Part 5: Are There Other Risks I Have Not Considered?
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In addition to considering whether you have a claim, and whether it is worth it to bring the case financially against this particular defendant, you should also think about other risks involved in filing a lawsuit. Any time you litigate, you are taking it up a notch. You are exposing yourself to scrutiny through discovery; your intimate personal life may become public; your family may be questioned about the incident; and you will have to commit emotional energy and relive (over and over again) the details of the incident that led to you filing in the first place. Some people decide that they (or their loved ones) are just not cut out for such a challenge. Better to decide this ahead of time than when you are in the thick of litigation and have invested countless hours and thousands of dollars.
Your lawyer should help you identify the challenges you may face when filing your particular lawsuit, but here are a few things to think about:
Are You Mentally and Emotionally Up for the Challenge?
While hiring a lawyer helps take some of the pressure off, you will still bear a huge burden by filing a lawsuit. Lawsuits are stressful, and cause anxiety for most people. Think about whether you are up for that before filing your complaint.
Are You Ready for the Loss of Privacy That Comes with Litigation?
As your lawsuit progresses to discovery or even trial, the other side will be trying to find out many personal details. You might not feel these are relevant to the lawsuit, but you will probably have to share them anyway. For truly personal matters, your lawyer can ask for protections to shield the information from the public, but there is a certain expectation that when you voluntarily choose to file a lawsuit, you are exposing your life to some extent. This can include details about your past, your private life, medical records, hobbies, relationships, and so on.
Do You Have Other Things to Lose?
Litigation can sometimes bring things to light that you’d rather have stayed hidden. Or it may produce unintended consequences. While it is rare, filing a lawsuit could expose you to retaliation or relationship problems in some other area of your life.
Are You Ready for Things to Feel Worse Before They Get Better—If They Get Better?
At some point in the litigation—perhaps when you see the other side telling lies about you or you endure a terrible deposition—you may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the experience will be miserable. Sometimes these negative experiences during litigation will not seem so bad once you have been vindicated by a settlement or victory at trial. But a win is never guaranteed. You face some risk that litigation could actually put you in a worse place than when you began. It is wise to understand this at the beginning.
Do You Have Concerns About Friends and Family Being Involved in the Litigation?
For some people, they don’t care about themselves, but know that their child, spouse, friend, or parent simply cannot bear the stress of litigation. But for others, their friends and family are behind them 100 percent, cheering them on. This makes it easier to jump in to litigation. Considering how a lawsuit will affect those closest to you may help you make the decision.
These are hard questions, but you will be happier if you think about them ahead of time. If the pros outweigh the cons, then litigation may be the right path. But what if you are not so sure? Our next post discusses some alternative paths that might be a better fit.
Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations