It's not always worth it to pursue civil litigation. Oftentimes small claims courts don't offer enough compensation to pay for the actual damages necessary. This means you either get left hanging or take your case to the next level in the process of civil litigation.
Both of these situations require you to pay higher costs, and you're going to take more risk (after all the time, hard work and expense there's a chance the judge won't award you anything).
First, take a good hard look at how much money you can realistically win if you go to court. If your case is best heard in small claims court, then take a look at what limits your state imposes on small claims awards.
It's easy to find this information. Make a quick phone call to the courts (listed in the phone book), or take a look on the Internet. Government rules can change at anytime, so make sure the source you use is as current as possible.
Civil litigation isn't going to be worth it if the compensation you are likely to receive isn't enough. If the judge can't legally award you an amount close to what you want, there's no point in pursuing it. This option is only worthwhile if the stakes are particularly high. In most states, the difference between small claims limits and the amounts you can win from going to formal civil court can be quite substantial.
If you decide to pursue a case in civil court it can be very expensive. In fact, it can sometimes cost more than you originally wanted to ask for compensation. If you have a lawyer handling your case (you should if you're filing a formal lawsuit), court expenses will be subtracted from the whole settlement amount, then the lawyer will take his fee (usually somewhere between 30-40%), then you get what's leftover. If your case falls into this category, you might want to look at arbitration as an alternative.
With civil litigation, there is always a chance you'll end up with nothing, no matter the limits you might be faced with. This is why it's so important to look at your case very carefully and make sure it's worth it before you file final papers in court. Go over your side of the story and make sure that your claims are valid. Make sure you can show without a doubt that the other party is truly liable for damages.
No matter the proof you have, make sure you can present your case in as short a time as possible. Practice in front of friends or family if you have to and see how much of a convincing argument you can make in just a few minutes.
Take a look at the other side's case too. Is their argument sound? Can you counter their arguments? Will the other side be able to make you look bad in front of a judge? If you weigh these factors and still feel confident that you can get a higher award from a judge than from the adjuster, take the next step.
Now it's time to see a lawyer. A lawyer might be able to help make your case more airtight and come up with good arguments as to why you deserve compensation. Nonetheless, make sure your case is good, because a lawyer won't even want to consider it if he doesn't think you can win.
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