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When to Go to Trial

Originally published in Beverly Hills Living Magazine | June 2023

When clients walk through the doors of Etehad Law, we strive to provide them with a sense of security with the understanding that we will work each case diligently and with complete transparency.  As the case makes its way through the legal process and on to trial, that guiding principle remains the same.

Committing to taking a case to trial is a long, tedious, and expensive decision.  It becomes necessary when the parties have come to an impasse after a difficult battle through the investigative stage of litigation, referred to as the Discovery phase. 

When deciding whether to take a case to trial, discussing the ramifications with our clients is paramount.  The client must be advised of the risk involved when making that decision because, ultimately, it is only a choice they can make.

Taking a case to trial occurs only fractionally; in civil cases, a mere 2-3% of cases are severe and contentious enough to warrant the risk of going to trial.  The risks involved can range from a net recovery identical to that if a settlement were achieved before trial to the full defense of a case.  

A benefit of going to trial and “winning” is that the jury verdict can be multiples of the most recent offer from the opposition.  What’s more, the foundational principles of justice are highly influential factors for clients when deciding whether to take a reasonable offer or their chances at trial.

We always explain both possible outcomes to our client so that the client has full knowledge of what trial entails, not the least of which is their time and money.   A client’s time and the ability to be available on short notice without exception is often stressful enough for the attorneys, let alone the clients themselves.

Some factors to consider when deciding whether to take the case to trial are the client’s past medical care and expenses, future medical care, and pain and suffering.  There are others, but these can provide the landscape for what to expect as the case progresses.  As cases get closer to trial, the more contentious the arguments can be, but the more amenable both sides are to settling.  The client should always know the tremendous cost of retaining experts, acquiring demonstrative exhibits, in-court presentations, etc.  On balance, these costs can net a negative outcome if not carefully considered when weighing the projected value of each case.

A client is typically influenced by the emotional and physical components of their case–medical treatment, pain and suffering, and their desire to seek justice.  However, in the eyes of a jury, those aspects are not always perceived and felt the same way.  Jury members have their own preconceived notions of justice, reasonableness, and suffering—which do not always align with those of the clients or attorneys presenting the client’s story at trial.  The attorney’s goal is to convey that message properly, but a jury can be an unpredictable factor.  And, of course, the jury is only allowed to consider the facts and testimony permitted by the trial judge.

For this reason, each client must have a candid and fully transparent conversation with their attorney about assessing a “value” to their case and recognizing that the value, whether it is monetarily, emotionally, or spiritually, may not be obtainable when their dispute is turned over to 12 strangers empaneled as a jury to make that decision for them.

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