Litigation may seem exciting on television: someone gets served, they run to an attorney, things get dramatic as both sides introduce explosive new evidence, and 45 minutes later, new information suddenly arises that helps win the case. Everything goes back to normal.
Unfortunately, litigation in the real world rarely happens that smoothly. Litigation is a stressful process that could take days, months, or in some cases, years to complete. Most people would much rather settle out of court as quickly as possible. And though this may work well in some cases, no matter how stressful it may seem, litigation can be advantageous, even necessary at times, to preserve your rights.
Advantages of Litigation
Firm Resolutions: Many disputes cannot be resolved through alternative dispute resolutions (ADR). Litigation provides a clear outcome in a public forum, so even though each party may feel they are in the right, a judge will use facts and evidence to determine a clear resolution.
Sets Precedent: If you believe a lawsuit may repeat itself over time, having a defined resolution will help to fight similar claims in the future. It can also help effect change by setting precedent for others who may find themselves in the same situation.
Stricter Evidence Guidelines: During ADR, evidentiary power is usually in the hands of the arbiter, so biases can become an issue. Courts, on the other hand, have much stricter rules when it comes to how evidence is collected and presented. Litigation also helps force the hand of those unwilling to provide requested evidence with court-mandated guidelines and penalties for non-compliance.
Appeals: Should you feel a mistake was made or the court was in some way biased against you during your case, you have the right to appeal the case to be heard in a higher court. In ADR, results are generally final, no matter what happens.
Disadvantages of Litigation
Time Consumption: As previously mentioned, court hearings take time. With all the myriad of lawsuits being filed every day, there isn’t enough time to hear them all in a timely manner. It could take months to simply get your case in front of a judge.
Stressful: As you wait to get this dreadful monkey off your back, the stress of the situation can weigh heavily on your mind, causing you to lose a step-in business and in life, which could lead to additional problems.
Damaging Relationships: Litigation can be emotionally draining and effect your relationships in a negative way. Distraction can lead to ignoring immediate family members or picking fights with close friends and relatives.
Costs: Although litigation can become somewhat expensive, and there’s no guarantee you will be able to recover all your legal fees should you win, some litigation can be cheaper than going through ADR.
Before deciding on whether you should go to court or try something else first, speak to an attorney about what is best for your specific circumstance.