Is a Civil Case Worth Pursuing?
What is a case worth? Who do I sue? What will a lawyer cost? What does the process look like? Will a lawyer take our case on contingency? These are all versions of the same question: is a civil case worth pursuing? As civil attorneys | lawyers who spent a lot of time in the courtroom in litigation, lawsuits, and disputes, we think the answer is pretty simple:
The Answer boils down to:
(1) How good is your claim or complaint?
(2) How good is your evidence?
(3) What result do you want?
How good is your claim? From our practicing lawyers’ perspective who spend a lot of time evaluating and litigating civil cases, you should not sue someone for bad luck or mistake, you should sue someone because their behavior either violated the law or a legal standard. The facts of a case drive this decision. A good claim or suit is one where you can prove someone broke a legal standard in court, has clear and easily understandable damages that a Washington jury could agree on. Remember, civil lawyers need the right facts to prove a case and cannot proceed simply on speculation. A bad claim or suit is one where a civil lawyer cannot prove in court that someone broke a legal standard. Obviously, the more your legal claim and damages are clear according to Washington law, the easier it is to say a civil case is worth pursuing.
Legal standards vary greatly depending on the case. For example, in general, the law views blasting with dynamite a strict liability event while it views driving a car a negligent liability event. If someone is blasting and hurts someone, the person blasting is automatically liable; if someone is driving and hurt someone, generally that person or the person who maintained the car or person who designed the road, must be negligent. Every type of case has an assigned legal standard, and, your lawyer’s willingness and ability to try to prove it in court and connect it to damages is what drives cases, and for better or worse, our American legal system. Part of what a good lawyer does is helps their clients and their families weigh how good a claim is by nailing down the legal standard that applies, the damages that can be proved and the cost and expense in time and/or experts to do so. TO do this, Washington lawyers will often consult Washington law and consider prior Washington jury verdicts that are similar to a case. If a Washignton civil lawyer | attorney suggests pursuing a case, they will help with the negotiation, litigation, lawsuits, and courtrooms to get a result.
How good is your evidence? In our section, What Should You Do If You’re Hurt, we talk about writing down witness’s names and information, taking photos and documenting what happened during an accident or problem. As civil lawyers, we encourage people to do so as soon as possible to try to preserve the moment and evidence. It is essential that clients, lawyers and/or their investigators collect evidence because when you try a case in front of a judge or jury, your case is only as good as the facts or evidence you are allowed to bring into court. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. If you need to prove a case in court, you want to present more than “he said | she said”; what you want is witnesses, photos and experts corroborating what you are saying. Part of what a lawyer does is help clients and families identify and weigh evidence to decide how good a case is. A good lawyer should be familiar with the how a case will be processed by the Rules of Evidence, what case law applies in a courtroom and uses this knowledge in negotiation and the litigation of cases. Remember, if you can’t say or prove it in court, it almost does not matter. Civil lawyers are crucial in helping people weigh this aspect of things and build and value cases with these standards in mind.
What result do you want? From the perspective of Washington practicing lawyers who handle civil cases, part of the process of an initial meeting with clients is figuring out what result is possible and consider prior jury verdicts. Do client’s want money, do you want someone to stop harassing, do you want someone to fulfill a contract, write an apology letter, change a policy, pay for a fraud, pay for damages or medical bills, compensation for pain and suffering? What do you want? Part of what a lawyer | attorney does is help clients understand what they can be asked for and what courtrooms, negotiation, litigation, and lawsuits can offer.
In general, in Washington, there are really 4 civil arenas people can sue and pursue litigation, lawsuits, and disputes in (though there are a wide variety of administrative agencies that we discuss in other sections) in the State of Washington:
- Small Claims Courts. This is an excellent resource for people who have a claim for only money, up to $5000.00 which does not justify getting a civil lawyer involved. The small claim court only allows litigation for money. You cannot ask for anything else. The rules of this court are simplified and no lawyers are allowed in the court (unless a judge allows it). Occasionally we help people prepare for these courtrooms as we like small claim cases: it is where Robert Rhodes won his first case against a trucking company when he was 18 years old. He had no legal training but he followed the good general advice, collected evidence, photos and argued his own case against the trucking company owner and won. 99% tedium for 1% absolute joy is the old joke among lawyers and winners. Winning can be very satisfying.
- A local District Court in your County. In our opinion, local Washington State district courts are cheaper, quicker and easier than Superior Court. Where cases involve damages for injury to individuals or personal property or contract disputes in amounts of up to $100,000, the district court is where you want to go if you can. Depending on which courthouse you file in, in our opinion, you can get to trial relatively quickly compared to Washington State Superior Courts.
- A Local Superior Court Case. If the claim is for more than $100,000.00 or involves real property, or is a particular area of law that Superior Court retained jurisdiction, you will need to file the claim in Washington State Superior Court. Each County has its own Washington State Superior Courts and each courthouse has its own Washington State local court rules, but they all work about the same. The problem with Superior Court is that criminal cases come before civil cases and there are a lot of criminal cases filed so the wait time for a trial can be 18 months or longer. In addition, Superior Court has a lot more rules you need to abide by and be careful about than District Court.
- Washington State Federal Court. For cases that involve Federal Questions, which means litigation of federal law, the U.S. Constitution, or a Treaty, or diversity of jurisdiction on claims over $75,000.00 which means the litigation involves people from two different states or noncitizens, the A Washington State federal court is where you will likely go. Washington is split into a Western District and an Eastern District.
Talk to us about your case and what court makes sense.
The civil lawyers | attorneys in our office have handled a wide variety of complicated cases in Washington and in Federal Court over the course of our lengthy legal careers. Our firm is a unique blend of courtroom experience, knowledge, temperament and nature. Our lawyers know cases are rarely simple and our clients hire us because they want their lawyers | attorneys who serve their interests first, enjoy a good fight are goal oriented and like to win. We are a firm of staunch, uncompromising and effective counsel. As lawyers and people, we take the time to go the extra yard in a fight. Whether acting in our role as counsel, advocate, negotiator or litigator, we have years of experience working and fighting to resolve cases with our clients’ best interests in mind.
Choosing bad legal counsel can set the tone for a long and difficult road. Call 206-708-7852 to set up an appointment and assess what kind of people and lawyers make up this firm and why we have a reputation for getting results.