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Mike Myers
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Filing Suit: When is the “Right” Time to Pull the Trigger?

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Clients have two basic and related questions: One, “Will my case settle?” And two, “Will my case go to court?"

Some cases settle without having to file suit. But the majority don’t.

In Washington, a case “goes to court” when suit is filed. Trial is the final act (short of appeal) in a lawsuit.

That doesn’t mean most cases go to trial; quite the opposite. In fact, more than 95 percent of cases resolve without going to trial.

But how do you know when it is the right time to file suit?

Putting aside emergency situations, such as when the statute of limitations is about to run, suit should be filed when the defendant doesn’t make a reasonable settlement offer. If the injured person will receive–or is likely to receive–more by filing suit and going to trial than has been offered in settlement, suit should be filed.

There is a lot of discussion about vindication, making the defendant suffer, public safety, etc. But the real decision-maker in personal injury cases, especially personal injury cases handled on a contingent basis, is money. The real question is, “How can the attorney put the most money possible in the client’s pocket?”

High-minded goals like public safety are fueled and driven by money changing hands. Anyone who thinks that litigation by itself is a legitimate means to champion social goals is naive, uninformed or duplicitous. It’s the result that counts.

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  1. Donald E Ward says:
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    I am a 70 year old retired airline pilot who has just been diagnosed with COPD. I retired early in 1998 at age 58. Two and a half years later I had a coronary event that lead to a 5 way bypass surgery.
    I have read that 25% of all airline pilots who flew during the years that smoking was allowed on airplanes have developed respiratory problems. The airline that I worked for allowed or at least did nothing about crew members smoking in the cockpit well into the mid 90’s.
    I already have SSA and VA disability, but wonder if there is a president that would hold the airline responsible for my present condition. The company used bankruptcy to abrogate our retirement contract and I lost 25% of my retirement in 2001 when the retirement fund was turned over to the PBGC. I would certainly like to get some of that money back.