Does it make sense for me to sue?
Our country has two sets of legal systems: criminal and civil. The criminal justice system’s sole purpose is to punish the offender. In those cases, a prosecutor representing the government is in charge. The survivor’s main role is to be the prosecutor’s star witness, and the goal is to punish the offender. During long, complex criminal prosecutions, the survivor can wind up feeling confused and in-the-dark about what’s really going on.
The civil justice system, on the other hand, puts the SURVIVOR in the driver’s seat. The survivor is the plaintiff in a lawsuit and the lawsuit tells the story from the survivor’s perspective. Through civil court, survivors can get justice by suing the offender and other third parties responsible for the pain suffered. Usually survivors sue for money (and we also use the civil court system to get Orders of Protection).
We do it all – we represent people who need help navigating their way through the darkness of criminal proceedings. And we also represent people ready to sue, which is what we discuss below – suing.
At our firm, we believe that if somebody injures you, somebody should pay. Back in the old days, there were all sorts of interesting eye-for-an-eye ways to exact justice for you and your family when somebody hurt you. Nowadays, lawsuits are the best (legal) way to go.
No amount of money will undo an injury or erase horrible memories. However, money can certainly help make life a little more comfortable for a person who’s suffered. And it can make life a little less comfortable for the entity who caused the suffering. It’s what we call the ‘redistribution of wealth’.
Starting a lawsuit is a huge decision and it’s not right for everybody. It’s essential to us that our clients understand the pros and cons of a life-changing decision. Embarking on a lawsuit is a long, intense process. We are starting a journey together that without a doubt will have moments of excitement and empowerment – like when we file the first papers. But also there will be times of frustration – like when we receive the defendants’ response. The process of both parties exchanging information (called “discovery”) can be tedious, and settlement negotiations can be frustrating if the initial counteroffer is lower than expected.
However, we believe in the transformative power of lawsuits. We see over and over again how our clients evolve from victims into warriors during the process. Telling their story, focusing on the fight and justice, believing in their truth, discovering that the public benefits from their courage to sue – those are all things that justify bringing a lawsuit. Oh, and the money. We sue to win a sh*tload of money for our clients.
All survivors are worthy of justice. However, not all lawsuits make the same logical sense. It’s a BS reality, but if the goal is money and the offender has none, it may not make sense for a lawyer to spend thousands of hours to sue. But, sometimes there are other third parties who should be held liable even if the offender has no money. Perhaps they enabled the offender, turned a blind eye to a situation, or created a hazardous environment. It could be an employer, school, municipality, religious institution, hospital, the offender’s parents, a landlord, a fraternity, a hotel, an internet platform.
Below are some hints about what we look for in cases and in clients when deciding whether to sue.
It’s really critical, though, that you don’t think you must decide before meeting with us. When you get in touch, we will give you our honest opinion, based on our extensive experience. But contacting us does NOT = a commitment to sue!
There are many options to get financial justice for our clients WITHOUT bringing a lawsuit. Usually there’s a lot of negotiation that happens between the parties BEFORE we sue. So, read the information below, but we urge you not to talk yourself into – or out of – a lawsuit until after you schedule a case evaluation with our Client Relations team member.
A lawsuit may make sense if you:
- Are — or were — injured by the accused’s behavior.
- Suffered significant losses (mental, physical, emotional, etc.) as a result of their behavior.
- Are profoundly motivated to right a wrong.
- Want someone to pay for what you’ve been through.
- Are determined to see this through.
- Want more than “justice” or for this “not to happen to anybody else.” We find that when survivors are suing solely for some noble cause, they get tired and bored quickly and can’t hack the trials and tribulations of suing. Our clients need to have a selfish motivation too. There’s nothing shameful about wanting to sue your offender for all he’s worth. Money is a great motivator. So, too, is getting your version of the story out there.
- Have somebody (or something) wealthy to sue. The bottom line is, we can’t sue someone for money who doesn’t have money. But don’t fear if the offender is broke – there could be third parties who are partly responsible and can be defendants: an employer, school, municipality, religious institution, hospital, the offender’s parents, a landlord, a fraternity, a hotel, an internet platform.
- Have your own money to pay legal fees. When we have a defendant with money, we can take the case on contingency (i.e., we don’t get paid unless you do). But when the defendant has no money and there’s nobody with liability who does, we can still sue. It just means 1) our client can’t expect to get paid on a big judgment if we win and 2) we need to be paid hourly.
- Can hack publicity. Lawsuits are public. Which can be a good thing and a bad thing. We often want the offender to be exposed, but not our client. Sometimes we can file a special motion for our client to be a Jane Doe or a John Doe. That way the story gets out about the case and the offender, but our client’s identity is confidential.
- Are on the verge of exposing somebody. WAIT! We’re seeing more and more offenders sue their victims for defamation. In those cases, our clients are the defendant and the offender is in control as the plaintiff – not ideal. Accusations in lawsuits are generally immune from defamation. So you can tell the truth about your offender in the lawsuit without it being “defamatory.” Give this some thought before you expose somebody on social media. You could wind up on the wrong side of a lawsuit. Don’t worry, we represent people for defamation lawsuits all the time, too.
- Have time for a new hobby. We see lawsuits, essentially, as a new hobby. It’s something new you are voluntarily adding to your life that will take time and effort and energy. The good news is you aren’t doing it alone.
- Can stomach a certain amount of uncertainty. It’s common for clients to have questions before embarking on a big lawsuit (we want you to have them and we want to answer them). There are limitless whatifs that can be asked. And literally, even if you ask a million questions, we guarantee something unexpected will happen during the lawsuit. All of our clients are their own journey and story. And much of the story depends on the cast of characters – which won’t be known at the outset. We may know who you and the defendant are, but we won’t know who the opposing lawyer will be, the judge, the jury, etc. And all those characters shape the narrative and the outcome.
- Have support. Lawsuits can be stressful. And as supportive as loved ones may be, they may not fully ‘get it’. We want our clients to be getting mental health support during a lawsuit and can make referrals to excellent therapists.
A lawsuit may not make sense if:
- The would-be defendant is judgment-proof (i.e., they have no money to pay even if we get a ridiculously huge verdict in your favor). Not even the best lawyers can squeeze blood from a stone. If money is even partly a motivator – as we hope it is (no shame!) – we need a monied defendant or co-defendant unless you can pay for legal fees and court costs.
- The offender is a stalker. When somebody has a stalker, suing is almost always a bad idea because stalkers rarely have money, and they get excited about combat. It’s like their dream come true. They get to continue the relationship, even if the dates are court dates. It can be dangerous for clients and a total nightmare if they don’t have lawyers and drag things out.
- You don’t have the time to pursue it. We’ll do most of the work, but we need you available to greenlight our work product, answer our questions, and provide evidence. We’ll need to prep you for depositions and for trial if things progress that far.
- The statute of limitations has expired. A statute of limitations sets the timeline, starting from the date of the offense, in which you can initiate legal proceedings. The length of time allowed varies by state and by offense. For example, in New York, you have can sue based on product liability for 3 years from the date of the event. You have only 1 year to sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress or physical assault.
- You are in urgent crisis. Except in rare instances (see Herrick v. Grindr), civil lawsuits are not great at solving immediate crises. If the plaintiff is in danger or crisis or feeling suicidal, those things must be stabilized before you add a lawsuit to everything you’re dealing with.
- You are a total control freak. There’s some uncertainty that comes with lawsuits. We could have a rogue judge or crazy opposing attorney.
- You just want things to be calm and go back to normal. Lawsuits add a certain amount of drama to anybody’s life. They are combat, with moments of highs and lows.
Some questions to ask yourself:
Does the defendant have something worth suing for?
- In order for us to sue someone for money, they need to have money.
Can you prove that you, the plaintiff, suffered damages?
- Accidents can happen anywhere, in a car, at work, at a bar, even on the street. Lawsuits work by saying: X damages happened, the cost of payback is Y.
- Some injuries and signs of abuse are obvious, like a bone sticking out of your body. Others are mental and emotional injuries, which are a little harder to prove. For example, you got PTSD after being sexually assaulted, lost your job, and struggled to pay your bills. Maybe you had to begin therapy to cope with the anxiety or depression the defendant caused. This circumstantial evidence helps to build a case.
Were multiple parties involved?
- When multiple parties are involved, it’s common for those parties to shirk responsibility and claim they aren’t liable. This can make it more complex, but not impossible, so give us a call and we’ll talk about it.
Do you have evidence?
- Remember: SCREENSHOT EVERYTHING. ERASE NOTHING. ENLIST HELP QUICKLY. Contact an experienced, empathetic law firm and let us guide you through the process.
How it works:
We often pursue lawsuits on behalf of our clients on a contingency basis, in which our firm receives a fixed percentage of the final settlement. Eligibility for contingency is on a case-by-case basis, and there are many factors that go into that decision. In some cases, we work on a retainer basis, in those cases financial recovery is not always the end goal of the client but sometimes it’s totally worth it for that client to right the wrong, especially if there wasn’t success pursuing criminal accountability.
If you’ve been harmed, SOMEBODY MUST PAY. That’s true if you suffer a horrible accident but it’s extra true when it’s not an accident, such as if somebody sexually assaults you. Or a school punishes you when you report a rape instead of investigating it.
We are experts in victim advocacy. Our excellent, dedicated lawyers work to make sure that law enforcement pursues your case to the best of their ability, we can also help you to seek compensation for your suffering.
Some of our recent successes:
- $950k recovery against the NYC Department of Ed when our client was sexually assaulted at school and suspended when she reported it.
- $2.95m pre-litigation settlement for sexual assault survivor.
- $800k recovered for victim of child sexual exploitation.
- $1.795m against City of Anaheim in groundbreaking civil rights case.
- Mid-six figure recovery when our client was sexually assaulted at a vacation house in the Hamptons.
- Mid-six figure recovery for four women against a tech tycoon who was filming sex without their knowledge or consent.
- Confidential settlement for woman in mid-30’s against boyfriend who set up hidden cameras and filmed sex.
- Confidential settlement for a 13 year old victim of revenge porn against a multi-billion dollar defendant.
- Six figure recovery for two models who were sexually assaulted at work and threatened with deportation by their boss/assailant.
- Six figure settlement for a victim of sexual assault by a man she met on a dating app.
WANT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR OPTIONS?
CONTACT US AT CAGOLDBERGLAW.COM/CONTACT OR BY PHONE 646.666.8908
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