In America, you have the right to sue anyone for pretty much anything. Even if you have a clear-cut case for damages, however, it may not be worth the time, effort, and expense involved in going to court. Here are two things to consider that may help you decide whether filing a lawsuit is a good idea.
Will You Recover Your Expenses?
Unless you're litigating a case in small claims court, you can expect to spend at least a few thousand dollars suing the defendant to recover compensation for your damages. Many attorneys take personal injury cases on a contingency basis, meaning they will take percentage of the money clients receive when their cases are resolved in their favor. Even with that, though, you still need to ensure you'll be getting enough money from the defendant to cover any out-of-pocket costs you incur or fees not included in the amount the attorney charges.
You should take a day to calculate the minimum amount you need to win (i.e. litigation costs plus actual damages) as well as evaluate the strength of your case to determine the likelihood you'll get the amount you want. If you suspect you may not be awarded enough to cover that amount, you may want to rethink taking the case to court.
Can the Defendant Pay?
Even if the judge awards you every penny you ask for and then some, obtaining that court judgment won't help you much if the defendant can't actually pay you a dime. This is why you need to check the defendant's assets to ensure he or she can actually afford to pay what you're asking before you take on the expense of suing the person.
Sometimes it's as simple as ensuring the person has enough insurance to cover the cost, especially in medical malpractice cases where court awards can get into the hundreds—if not millions—of dollars. Other times, you may need to conduct some research into the person's finances to see what assets are available to the individual to help pay off any debt owed to you.
If the person can't afford to pay, then you might not want to take him or her to court until the individual's circumstances change. Be aware, though, that many states have statutes of limitations that only give you a few years to file a personal injury lawsuit against a person. Also, it should be noted that the statute of limitation for collection on a court judgment is usually much longer (e.g. you have 20 years to collect in Connecticut), so you may want to take that into consideration when deciding whether to sue or not.
For more information about these issues, contact a personal injury attorney.