“Should I feel guilty for suing the Defendant?” is a common question I receive. No one wants to be sued, and especially in accident and injury cases, most people find no pleasure in the idea of suing another person to get their medical bills and losses paid.
The short response to the above question, of course, is “No.” But I have found that quick response does not help people move past a sense of guilt toward understanding. In injury cases, when we reach the point of needing to file a lawsuit, it is important to understand that it is almost always the Defendant’s insurance carrier rather than the individual Defendant that is creating the necessity. There are many reasons why it is sometimes necessary to file a lawsuit (improperly denied claims, unrealistic offers, noncooperation from adjusters, statute of limitations issues, etc,) but the problem hardly ever resides in the Defendant himself. That in mind, I try to send the Defendant’s insurance adjuster a courtesy copy of the Petition before the Defendant is ever served with the lawsuit. Most insurance companies then contact their insureds to let them know that a lawsuit is in the process of being filed. The adjuster may advise the Defendant that a process server will deliver the Petition to the Defendant, and the adjuster may instruct the Defendant to turn the Petition over to the insurance company so the company can provide him a defense. The point of filing a lawsuit is not to strike out at the Defendant or cause him suffering; the point of the lawsuit is to develop the case to the next level and bring it closer to resolution. Sending a courtesy copy of the Petition is a good practice to help develop a case, because it gives the adjuster an opportunity and reason to tell the Defendant the best way to respond to the lawsuit. The courtesy copy also allows the pre-litigation adjuster to begin the process of transferring the case over to a litigation adjuster, who often has a greater range of experience and authority to negotiate the case. When addressing any sense of guilt, it is helpful to remember that the amount of physical pain, financial burden, and stress experienced by an injured Plaintiff after an accident is often far greater than any amount of stress experienced by a Defendant because of a lawsuit. The Defendant will almost always be provided an attorney and defense as part of his policy coverage. It is also helpful to remember that a lawsuit generally seeks to make the Defendant’s insurance pay for the medical bills and accident related losses, rather than seeking money directly from the Defendant himself. Finally, there is no reason to feel guilty about being a “Plaintiff.” Being a Plaintiff because a legitimate case has developed to the point of needing a lawsuit should have no stigma attached to it at all.