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Will I Get My Day In Court?

There’s a lot of romance and drama attached to the courtroom. It’s the centerpiece of an uncountable number of films, books, and TV shows, the place where lawyers unearth their opponents’ dirty laundry, make bold accusations disguised as questions, and cow witnesses into breaking down and admitting the truth. The courtroom is a setting for clever thinking, flawless reasoning, and emotional speeches. It’s all great fun, but chances are good that even if you file a suit, you’ll never see your trial take place – and you’re actually better off that way.

Robbing The Courtroom Of Drama

The thing about modern court cases, whether they’re civil or criminal, is that there really aren’t any sudden twists or shocking revelations on the courtroom floor. It’s unfair to make one side or the other defend against something they didn’t know about beforehand, and the justice system is supposed to be about fairness above all else.

That’s why every case goes through a lengthy discovery process before the trial begins. The idea is for the two sides to take their time and gather every scrap of evidence they can use to argue their case, and then to exchange what they know with the other side. This gives them both the chance to see what’s coming and prepare for it, and if one side should come up with an unbeatable case it gives the other side the opportunity to drop the charges, dismiss the case, plea bargain, or pay a settlement.

The High Cost Of High Drama

Another thing you see in fictional courtrooms is finality. No matter the subject or the ruling, nothing ever goes beyond the initial trial – that’s where it all begins and ends. You don’t see the wave after wave of appeals, the years of overturned rulings and retrials that define the modern American justice system. It can be a mess at times, but the reason it happens is to give both sides the fairest possible result.

Still, it’s also an expensive result. Personal injury lawyers typically charge their clients a percentage of the settlement, but that percentage goes up if a case goes to trial because of all the extra time and effort it takes to follow through on these appeals. Defendants don’t get off light, either, since they must pay their legal help a flat rate. But legal costs rarely make it into the fictional accounts, so many people are surprised by just how much they have to spend to bring their case to trial.

Courtrooms may be a great place for powerful drama and high stakes in fiction, but as it turns out a sudden twist isn’t nearly so fun when it’s your life and livelihood on the line. So to put it simply, while you can push your case until you have your day in court (and your lawyer won’t stand in your way if you insist on it), you’re much more likely to get a positive result if you’re willing to sit down and come to an agreement before things get that far. And after all, isn’t a happy ending worth more than any amount of drama?