Practicing law is complicated, and many first-time plaintiffs make mistakes. Law is also unforgiving. Mistakes made by either side can potentially cost plaintiffs the case and with that comes many negative ramifications. We’ve outlined ten common errors made by first-time plaintiffs here, so you can avoid these mistakes as you consider litigation.
1. Lack of Confidence
A lack of confidence is common among first-time litigators. Even when plaintiffs are sure of their case, strategy, evidence, etc., they may lose favor with the judge if they’re overwhelmed by the legal process. While judges and lawyers can be vastly intimidating to someone experiencing litigation for the first time, delivery in court makes a big difference. Yes, strong delivery will come with time, but if you can increase your confidence from the get-go, you’re sure to do well as a first-time plaintiff.
2. Too Much Confidence
While some first-time plaintiffs struggle with a lack of confidence, others have the opposite challenge. Having too much confidence can lead to a myriad of other mistakes like not researching and overlooking facts of the case. A first-time litigator should instead recognize that he/she may not have all the answers and do what is necessary to understand more before bringing their case to court.
3. Letting Emotion Interfere
When presenting facts, evidence, or arguments in law, emotion is unhelpful. Often, first-time plaintiffs let emotion run the show and take away from a sound argument or proper display of facts. Unfortunately, lawyers on the opposing side may exploit the plaintiff’s emotions if they see an opportunity to do so. It’s important to recognize this and remain calm, cool, and collected throughout the legal process.
4. Not Thoroughly Researching
A lack of research and evidence inevitably leads to failure in court. Diving headfirst into a complaint can lead to shortcuts in research and ultimately lose you a case. Take the necessary time to research anything and everything regarding your case. It’s also vital to know about legal precedents that exist from cases similar to yours. Before ever bringing a case to court, a plaintiff should have a thorough understanding of his/her grounds for making the complaint.
5. Missing Statutes of Limitations
A statute of limitations sets the legal maximum of time parties can wait to pursue litigation for a particular wrong. Some plaintiffs will wait several years before deciding to take a case to court only to find they have exceeded the statute of limitations. At that point, nothing can be done to help the plaintiff’s case. Before pursuing a legal battle, it is necessary to check what the statute of limitations is for that kind of case in your area of the country.
6. Improper Causes of Action
A cause of action is the set of facts necessary to justify your right to sue or press charges. Pursuing the wrong cause of action – or not pursuing all that is relevant – can hurt your case as a plaintiff. It can be difficult to know which causes of action to pursue and which not to. Plaintiffs need to weigh each option and be certain they are focused on the right arguments that will lead to the desired outcome.
7. Mistakes in Discovery
Discovery refers to the process of uncovering facts and evidence surrounding the case by finding evidence and witness testimony. Discovery mistakes can involve mistakes in properly obtaining evidence, missing submission or request deadlines for evidence/witness testimony, or simply spending too much time preparing the wrong types of facts and evidence.
8. Missing ADR Opportunities
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) includes methods of solving disputes between parties other than by trial. Although this may not seem like a possibility for all plaintiffs, ADR can lead to useful outcomes that might favor them – especially since it can take months just to get to trial depending on the court.
It’s also important for first-time plaintiffs to realize that participating in ADR doesn’t mean they’ll be locked in if they don’t like foreseeable outcomes. Litigators should explore these possibilities. In best-case scenarios, they may find a favorable resolution and in the worst case, they can forgo that resolution and learn of weaknesses in their case as they prepare to go to trial.
9. Not Understanding Rules of the Court
On top of intricate laws applying only to specific jurisdictions, each court may have different rules regarding evidence, procedures, and judicial administration. A first-time plaintiff will surely be at a disadvantage here, and there’s not a lot he/she can do about it other than reading through the court’s posted rules and asking appropriate questions.
10. Doing It Alone
The bottom line? Being a first-time plaintiff is difficult on your own. There’s no easy way through the entire legal process by yourself. Representing oneself – or “pro se” representation – is very difficult, and if the defendant is represented by qualified attorneys, the plaintiff will nearly always lose the case.
Hiring a trusted attorney to represent your case will benefit you in many ways. An attorney’s proven experience will help you realize the resolution you’re seeking more effectively and efficiently than otherwise.
At Esplin | Weight, you won’t have to be concerned with first-time mistakes. Our experienced team will deliver the professional and skilled results you are looking for.