On the average, over 40 million lawsuits are filed every year in the United States. Many of these suits are considered to be “frivolous,” or those that have little or no chance of winning because they have no legal merit.
However, there are others that should be taken to court because they have serious allegations that require legal attention to be resolved.
If you are on the fence about whether or not you have a valid case that merits the need to pursue a lawsuit, here are three questions you should ask a lawyer before you open a suit.
- Does my case have legal merit, and what are the possible outcomes?
You can find out from a lawyer if you have a “good case,” or cause to file a lawsuit. Each type of case has different elements that must be proven in order to win, and when you ask this question your attorney should go over those elements with you to evaluate whether they are able to be met or not.
For example, if you are looking to sue for breach of contract, you will have to prove that a valid contract existed, that you held up your end of the contract, that the other party did not and therefore breached your agreement, and that there were economic damages that ensued due to the breach.
Once you and your attorney have determined that there is sufficient cause to justify a lawsuit, he or she will be able to tell you what the possible outcomes may be, whether it has a strong chance of mediation or going to trial, and what your potential for winning . Remember, every case has many variables that effect each of these potential outcomes.
- What fees and expenses can I expect?
Many attorneys will be vague on this point, but you are entitled to know what you will be expected to pay for your legal representation. Some attorneys charge a fixed amount while others charge by the hour.
Often, a case is based on a “contingency fee,” where the lawyer will only get paid if you win. The general amount they receive is a portion of your settlement, usually one-third.
You also need to account for expenses if they charge for them on top of their other fees. These expenses can include anything from copies to travel and expert witnesses.
Don’t expect to have an exact amount, but you should be able to get a ballpark figure of what you may be responsible for.
- What do I need to do to prepare, and what will you be doing?
The relationship between an attorney and client should be symbiotic – you each rely on each other to do their part to get a successful outcome, and you each benefit from it. You do have a part to play in the resolution of your case, and your attorney should tell you exactly what you need to do, or not do, to win.
You also have the right to know who exactly is handling your case, as many legal firms will have paralegals or junior associates do the legwork. This can save you money, since they may charge a lower amount, but your attorney should make any important decisions and be involved in the main aspects of the case.
Final Step: Hire Your Attorney and Open a Suit
If, through your meeting, you and your attorney feel strongly that you have a case with legal merit and a good potential to win, you can now take the steps necessary to begin your lawsuit. This can be a quick process from beginning to end, or your case may take years for a final settlement, but you are now on the path to resolution of your concern.