So You Want to Sue Someone

Gavel and Books in Courtroom

So You Want to Sue Someone

The Quest to Right a Wrong

Maybe someone ripped you off and you lost money, maybe even your life savings. You feel cheated, violated, hurt, afraid for your future and angry. You want your money back!

Maybe a distracted driver on a cell phone plowed into your car and you were seriously injured. The car can be fixed or replaced, but not so easily your body. You’re in pain, broken, traumatized, fearful and changed. Your life has been turned upside down and you can’t do normal daily activities like dressing, bathing, cleaning, carrying groceries or your child, without pain. Nor can you do the fun activities you used to enjoy doing. You may have lost income, become disabled and suffered. You want your old life back. But if that’s not possible, you want someone to pay for their negligence!

These are some common reasons why people file civil lawsuits. You can’t rewind the clock or undo what’s been done, but you can seek justice. And if you have to file a lawsuit and take someone to court, the justice you seek is usually money.

Knowing that the quest to right a wrong is really a quest for money, your first question should be “If I win, can he, she or it pay?” If the defendant is an unemployed person without any assets or property, you may never get paid. Even if you win a judgment for money, the defendant may not have any resources to pay you, may be judgment-proof, or may be able to avoid responsibility by filing a bankruptcy case.

If the defendant is a corporation, it may or may not have assets or insurance to cover the claim. If the defendant is a city, police department, fire department, ambulance service, school district or park district, there is likely a statute in place that provides legal immunity from negligence claims against their employees or agents.

If the defendant has insurance, you may get paid. But how much may depend on how much insurance coverage the defendant has purchased. And not all insurance companies are equal. Some are substandard companies that will fight you every step of the way, to avoid paying minimal policy limits. But even the best insurance companies often employ defense law firms, who have no interest in settling a case until they’ve expended a lot of time and billed a lot of hours throwing roadblocks at the plaintiff’s case.

No less important is the question: “Do I have a good case?” In a contract case, do you have all of the supporting documentation? Are there witnesses available to testify to conversations and representations? If there proof of action or omission demonstrating breach of the agreement? Has the breach of contract resulted in provable economic loss?

In a tort case (e.g., negligence, assault & battery, libel & slander, slip & fall, motor vehicle accidents), is there a good liability case? Meaning, can you prove that the other party was significantly more at fault than you? If liability is split 50%-50%, you get nothing under Illinois law.

If there is a strong liability case, are there sufficient damages to make a lawsuit worthwhile? If you took evasive action and escaped a close call without injury, other than a pounding heart, there are probably no damages. (No harm, no foul.) If you were rear-ended in traffic, but there is only minor damage to the bumper and you suffered only soft-tissue injuries, e.g., whiplash, it will be very difficult to prove damages. Often, the only proof of damages is the plaintiff’s “subjective” complaint of pain. If an x-ray or other diagnostic test doesn’t reveal a visible injury, a judge or jury may not believe the complaint of pain, or award any compensation.

If all of the stars align: good liability + good damages + good insurance company, the case will probably settle well before trial. Unfortunately, most cases have at least some weakness involving the facts or the law or the witnesses or the evidence, and your chance of collecting a good settlement or jury award depends upon having a good attorney.

Greg Martucci is a good attorney who will aggressively pursue your civil and personal injury claims, utilizing over 30 years’ experience in negotiation and litigation, to achieve excellent results and maximum money. Call Martucci Law today at 630-980-8333 to schedule your free initial office consultation and learn more about how we can help you right a wrong.