By Rebecca M. Vaccariello, Esq., Salvatori, Wood & Buckel Attorneys At Law –
Although we are leaving the holiday stress behind us, many people are dealing with the stress caused by by being involved in the litigation process. As a civil litigator, this work is part of my daily life. For litigants, either plaintiffs or defendants, the process can be stress-inducing however. It is also something that is affecting more people than ever as the filings of civil cases continue to grow. Litigation can be exhausting, time-consuming and expensive. I have been involved in cases where the effects of the stress on litigants has included everything from general anxiety issues, to panic attacks and suicide.
My goal as a litigation attorney is always to help clients realize their goals, through whatever methods they choose, whether that be through a trial or the increasing trend towards alternative dispute resolution. Everyone has different goals for what they may be seeking and the resources they want to expend to get there. Many times, the realities of the costs of litigation, both financial and mental, dictate the methods we pursue to try to resolve a dispute. Sometimes that means initiating a lawsuit when it becomes clear there is no other way to resolve a dispute, or by attempting to channel a case into the alternative dispute resolution process early on, when it is clear that one or both parties do not want to go the distance in terms of time, money, and stress.
INCREASE IN CASES SETTLING BEFORE TRIAL
More and more cases are settling before trial and this appears to be because people are increasingly looking to avoid the costs of litigation, in terms of financial cost, time required, and mental stress. Most civil cases take approximately a year to go to trial and complex cases take even longer. The numbers are compelling: even though exponentially more civil cases have been filed in federal and state courts, the number of cases going to trial has decreased dramatically. Litigation is draining in terms of money, time and mental energy and it is simply not possible or desirable for most entities and individuals to fund these costs.
Here are some interesting statistics:
Case Filing Information
Federal Civil Dispositions:
• 1962: 258,876 cases disposed of, with 11.8 percent
going to trial
• 2002: 501,320 cases disposed of, with 1.8 percent
going to trial
Florida Circuit Court Civil Dispositions:
• 1986-87: 155,407 cases disposed of, with 1.6
percent going to jury trial
• 2009-10: 401,463 cases disposed of, with .2
percent going to jury trial
INCREASE IN ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) can be a great way to work towards a litigation resolution and the explosion in its popularity appears to be one reason why more settlements are being reached before trial. While Florida state courts mandate alternative dispute resolution before trial, many times litigants agree to voluntarily attend ADR early in the process to avoid the costs of the discovery process. There are times when at least a certain amount of discovery is necessary before ADR is feasible, such as where one party does not have access to certain financial information which is necessary to make an informed decision as to the issues in dispute. The parties could still agree, if they wish, to exchange certain information and proceed to ADR before completing the discovery process, which is expensive if it includes depositions of multiple witnesses.
Mediation is a commonly used form of alternative dispute resolution. With mediation, a neutral third party tries to assist the parties to arrive at a resolution. A good mediator can see the sticking points and attempt to suggest solutions that may not have occurred to the parties. He or she can also point out weaknesses of a party’s case and the risks of going forward to trial. Sometimes hearing this analysis from a neutral third party with litigation experience is the best way for both sides to be able to realize that compromise could be the best solution for both of them.
Litigation is an inherently stressful experience for litigants, but there are a variety of options, including mediation, that can assist litigants in resolving their cases. How you decide to handle your litigation, as either a plaintiff or defendant, is a personal decision that you and your attorney should discuss that is dependent upon your personal situation and the facts of the case.
The comments expressed herein are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please consult legal counsel to obtain specific advice for your situation.