What to Expect when You’re Expecting (A lawsuit) October 13, 2016
Clients often ask, “Can they sue me for this?” The answer is always, “yes, they can file a lawsuit for anything; that doesn’t mean they can win.” In business and in life, people find themselves in conflicts, and often times threats about suing are thrown around. People tend to have an expectation that getting sued can only happen if the person filing the lawsuit is “right.”
This is not the case. The act of filing a lawsuit is administrative. Anyone can do it, for any reason. Of course, the law has protections against the filing of frivolous and baseless lawsuits, but these are reactions to the filing of the lawsuit, not ways to prevent the lawsuit from being filed. In other situations, a person may believe they may be sued for a legitimate reason, but don’t know exactly when or what might happen next. So the question is this; What do I do if I’m getting sued?
First and foremost, before you do anything else, meet with an attorney. There are many ways to make a bad situation worse when you have a potential legal problem; talking confidentially with an attorney is not one of them. It’s best to know your options, strategies, likely points of exposure, and plan for taking the next steps before reacting to the news of a potential lawsuit.
Second, you will want to plan for funding your defense of a lawsuit in the event that you do get sued. Hiring a lawyer will cost money, and most legal defenses are funded in the form of a retainer. This is a cash fund, from which the lawyer can draw his fees, and it will need to be funded continually throughout the litigation. Also, litigation can be extremely expensive and can last a long time. If you don’t properly plan to have the funds available to defend yourself, you could find yourself half-way through a lawsuit, now with no money and no lawyer.
Third, do not destroy evidence. In civil litigation, the destruction of potentially relevant information can be damaging to your case, and to your wallet. If Courts discover that you knew you might be getting sued, and you deleted important emails, they can sanction you by ordering you to pay money to the other side as a penalty.
Finally, work with your lawyer to develop a plan for litigation. There are many considerations at the outset of litigation, and having a coherent plan can change a case from the first day it’s filed. For example, you and your attorney will consider whether it is beneficial to wait for service (being served with papers) or the expedite your appearance and defense in the lawsuit. It may also be important to have a plan for gathering evidence or testimony in advance of the lawsuit. Filing your own claim first, or filing a separate suit, in another jurisdiction may also be advantageous or detrimental to your defense. As you can imagine, trying to parse these strategic questions without the help of an attorney could be the biggest mistake of all.
If you would like more information or are needing to seek representation, please call us at 940-387-3518 or contact us here.
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