Civil Appellate Services in Colorado

5 Ways People Lose Their Valid Legal Claim

Unfortunately, being the victim of an unlawful action does not mean you can or will recover compensation from the parties responsible.  Here are five reasons people with valid legal claims still fail to receive compensation for their losses:

1. Statutes of Limitations

When a person is a victim of a wrongdoing, the law provides a limited amount of time that person can file a lawsuit to recover damages. People often delay pursuing a lawsuit because: they’re embarrassed to admit they were wronged; they aren’t “the type of person who sues;” they are still addressing other issues relating to the injury; they are negotiating a settlement directly with the individuals involved (or their insurance carriers); or they are simply intimidated with the process or the idea of talking to a lawyer.

These delays can lead to a situation where the law no longer allows the victim to recover against those responsible.

However, there are numerous factors that affect the actual time a person has to file a claim.  It is extremely important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to assure one’s rights are protected.

2. Suing the wrong party

With numerous possible individuals or entities responsible for the injury, the use of multiple levels of incorporation, and the use of trade names, it may be difficult to know for sure who to pursue.

For instance, imagine a driver is injured when his brakes fail and his car runs into a tree.  Who is responsible for the brakes failing?  Did the car owner’s mechanic fail to properly service them?  Did the car manufacturer fail to properly install the brakes on that specific car, or perhaps fail to design that entire car model in a safe way?  Or is the manufacturer of the brakes themselves to blame?

At best, suing the wrong party causes substantial delay and wastes valuable resources (including the victim’s time and money).  At worst, the delay could lead to the loss of the opportunity to pursue the claim entirely, through an expired statute of limitations against the actual party responsible or other limitations.

3. Suing a party with no money or assets

Often times, injuries are caused by numerous individuals or entities.  It is important not only to assure you are suing the parties responsible, but also that one or more of those parties have the financial resources to pay what is owed.  A judgment in your favor is of little value where the person or entity who owes you the money lacks the resources to pay it.

An experienced attorney can suggest ways to research the resources of those responsible, limiting the risk that the target of your lawsuit will lack the funds to pay.  Where a party has assets or earnings—but a reluctance to pay—garnishments and liens can be used to recover funds.

4. Lack of tangible evidence

With all the documents, forms, and other materials we receive in our lives, it is easy to lose track of vital evidence to support one’s legal claims.  A failure to maintain evidence may make your claim difficult, if not impossible, to prove the wrongdoing involved.  It is important to discuss your claim with an attorney early in the process to assure that you are retaining the necessary information to support your claim.

Similarly, it is important to be cautious about what you say concerning a potential claim.  In an age of e-mails, texts, and other easily-proven communications, there is a significant danger in an individual expressing thoughts, often in frustration, that can be misconstrued and used against that individual.  The opposing party is likely to even encourage such statements.  And these statements may provide damaging to a person’s claims, even when they were made, not to the opposition, but to otherwise uninvolved parties.  Again, it is important to discuss these matters with an attorney to prevent jeopardizing recovery.

5. Fading memory

A key component at a trial is the credibility of the witnesses.  In almost any trial, there will be numerous factual issues where the witnesses disagree.  A jury will listen to all of the testimony at trial and then decide which witnesses were credible and which accounts of what happened were more believable.

A jury’s decision about any specific fact will be heavily influenced by the jury’s feelings towards the general credibility of a witness.  Where a witness misremembers or forgets various things on some minor issues, the jury will assume the witness is making similar mistakes on other, key issues.  Such mistakes may be completely innocent and reasonable given the hundreds of facts involved and the amount of time passed.  However, a witness or victim who makes such mistakes while testifying is less likely to be believed than someone who testifies in a clear, accurate manner.

There are practices a person should follow long before he or she is faced with testifying.  When a person has an out-of-the-ordinary situation (perhaps concerning her or his work, clients, schooling, or other interactions), a good habit is for that person to maintain a journal (with times, dates, and details) of the out-of-the-ordinary experience.  This creates a useful log of events to provide to an attorney and to refresh the person’s memory should such situations ultimately escalate into a legal claim (and depositions and trial testimony).

If the events have already occurred and it is too late to write down an account immediately following the event, it may still be helpful for the witness to write down her or his memory of what occurred.  Often, the act of writing something down can be a useful way to increase and clarify a person’s recollection of past events.  It will also provide your attorney a solid starting point when discussing the relevant details with you of what occurred.

 

Ultimately, the facts and law in a given situation vary based upon the case, opening the door to different technicalities and nuances.  If you are the target of litigation or you are contemplating a lawsuit, it is important for you to be well-informed.  Contact an experienced attorney to fully discuss how these and other issues may affect your ability to resolve your matter.

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