In practicing personal injury law in Vermont for more than three decades, the questions I hear most frequently are:
- Is my injury case worth pursuing?
- What will it cost?
- What are the pros and cons of suing?
- What is my injury case worth?
- Does it ever make sense to negotiate on my own and avoid attorney fees?
Here are my insights on the third question.
What are the pros and cons of suing for personal injury?
Even when your case looks strong, where there is evidence of negligence and evidence that the negligence caused the injury, where there are assets available to pay for recovery, and where there is an experienced attorney willing to assist you, there are other pros and cons that you should consider before filing a personal injury lawsuit.
The pros of filing of a lawsuit may be obvious. A successful case may provide you with the money you desperately need to pay your debts and meet your future financial needs. You may, quite rightly, feel that you have been wronged and that the person who wronged you must pay. Sometimes “giving up” and not pursuing a claim, when you know you are entitled to a fair recovery, can leave you feeling discouraged and can impair your recovery from the accident.
The cons of filing a lawsuit, especially when you feel you have a strong case, may not be as obvious. Lawsuits can take years to resolve, and it is becoming more and more difficult to convince insurance companies to settle on reasonable terms without a lawsuit. In state courts, including Vermont, it can often take years to get a trial scheduled.
During the months, or more likely years, while your case is pending, you will frequently be asked to “relive” the accident. You will repeatedly be asked to describe your symptoms—in response to written questions, in response to live questions from the defense attorneys at your deposition, and ultimately in front of a judge and jury at trial. The defense attorneys will usually be allowed to dig into your past, including your medical records and your counseling records, and they will do anything and everything to attack your credibility. They will try to turn any imprecision or mistake in your medical records or reports into evidence of your alleged dishonesty.
Understanding the Mental and Emotional Cost of Suing
Over the years, I have found that the pendency of a personal injury lawsuit can be counterproductive to recovery. Recovery from serious injury often depends on grit, a positive attitude, and a focus on ability, not disability. By its nature, a personal injury lawsuit requires you to focus on disability—on that one terrible moment in your life, and not the joy the future may hold.
It is for this reason that I try to move cases as quickly as possible. But, personal injury lawyers with large caseloads are often not able to do this. It is important to discuss factors like expected timeline at the outset with your lawyer. In the end though, only you can make the decision as to whether the potential benefits outweigh the costs.