Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Value of Closure: The Real Costs of a Lawsuit/Dispute/Legal Action

I have practiced law for over 13 years, and have represented people on a variety of matters. One common denominator most people fail to understand is that # 1 any legal action is a dispute. Hence the Vs. (Versus) in between on all the papers. These all begin as Lawsuits. There are "parties" that desire something and/or wish to take something away from you.

It is YOU vs. an insurance company and/or an insured (personal injury action). At stake: Money

It is the government (in NYS, called "the People" of the State of NY) vs. YOU (criminal action). At stake: Life and liberty.

It is a governmental agency (ie. DMV, Board of Education) vs. YOU (administrative action). At stake: A license (permission)

It is a spouse (husband or wife) vs. spouse (Divorce). At stake: Money, property, and children.

It is a neighbor vs. neighbor (property dispute). At stake: Money, property rights.

It is a company vs. YOU (collection action). At stake: Money to enforce a contract.

Conflict does not feel good, in fact it feels bad to most people to be in confrontational positions. All lawsuits are eventually resolved. Resolution usually occurs via compromise. A smaller percentage of lawsuits wind up in a Court of law. This is where a jury or Judge will decide the final outcome.

Trials (criminal and civil) are stressful and expensive. The cost of trial is not just financial. There is an emotional cost to dragging all your stuff out into public. Trials are generally public affairs. Everything you thought was sacrosanct (sacred / secret/ personal/ private) is revealed. Inflammatory accusations and mudslinging are the norm.

So what is the "value" of closure?

1. Relief from Uncertainty

In criminal actions, a fast (timely) resolution can be relieving because the uncertainty of trial (an uncertain outcome) is removed. Most criminal cases are resolved with plea agreements. In the Federal system about 97% of the cases are resolved with pleas. In the state system it is almost 90% plus.

In civil cases with personal injury actions, most claims are resolved pre-trial. Rarely are people happy about the outcome from an injury case. Who wants to trade a body part for money? Who wants to sell their health? Can we ever put a price on a life? Is your child worth a million dollars? Sometimes the best result are two unhappy parties that can accept a final result they can live with.

2. Relief from Emotional and Mental Stress

Night after night I may toss and turn worrying over a case. Worrying that something I might do or say may make the difference in someone's final case outcome. The emotional and mental burden of being involved in a lawsuit of any kind is immeasurable. Imagine now it is YOUR case, YOU are on trial, YOUR life and liberty or future are on the line. Having anything hanging over your head is not pleasant. The value of putting things behind you and moving forward with your life is beyond money. Going to sleep free and clear of a problem brings a sense of comfort.

Always consider the VALUE of closure.

The value of your time (months to years), and closure have to be considered when YOU are involved in any legal action. YOUR attorney should bring practical, level (balanced), and holistic (looking at everything) thinking which is devoid of emotional baggage to show the "value" of compromise. Holding onto unrealistic expectations (grounded in fantasy) can be a death sentence to those that choose to ignore the rational (reality based) thought of legal counsel.

Dr. Lawrence A. Newman, D.C., Esq.
Chiropractor and Attorney at Law
607-229-5184
Practicing Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Law