February 17th, 2020
Realistic Expectations for Civil Lawsuit
Realizing that you have grounds for a civil lawsuit and pursuing those claims can be an overwhelming and completely unfamiliar experience. You are likely experiencing a broad range of emotions, including grief, pain, anger, confusion, sadness, and a desire for justice. Your feelings will likely change from day to day as your lawsuit proceeds, and all of these emotional reactions are understandable. However, there are some important things to understand about the purpose of your civil lawsuit and what the goals of that lawsuit can and should be.
A civil lawsuit against a negligent doctor or hospital, driver, employer, or premises owner arises out of that individual or entity’s failure to conform to standards of care that have caused injuries and damages to you and your family. The primary purpose of the civil lawsuit is to bring those failures and the resultant injuries to light within the court system and hold the negligent individuals or entities responsible for their failures by requiring them to pay for the harms they have caused. Civil litigation also forces those individuals and entities who have acted wrongfully to be held accountable for their actions or omissions by having to defend the allegations against them before the court system and recognizing that people who have been harmed by their wrongful conduct will not remain silent simply because the wronged party is less knowledgeable or has less financial and other resources. Civil litigation also informs the community of what has happened and helps put pressure on the negligent party to correct and prevent the same harmful conduct in the future.
Civil litigation that arises out of negligent conduct serves all of these important purposes and can help bring justice and remedy to those who have been harmed, as well as help prevent similar harms from happening in the future. However, there are some important limitations to the outcomes that can be achieved through civil litigation. None of these mean that it is any less meaningful, important, or necessary to pursue your rights through a civil lawsuit when you have been wronged, but it is good to know what you can expect as a reasonable and realistic possible outcome out of your civil suit as opposed to other, unrelated causes of action you may or may not be able to pursue.
Civil litigation is separate and apart from criminal prosecution. There are many ways that a civil lawsuit will overlap with proceedings in a criminal matter that arises out of the same incident or conduct. For example, you may be hit by an intoxicated driver and sustain serious injuries as a result of that. In that situation, it is likely that there will be a criminal matter pursued by the authorities against the driver, and you will also be able to pursue a civil lawsuit against that driver and the driver’s insurance company for your injuries. However, your civil attorney will not be representing you in the criminal matter – that is something that is handled by the state or county against the drunk driver. Your civil attorney will not be arguing for a particular sentence or fine for that driver, and will not be representing you in the criminal case. The purpose of you attorney’s work on your civil lawsuit will not be to have the defendant driver sentenced to a certain amount of prison time or fined a certain amount. Similarly, many who have been wronged by a doctor may see it as a necessary objective in pursuing claims against that doctor to have the doctor’s license revoked or otherwise be disciplined by a board of medicine. That very well may be an appropriate action, depending on the facts and circumstances of the situation, but that is not always going to be a primary or reasonable goal of your civil lawsuit. You can of course ask your medical malpractice lawyer about the options for pursuing that type of action, but you need to understand that medical board discipline is different than your medical malpractice suit. You may want to see that an employee of an insurance company or other entity that has wronged you is fired, but again, that is not something that a civil lawsuit can reasonably seek or obtain for you. This can sometimes be difficult to understand at first, but is something that you should discuss with your lawyer so you can know what the objectives, purposes, and potential outcomes of your civil lawsuit will be and the reasons for those. Working with your attorney to understand the process and objectives of civil litigation helps you to manage your expectations of the outcome and helps your attorney to better represent your interests and keep you informed and obtain the best possible results for you.
Understanding some of the parameters and reasons for what is encompassed by a civil lawsuit, and what falls outside of that scope, can help you better understand the purposes and objectives of filing such a suit and can help avoid confusion and disappointment in the process. Attorneys representing you in a civil lawsuit should be able to explain the scope of their representation and what possible and realistic potential outcomes are for your lawsuit. The lawyers at Bordas & Bordas will go through this during their very first meeting with you and will continue to discuss your rights and options with you at all stages of your lawsuit.