Looking at the Big Picture: Deciding When to Sue

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If you’ve been in an accident, whether it is a minor vehicle fender-bender or a catastrophic industrial accident, one of your biggest concerns is securing just compensation for your injuries.

If you are thinking about turning to the legal system for compensation, you should find out the answers to the following questions:

 1.   Do I have a good legal case?

Personal injury cases usually involve questions about whether the defendant was negligent. Negligence is broken down into four elements: duty, breach of duty, causation, and injury. Analyzing whether you will be able to prove all four elements is critical to an honest evaluation of your case. It’s also important to make sure your case isn’t too old to be filed because there are deadlines that have to be met for the filing of causes of action—these are called statutes of limitation.

2. Who can I sue?

Determining what individuals and entities you can sue can be more complex than you might think. For example, if you are involved in an automobile accident, obviously you can sue the other driver who caused the accident. However, you might also be able to sue his or her employer, who has greater financial assets, thus securing yourself a much larger recovery.

3. How should I pursue my case?

Once you determine that you will probably be able to prove the legal elements of your claim, the next question is how to pursue your claim against potential defendants. Trials are often costly and involve uncertainty. Other options, such as mediation, exist for parties to reach an out-of-court settlement much earlier than possible with a years-long court case. This avenue might be more appropriate for you depending on the position of the parties and the strength of the case.

4. Will I be able to collect a judgment?

One of the most important questions regarding a potential personal injury case is: If you win your case, will the responsible parties be able to pay? Pursuing a claim all the way to trial against someone with little financial resources is fruitless because there will be no compensation for you to collect. Knowing the defendants’ assets and their ability to pay a judgment is necessary before any action is taken on your case.