyer for the insurance company. Adding these parties does not speed things up. The other side will now want you to start over by going through the discovery process in which you have to send them records, be deposed, then your doctors may be deposed…let’s just say this doesn’t make things move faster.
Add to all of this the fact that you’ll have to be more involved and now your time will come into more play whereas before your attorney was handling everything. Once a lawsuit is filed you’ll have to take time off of work to possibly get deposed by the other side (nerve-wracking for some), and also you may have to go see the doctor for the insurance company so he can verify your injuries. If you work full time, these are inconveniences.
- Filing a lawsuit does not guarantee you’ll get a higher settlement. You can actually run the risk of getting less money. These days in LA jury pools are not as sympathetic to granting large settlements. If you just had some minor back pains but are otherwise okay, you may want to reconsider filing a lawsuit unless you and your attorney agree that the insurance settlement offer is far too low. Considering your case may get reassigned to a different adjuster and an attorney, if they see things differently, they may pull their offer and offer you even less. It’s up to us or whoever your lawyer is to negotiate a fair sum, however I write this to eliminate the illusion that you automatically up the reward (although in my experience this has worked to get a better settlement when the injuries are present).
These are just a few of the major reasons to consider trying to reach a settlement and avoiding a lawsuit. Having said that, with how stingy and unreasonable insurance companies have become, we have found it necessary to fight for our clients rights and file lawsuits in more cases than we have had to in the past.
In other instances, if you are handling your own case, you may want to consider filing a small claims lawsuit. These are much cheaper, and faster with filing fees below $100 and the process moving much faster (ie. Within 60 days you may likely get your hearing date). Remember though, depending on your jurisdiction, small claims courts have limits on recovery. At the time of writing, for example, in Los Angeles, small claims for personal injury cases are limited to $10,000.
If you have been trying your own claim without an attorney and want a free consultation and case evaluation, feel free to give me a call. I would be happy to analyze your case and offer my opinions.
Good luck out there!