Even though the beginning of the filing process is typically just completing and filing a form, the next few steps are far more substantial and time-consuming. Before filing, it is recommended that you attempt to resolve the issue independently of court involvement. If no middle ground or resolution can be found, then filing your suit is the next logical step toward restitution.
Prior to filing, there are a few criteria you need to research and consider. First, you need to be sure that you have a valid legal claim and that the law is in your favor. The last thing you need to do is set yourself up for a lawsuit from your opponent because you didn’t do your homework. If your lawsuit is against your employer, ensure that you are not contractually bound to an Alternative Dispute Resolution Contract. If you are, learn what options you have for recourse, within the terms of your contract. Many times, this will be mediation or arbitration, and will keep you and the company out of a court room.
Next, evaluate the strength of your evidence. You will need to have readily-available, straightforward, and logical answers to establish your case’s legitimacy. Discussing residential and commercial property loss and damages with your claims adjuster can help you understand the facts of your case from an insurance perspective. Property loss adjusters are experts in examining claims and defining applicable coverage based on your insurance policy.
Line up your proof and ensure your bases are covered. Can you obtain the appropriate witnesses for trial? Can you acquire the relevant documents and reports to support your case? If your opponent tells a different account than your own, can you prove your side? Can you tell your account convincingly to a judge, jury, or mediator? Do you know the standard of proof required to prove your opponent broke the law? Each case will vary with this point, as many laws can be broken at a time. Each will have its own standard of proof. You (or your attorney) are responsible for identifying each applicable law, and the standard of proof associated with it. It is around these standards you will build your case.
Since civil suits are typically resolved monetarily, you need to identify your opponent’s financial assets and resources. If the defendant does not have the means to compensate you for damages, you may only be granted a guilty verdict and nothing more. Be sure to do your research.
After you have worked toward resolving the above criteria, it may be time to pursue hiring an attorney. By building as much of the case as possible, you become intimate with the facts of the case, and can submit a more complete argument to your attorney to proofread and continue to build.
Searching for an attorney can also be time-consuming. Be sure to capitalize on free consultations to find the right fit for you and your case. Treat these consultations as interviews. Ask about their experience as an attorney, their experience with your type of case, their favorite types of cases. For more questions, check out this article published through the American Bar Association. You want to be able to converse and collaborate with your attorney like a trusted co-worker.
Continue reading for the last part of our series: Your Day in Court.