Will My Case Go To Court?
By: James Dodson
One of the most common questions I am asked by new clients is whether it will be necessary that their case go to court. Most people want nothing to do with having to go to trial. They fear that once they hire a lawyer, they will lose control of their case. They have heard of cases taking years to resolve and fear their's will be one of them. I emphasize with clients that they will remain in charge of whether their case settles or whether it will go into litigation by the filing of a lawsuit. My role as a lawyer is to give them advice and guide them in the choices that are available to resolve their case in the way consistent with their goals. Very few clients come to a lawyer wanting to file suit and go through the litigation process. That being so, why do cases end up in a lawsuit?
In my book, The Five Mistakes That Can Run Your Auto Accident Case, I discuss the elements which must be proven in order to win an auto accident case. In general, those elements apply to all injury claims. The strongest cases have the following:
1. Clear liability, with the other party clearly at fault
2. No comparative fault, which means there is no argument that you are also at fault
3. Clear causation (medical evidence clearly showing the injury resulted from the accident)
4. Significant damages from serious injury or death
5. Insurance coverage to pay all damages sustained.
The vast majority of cases settle without a lawsuit. Cases which do not settle often involve either questions of liability, in which the defendant argues that they're not liable for the accident, or issues of causation or damages in which they argue that the accident didn't cause all of the injury or damages which are being claimed. This generally boils down to the plaintive arguing the case is worth a value much greater than the defendant says they are willing to pay. In that situation, after negotiations have been completed, the plaintiff can accept what the defendant is offering or reject the offer and file their lawsuit.
Even in cases which do involve filing a lawsuit, the vast majority of cases will settle before trial. In our jurisdiction of Pinellas County Florida, cases are required to go through a mediation process prior to setting a trial date. Mediation is a process involving a trained mediator meeting with both the plaintiff and the defendant and their attorneys in an effort to settle the case. Some estimates are that 70% of the cases in which a lawsuit was filed will settle at mediation. The vast majority of the remaining cases will settle before trial. That is partly due to the fact that only a small percentage of clients are willing to actually try their cases. It also reflects the pressure on both the plaintiff and the defendant to try to reach a resolution of the case without trying it to a jury. The point to remember is that clients decide if their case is settled or if a lawsuit is filed. Once a lawsuit is filed, clients decide if and when they will agree to settle at any stage during the litigation process. Clients should never feel that they are not in control of their case. I regularly deal with clients who will not file a lawsuit under any circumstances. Others will file suit, but do not want to try their case to a jury. A small percentage will file suit and want to go all the way to trial. My responsibility is to understand each client's goals for resolving their case and work towards a resolution consistent with those goals.
The Law Office of James W. Dodson, P.A. brings over 30 years of personal injury experience to the table. Located in Clearwater, they represent consumers from all parts of Florida. You can learn more and get FREE copies of their books and publications at http://www.JWDodsonLaw.com or visit our blog at http://www.TampaBayInjuryLawyerBlog.com
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