Whether you came to the decision to look for an attorney because you’ve been served with a lawsuit and have no choice but to defend yourself, or if you have reached an impasse in a dispute and have no choice but to say “see you in court,” what happens after this point is likely a mystery for you. If that’s the case, this is what a lawsuit looks like.
But there’s also an emotional part of a lawsuit. Therefore, in addition to the obvious considerations of finding a capable attorney that you like and trust and the financial costs, you should also prepare for the emotional costs of a lawsuit.
Since Disneyland’s just up the freeway, I’ll liken it to a day at Disneyland.
- It’s a Long Process
If you’re traveling into town specifically to visit Disneyland with the kids, you expect to get there when the park opens, stay for the parade and fireworks, and even until the park closes. You may expect to do that for 3 days in a row.
The Lines are Long
If Disneyland opened just for you, you could get on all rides within a few hours. But the hours of waiting in line added days to your Disneyland trip.
Like Disneyland, a standard case could probably go from start to finish pretty quickly if there wasn’t a backlog at the court or built-in time down time written into the process itself. For example, once you file a complaint, the defendant has 30 days from receiving service to file a response. There’s a month of waiting there. They may ask for an extension, and the response may be a demurrer that has to be heard by the court. The court may not set the hearing until another month out. That’s 2 months of nothing happening in the case. After the hearing, the court may require you to amend your complaint. The other side could demur again, and again. The next thing you know, six months has passed between the complaint and defendant actually filing an answer.
Dealing with Tantrums
If you have children or have ever been to an amusement park with other people’s children, you know that a day at the park is not complete without a meltdown. The more kids there are, the more tantrums you’ll have to deal with, and the longer it takes you to get through the park.
So, how long it takes you to get through the process will depend on how many parties, and by extension lawyers, there are on the trip and their individual personalities. Parties could throw tantrums by playing games in the discovery process, will then forces the other side to go into court and tell on that party. This all adds time to the process. You have no control over the other parties or their lawyers but you have control over yourself and your lawyer. Thus, minimizing the tantrums on your side will move the process along more quickly.
“Be prepared to be in it for the long haul.”
- You Will Ride Some Roller-coasters
In between the lines are the rides. You’ll love some of them and the others will be duds.
Each side in a lawsuit will do whatever they can to get a tactical advantage and either pare down or expand the scope of the dispute. Motions will be filed and the judge will make decisions. Some will be in your favor. Others may be in the other party’s favor. It will be an emotional roller-coaster.
“Be prepared for wins and losses along the way.”
The discovery process could also dig up some uncomfortable things. Be prepared for questions about things that you may not be fully comfortable discussing.
- The Endings are Unpredictable
If you stay until the park closes you may look back and say: “that really was the happiest place on earth” or “that was hell on earth.”
Lawsuits are the same way. If you take a lawsuit all the way to trial, there is always the risk of losing. You could walk away with a large judgment in your favor or be ordered to pay the other side damages plus their attorney’s fees.
But some people choose to cut their losses and leave the park when the kids are getting cranky and tired but haven’t had a full-blown meltdown yet.
Similarly, you may decide to cut your losses and settle a case at the point where you could control your losses have received an offer that isn’t ideal but that you could live with.
PRACTICAL TIP: Not everyone has the fortitude for a lawsuit. Sometimes you don’t have a choice (i.e. you’re a defendant in a lawsuit) but you have a choice in the attorney that you choose and how you react to events. If you are contemplating a lawsuit, be prepared for the emotional cost and trust that you’ve chosen your attorney well and that s/he has your best interest in mind.
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