What to expect in a lawsuit (or the wheels of justice do turn, just slowly … and expensively)

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I recently had a prospective client contact me about filing a lawsuit. I declined the case, not because there wasn’t merit to it, but because the cost to the prospective client would be too great in consideration of the possible benefit. I spent a great deal of time talking to him and explaining the life of a lawsuit and why, although he was right in his position, the time and money spent would give him a very costly moral victory. After I got off the phone with him, it occurred to me how important it is for you to understand the life and costs of a lawsuit. Below you’ll find a timeline of events in a lawsuit along with a series of dollar signs so you can see where you incur the greatest costs. In reviewing this, please know that each lawsuit is unique and may have other legal, procedural or strategic turns.

  • The Filing of a Complaint
    • A complaint is how a lawsuit starts. This sets forth the factual allegations of one’s legal claim(s)
    • Prior to the filing of the complaint, your lawyer will need a factual background and all supporting documents
    • There are hard costs (separate from your attorney’s fees) that must be paid to file a complaint. These costs will vary depending on the type of complaint and where it is filed.
    • $$
  • The Filing of an Answer               20 days after service of the complaint
    • This is how one responds to a complaint. If you are sued, this will be the first filing that occurs. If you filed the lawsuit, you will not need to file an answer unless there is a countersuit filed against you.
    • $
  • Creation of a Discovery Plan               Within 30 days of the answer being filed
    • This process varies some between federal and state court. However, under any circumstance, there is typically a process where the lawyers meet to determine the scope and timeframes for discovery.
    • Discovery can include written questions (called interrogatories); requests for documents; requests for admissions; and depositions
    • $
  • Discovery               Six to eighteen months
    • This is the longest and, often, the most expensive part of litigation.
    • There will be high peaks of activity where you will be working with your lawyer in identifying information that you need and producing information that is requested.
    • With depositions, there are hard costs associated with court reporters and transcripts.
    • $$$$$
  • Trial Preparation               Varies on case
    • During this time period, your lawyer will use the information gathered during discovery along with any expert reports or other information to put all of the pieces together for a trial.
    • There may be a series of court appearance associated with motions filed. A motion is, essentially, a request for certain relief from the court. That can be to limit or extend evidence; to bring in new parties; for interim action from the court; or to end the litigation.
    • $$$$
  • Trial               Varies on case
    • Depending on if the matter is a jury trial or a bench trial (one heard exclusively by a judge), there will be unique timeframes for the trial.
    • $$$$
  • Post-Trial matters               Varies on case
    • There can be post-trial motions seeking the court to change the result from the trial or to award attorneys’ fees.
    • If there is going to be an appeal, this occurs after the trial has concluded.
    • $$$

From start to finish, a lawsuit filed in Nevada can take between 18 months and two years to conclude. At any time in this process, the parties can settle their claims. This occurs frequently as the expenses increase and the parties reevaluate the benefits of the costs.

Litigation can be a long and costly process. Your lawyer should regularly communicate with you and help you understand the strategy behind your case and the costs and benefits associated with that strategy.  Remember that your lawyer works for you and you are entitled to understand

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