Most people know about statutes of limitation that limit the amount of time that one has to bring a lawsuit, to avoid “stale claims,” that is years-old claims against defendants who are compromised in their abilities to defend lawsuits due to the passage of time.
In some cases, because of the threat of an expiring statute of limitation, there can be urgency tied to starting a lawsuit.
In other cases, because a threat is imminent or ongoing, there can be urgency tied to starting a lawsuit.
However, in many cases, there is no urgency and a common mistake that civil litigants feel is impatience, even a sense of outrage or injustice, and they rush what should be a careful and deliberate process.
Clients need to keep in mind that, once a lawsuit starts, it can go in unanticipated directions; there can be unexpected time-constraints and demands. Pre-suit (assuming no statute of limitations issue or other pressures), is the proverbial “calm before the storm” and clients need to take advantage of the relative calm.
If a client has been sued, the issue of the timing of the lawsuit has been made for them, of course. If you have been sued, you should retain a lawyer as quickly as possible. Having said that, it will be critical for you and your lawyer to use the time you have carefully and deliberately. In Minnesota state court, a response to a lawsuit is generally required in 20 days. However, in most cases, a lawyer will be able to get an extension of time to respond if needed.
Unrealistic expectations about the duration of a lawsuit is another timing-related mistake that some civil litigants make. In our experience, the average civil litigation has a duration of roughly one-year. Some cases (very few) settle with a quick telephone call or, maybe, an early mediation. The vast majority do not. And, unfortunately, some cases can drag on for far longer than one year.
Many clients fail to appreciate how expensive our legal system is. Many do not understand that litigants do not normally recover the lawyers’ fees that they incur even if they win the case.
All litigants must ask their lawyers hard questions, must get some commitment as to fees and costs, even if it is, by necessity, an estimate or a very broad range.
Litigants must also understand that “legal damages,” that is, the money one can recover through a lawsuit, is NOT the same as “actual damages.” For example, many litigants feel they have been caused stress, anxiety, even to the point of requiring on-going medical treatment but, for a great many legal claims, there is no way to recover money to compensate for these harms.
Choosing A Lawyer.
First and foremost, it is obviously most important for litigants to hire competent lawyers — lawyers with sufficient experience, not just general legal experience but experience in the particular area of law involved in a litigant’s specific case.
But this is the tip of the iceberg.
Your lawyer will be your guide. Your lawyer will be your counselor. Your lawyer will be your team-mate. Does a prospective lawyer treat you with respect? Does a prospective lawyer listen to you? Does a prospective lawyer make you feel comfortable? Does a prospective lawyer communicate clearly to you? There are many talented and competent lawyers who are deeply flawed communicators, who are insensitive, and inattentive to clients. It is possible that such lawyers will reach similar outcomes in cases to more interpersonally skilled lawyers. On the other hand, it might be an extremely difficult and unpleasant process. A client must make sure at the outset, as best the can, that they get along with and trust their lawyer.
LEVENTHAL pllc handles a broad range of Minnesota civil litigation. LEVENTHAL pllc handles business disputes with lenders, vendors, customers, and suppliers. LEVENTHAL pllc handles employment-related disputes. And LEVENTHAL pllc handles torts (claims of professional negligence, negligence, personal injury, defamation, etc.). Finally, LEVENTHAL pllc handles claims for legal malpractice.
From our experience in this last area, we have learned how extraordinarily important the initial choice of lawyer will be to litigants’ experience of the legal system.
If you believe that you have been a victim of wrongdoing and need to bring a lawsuit, or if you have been sued, consider calling LEVENTHAL pllc, 612-234-7349, for a free 1/2 hour consultation. LEVENTHAL pllc takes cases based on hourly billing, contingent fee cases, and hybrid fee arrangements.