Go/No GO

NeuwirthLawCase Matters, For Lawyers, Law Practice Management

Deciding whether to file suit on a case is often just a business judgment on my end. Based on having done this for 20 year plus, is this a case that is worth putting into suit? Recently, I have had the difficult conversation with clients in two cases that simply did not make sense to put into suit. What does this look like? Well, let’s say you sign up a client and their liability or negligence claim is okay but not great. Perhaps the way that they fell is a little questionable, or the car crash was maybe 50% their fault. In those cases, I don’t usually want to file suit because there will always be a defense and defense lawyers eat that stuff up. But, explaining that to a client is tough and usually the client will be pissed at the lawyer, even though the case will get harder not easier once suit is filed.

The insurance company usually recognizes that the case is weak and makes a commensurately crappy offer. So, the client is faced with a lawyer who wants to drop their case and a poor offer. On the other side, in a strong case with strong facts, clear negligence, and solid injuries related to the incident, insurers will make decent offers seeking to get the case resolved before they must make real payments later on.

But, in the iffy case situation, no good will come of pursuing the case into court. Getting this across to the client is not terribly hard, but it is not fun and doesn’t result in good future client relations. The fact of the matter is that you took the client’s case and guessed wrongly that it was going to be worth more than it turned out to be worth. So, before I spend more money or time on a case, it needs to be settled, dropped, or referred out to another lawyer.

On the flip side, when deciding which cases in the pipeline to file suit on, usually I just pick the strongest case with the best damages and put that case in next. Few personal injury cases get better with time beyond a year or two. Usually within that time period, a person will have had surgery or will be largely better.  In the few cases where someone has serious permanent injuries, those cases need to go into suit first or move to the head of the line because there is no reason to wait for them to get better.