At some point in your case, the option to settle it may arise. Settlement will mean exactly what the word implies – you will be accepting an amount of money that you can live with, but it won’t be what you want or even feel you deserve. I suppose, in extremely rare cases, you might actually get everything you demand? But if you set that as your expectation, I can pretty much guarantee that you will end up disappointed.
There is a saying you may or may not hear which goes like this:
If all of the parties are unhappy, then it is probably the right outcome.
It sounds kind of depressing, doesn’t it? Well, it is probably going to turn out to be true for you too, unfortunately.
Here’s the thing – no amount of money can make up for everything you have had to go through. You need to not expect it to. I know that kind of sucks to think about, but it is better to go into all of this with a practical and realistic view of how things will likely end than to continually be disappointed as your lawyer keeps readjusting your expectations as the case moves forward.
Hopefully, they have done a good job in providing you with a truthful projection of what they think your best, worst and most likely outcomes for your case are. You do need to remember that when they do this initially, they are doing it based only on the information your provide to them. As the case progresses and more information becomes available, they may change their thinking as to what those outcomes will probably look like. If they do change their assessment during the process, they should absolutely tell you. And, it is one of the questions we recommend you ask them directly every time something happens with the case. You need to know where you stand, because you will probably always feel like you are clearly the party in the right and all of the others are clearly in the wrong.
We are taught that our justice system protects us from wrong doing. And, in a lot of ways it does. But, in a lot of ways it also does not. Just because you are “in the right” in the real world, does not guarantee or even mean that you will win in the courts. I know it seems crazy, and honestly it is. But it is also the reality and the more you try to fight against this reality, the harder time you will have making a smart decision for yourself and your family.
Figure Out What You Can Live With
The best advice we can give here is to really take a look at your numbers and figure out what you can live with. Try as best you can to take the emotion out of it. You need to be practical here and approaching this from an emotional place will prevent that. Your lawyer is going to treat it this way. And you will probably feel at some points throughout the case that they either “don’t really get it” or “don’t really care” about your case. And, your lawyer might not get it or might not care, but if you chose a good lawyer, it will only feel like that is true. That being said, that feeling also sucks.
Do your math. Figure out how much you have spent on the following to date:
- Testing, inspections, etc.
- Repairs to your home
- Legal fees
Then estimate how much you will likely spend if this thing goes all the way to trial:
- Any repairs that have not yet been completed or paid for
- Any additional testing or inspections to be done after repairs completed
- Legal fees
Take the amount you’ve already spent and add to it the estimated amount you are likely to still spend to take it all the way. Now you have an idea of how much money you will likely be out at the end of all this.
Then, look at just the amount you’ve already spent. Ask your lawyer for their estimated cost for whatever step you’re looking at next. For us, it was mediation. This meant the cost of the mediator (which was split among all of the parties equally) and our lawyer’s fees to prepare for and do the actual mediation. We also were paying an expert witness to prepare reports and attend and testify at our mediation. You should include any fees like this that you will incur for the next step.
Then you, and your family as appropriate, need to figure out what your bottom line is. Let’s say just for example that you look at your numbers and you realize that you’ve spent/borrowed $50,000 so far to pay for home repairs and legal fees. You still have $15,000 in repairs to complete and your lawyer is telling you that he/she estimates it will be about $10,000 for their time plus the mediator. Your total to get to and through mediation would be $75,000. Make sure your lawyer knows this number. Your demand (that is the legal word for the amount you are asking for) should be higher than the $75,000 if you are hoping to walk away with the $75,000.
You should privately figure out if you are willing to take less than that amount, and if so, how much less. I would not share your actual bottom, bottom line with your lawyer. I would want them fighting for a figure that was above the absolute minimum we could accept to end the case.
Don’t Ignore The Value Of Having It Be Over
True, there is no cash value per se for your case being over. But, trust me having the weight of it lifted off of you does have value. You have to decide what that value is. In other words, is it worth taking $10,000 less to just have it be done? It very well might be. Include into your thinking all of the things that don’t get put into the “official” math too, such as your time spent working on things related to the case. Your time has value and you won’t be getting any kind of compensation for that. Is it impacting your relationships? Is this straining your marriage? What is that worth to you to have the immense stressor of the case gone? Do you have to miss work for case related stuff and is that a problem?
The calculations involved in figuring out what kind of settlement you can live with are complex. Remember too that you and your family need to be comfortable with your decisions. It doesn’t matter what others not involved in the case think!