When it comes to hiring a lawyer in Cook County, where most Illinois lawsuits get filed, it shocks me how long some attorneys wait to file a lawsuit. For most personal injury cases, there is a two year time limit from the accident date to file a lawsuit or the case will be forever barred. Some lawyers wait until the very last day possible to get a lawsuit on file. There are a lot of problems with this. First though let’s discuss why they do it.

While every case requires some investigation, most can have a lawsuit on file in a matter of days, with the exception of medical malpractice which often takes up to a year to investigate. But for car accidents, slip and falls or stuff like business disputes, once you know all the parties, filing suit doesn’t take long.  It does cost around $500 and creates a lot of work as it begins the process of depositions, court appearances, discovery, etc. So some attorneys try and settle out of court without gaining the leverage of having a lawsuit filed.

That strategy might make sense if you have a car accident with serious injuries and a small insurance policy.  Those cases can usually be settled without a lawsuit. But if there is a large insurance policy, the case is disputed, you aren’t getting a response, etc., there’s no reason to wait. A lawsuit makes the other side take you seriously because they have to deal with the court and assess their worst case scenario.

But there’s another reason in Cook County why a lawsuit should get filed in most cases ASAP. To deal with the backlog of cases, most cases have to go to trial within 28 months of the day that the lawsuit is filed.  The reality is that many disputed lawsuits don’t get resolved until a trial is about to happen.  As attorneys we say, “The case settled on the courthouse steps.”  So of course if your attorney doesn’t file a lawsuit early on, it takes that much longer to get you to the 28 months when your case will go to trial if a settlement isn’t reached.

So when looking to hire an attorney, you should try to figure out if they are really a trial attorney or not. Most cases settle and there is nothing wrong with settling, but you have to be willing to go to trial if you don’t get a good settlement.  You also have to be willing to do the work needed before the trial happens. A lot of lawyers just want to do nothing but try and negotiate and that’s not usually in your best interests.

My recommendation is to ask the attorney how many cases they’ve tried in the last five years.  It varies based on area of practice, but if there immediate response is “we try to avoid trial for you” it could be a red flag. I also recommend you ask how soon they will file a lawsuit. If it’s not going to be within a month or so of hiring them, ask them why.

And if you want to know who a good litigation attorney is or have any Illinois legal questions, contact us any time for a free consultation at 312-346-5320.