5 Reasons Why You Should Not Take Your Case To Court

Lawyers will always tell you you should not take your case to court if you can possibly avoid it but it can be very hard to accept that this advice. You will have powerful emotional, financial or other compelling reasons why you want to take your case to a court hearing. If you are facing a fight for your child or if you have been cheated, tricked, robbed, deceived or simply humiliated, the urge to take the case to court may feel overwhelmingly powerful. You have every reason to want the record put straight and forjustice to be served in court. But there are 5 reasons why you should think twice and then think again.

The 5 reasons why you should not take your case to court

  1.  It’s a gamble. The people you are asking to take decisions about your life are strangers to you and you are a stranger to them. You don’t know what kind of people they are and they don’t know what kind of a person you are. You cannot know what they think, feel, believe or care about and they will form their own prejudices about you, which you cannot predict. Without disparaging the British judiciary or juries, you know that the everyday news, the history of the world, the behaviour you see around you all the time, proves to you that the world is full of people with ideas and attitudes that you do not agree with and which are often bizarre. We are lucky in the UK that outrageous judgements seem to be rare but remember, as just one example, the hundreds of unjust decisions made by British judges against subpostmasters in the Post Office Scandal. Few such miscarriages come to public attention and you can be sure that every day there are people emerging from court feeling that they have not had a fair hearing. You cannot assume that your court hearing will be fair, that the court will see things the way you do or that they will care much about the outcome. For you it is your life but for them it is just a job. Why stake anything important on a bet that a court will be fair or reasonable.
  2. A day in court can be the worst day of your life. If your opponent is also willing to go to court, they must believe that they have a case that they can win. They will have arguments to counter yours and they will do everything they can to defeat you. In doing so they will try to make you look wrong, stupid, confused, dishonest, forgetful and ignorant. If they have a lawyer acting for them, they will have on their side a trained professional whose sole job is to undermine you in cross examination. Are you ready to face someone whose job it is to make you look dishonest or a fool. It is a price you will have to pay.
  3. Taking a case to court is very expensive and you cannot know just how expensive it will be until it’s over. Unless you are experienced in the law, you would be foolish to represent yourself, so prepare to spend money (hundreds per hour and thousands per court day) on lawyer’s fees. And then also be ready to pay for your opposition’s fees too because if you lose your case you are quite likely to be ordered to pay them as well. You have no control over how much your opponent may have spent by the time you pick up their bill and frightening you by running up huge costs is a well known tactic to try to defeat the opposition in court.  Worse, though, your spending may not end with the final hearing, even if you win. Your opponent may appeal. You are then back paying your own fees and at risk of paying theirs. And appeals can continue up the chain to more senior courts, with all the continuing expense and financial risk. There can be a high price for losing.
  4. Even if you win, you may not get the outcome you want. For example, if you are fighting over residence or visitation rights/contact in the family court and you get the order you applied for, the order may not be complied with and you will have to go back to court to try to get enforcement. Even if you get the order you wanted, for example in a contested divorce, the resentment and acrimony the court process causes may lead to lifelong hostility, vengeance and financial obstruction by the other party which not only haunts you for life but may also alienate and damage other relationships, for example with your children . There can be a high price for winning.
  5. Court cases can take a very long time and during that time you could be doing something else. You only live one lifespan and the more time you spend embroiled in something horrible, the less life you have for doing things you enjoy. There is a cost other than money for engaging in a court case – the cost of lost opportunities. There may be a better way of living your life than fighting a court case even if it means accepting some injustice. The cost may be in terms of not moving forward in life while you wait for hearings, you may damage relationships while your case drags through the courts but sometimes the cost is even in real physical terms. In personal injury cases, for example, research has shown that recovery from injury is delayed while claims for compensation are pursued (and I do not suggest whether that delay is due to conscious or unconscious processes, it is simply a fact). If you devote yourself to winning a personal injury case, you may remain disabled for years longer than necessary while you pursue the case. Prolonged disability makes permanent disability more likely.

Life is obviously unfair (I’m sure you can list people in a worse position than you through no fault of their own) but your life may be better if you live with and accept some injustice. The very fact that you have a choice about pursuing a court case means that you have already won one of the lotteries of life by being in a part of the world governed by the rule of law, albeit flawed.

Of course, sometimes you have to go to court to protect yourself or others or to try to correct some terrible wrong but if you carefully balance the risks of taking a case to court against the risks of not doing so, then you may find that there is a compromise you can live with which may be (1) less uncertain, (2) less unpleasant, (3) cheaper and/or (4) offer a better outcome in the long term. Let me encourage you to think hard about these 5 reasons why you should not take your case to court before you commit.

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