In today’s episode Chuck talks about what going to trial entails for civil matters, and why it is sometimes best avoided.
There is a question that is always asked of me when a client and I are siting down and we are talking about possibly going to trial. This is on a civil case; let’s say a personal injury matter, an accident, a motorcycle accident, or a car accident. We talk and sometimes the client and myself, I will suggest that we roll the dice. Because you never know what is going to happen in a trial. I don’t care how good your case is or how bad your case is, it can go either way. I have seen it happen many times.
One of the things that you should be considering when you go to trial is that there is really no finality after a jury verdict, or an arbitration. In Arizona, if your claim is $50,000 or less, then you have to arbitrate it first. Anybody can appeal from the arbitration (in general terms) and then get a jury trial. If it is worth more than $50,000 then you get a jury trial from the beginning and you don’t have to arbitrate.
My point is this: You try to get your case settled without having to go to trial. If you try the case and let’s assume you “hit the jackpot” , you “ring the bell”, and get a million dollar verdict on a case that you thought you would only get $600,000 on. Well then the other side can file their notice of appeal. They can appeal the verdict by the jury and tie the case up for a couple of years. Their appeal could be based upon real issues of law like they allege that the judge made a mistake or some other type of issue like a procedural issue, or an evidentiary issue. Then they extend the amount of time before they have to pay that judgement even if the appeal is denied. If the appeal is granted, you may end up in a new trial and have to do it all over again. Spend all the money that you did in litigating that case.
My point in telling you this is when you have a civil case, and I’m not talking about criminal cases now, I’ll cover that in another video. In a civil case, there isn’t necessarily any finality to a jury verdict, because a motion for new trial can be filed. The judge may think “oh gosh, I made a mistake, I should not have ruled the way that I did in this evidentiary issue.” He could send the thing back and say “We’re going to do this over again.”
That is why, if at all possible, you can settle a case beforehand and there will be some finality to it. There is no risk involved in doing that. Not only that, you’re not waiting a couple of years for your money, if in fact you are successful. If you lose, and you shouldn’t have, you can appeal that as well. Assuming there are legal issues that were decided incorrectly by the judge. It isn;t an issue of fact, it is an issue of law. A mistake was made by the judge, who is really the umpire, or referee of the whole proceeding.
I hope that makes sense. Just because you wen’t and had a trial, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you get paid right away. It could be a couple years down the road, and I speak from experience, that has happened.