In this video, our Elmhurst civil litigation attorneys discuss what motions for summary judgement is in civil litigation cases. There are several points in the timeline of a dispute in which the parties are likely to come to a settlement. Our Elmhurst litigation attorneys will reevaluate your case with you at each stage, and plan with you based on the expected costs of the next phase of the case, and the likelihood of achieving the settlement you desire.
- Demand Letter: Small disputes are likely to settle after a well-worded letter citing the relevant facts and applying the statutory and case law to those facts, informing the other side of the full ramifications if a settlement is not achieved within a specified time period. Oftentimes this letter will either spur the other party to settle before paying for their own attorney, or have their attorney initiate negotiation by phone.
- Complaint & Summons: If the defendant is not taking the plaintiff's claims seriously after the issuance of a demand letter, he or she may be spurred to engage in settlement negotiations after being served by a sheriff with a Complaint, which initiates a lawsuit against them, and a Summons, which requires them to appear in court on a specified return date. At this point, the defendant understands that the threat of litigation was not an idle one, and that he or she will now have to hire an attorney. A good attorney will realistically explain the defendant's prospects of success as well as the costs associated with a failure to settle the case, and will often encourage settlement. This is why many cases settle shortly after the plaintiff files the Complaint.
- Pre-Trial Settlement Conference or Mediation: If the plaintiff and defendant are not properly motivated to settle immediately after the lawsuit has been initiated, the next point at which the case is likely to settle is at a pre-trial settlement conference or mediation. These are typically conducted either at the conclusion of written discovery or shortly before trial. A pre-trial settlement conference is a meeting of the judge with both the plaintiff and the defendant, wherein the judge attempts to convince both parties to come together to settle the case. A mediation is similar, but instead of the judge, a third party mediator (usually a retired attorney or judge) will attempt to bring the parties together. Pre-trial settlement conferences and mediations are incredibly effective. They are typically held once both sides have a good idea of the viability of their cases, and the judges and mediators can be very convincing and creative in structuring a settlement that both parties can accept.
- After Depositions Have Been Conducted: The next point at which cases are likely to settle is after all of the primary witnesses have been deposed. At this point each party's cards are on the table. Both sides know what factual and legal arguments the other side will make, and both sides will have a good estimation of their own prospects for success at trial. This will often allow them to agree on the actual value of the plaintiffs' claims.
- Immediately Prior to Trial: Many cases settle the morning of trial, during trial, or after each party has put on the case, but before the judge issues his or her ruling. At this point, both parties are faced with an all-or-nothing outcome and realize that the other side will not be bluffed into changing their settlement position. Often, when faced with a final and immediate decision on whether to meet in the middle or take the risk of trial, the parties will choose settlement.
Since most cases end in settlement, our Elmhurst litigation attorneys work from the outset to get you the settlement you desire at the earliest possible stage of your case. Early settlements tend to be more favorable to both the plaintiff and defendant, because the earlier a case settles, the less each side will have spent on attorney fees, making it easier for both sides to meet in the middle. At O'Flaherty Law our philosophy puts more money in our clients' pockets, as opposed to those of the attorneys for each side.