To sue or not to sue?

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
jackdanielsga

New
Posts: 75
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:16 pm

To sue or not to sue?

Postby jackdanielsga » Mon Feb 25, 2019 7:48 pm

So I'm 90% decided to go to law school this fall, and I'm also 90% decided to focus on criminal prosecution. My background is in the IT infrastructure, I've done for nearly 20 years, so it'd be a huge career change for me.

I also had a car accident right before Christmas and my car got totaled. It's the other party's fault but I'm not entirely happy with the way their liability carrier is handling the settlement negotiations. In GA, the insurance commission is a mess and the law sucks - no direct right of action against the third party insurer due to lack of privity of contract, obviously. Instead I'd have to sue the other driver / owner and serve the insurance carrier as the non-party (if at all).

The amount that we disagree on is relatively small - around $1-2k, both lowball valuation and other fees that they don't want to pay. Obviously not enough to interest any lawyers. So I was thinking about taking it pro se to the magistrate court, possibly as 2 separate cases (injury + property damage) as a way to experience the court system from the plaintiff's position. I am mostly interested in the property damage part as the liability carrier has a very unusual position of flatly refusing to pay the mandatory tag, title, and tax fees that would not be required but for the actions of the tortfeasor, are necessary, and recovery of such necessary expenses are covered by OCGA 51-12-7 in the torts law. It adds up to only a few hundred dollars, but could make for an interesting day in court.

Would this experience of going through a small civil pro se case be valuable in the law school or during job search? I haven't had much courtroom experience otherwise, not even disputing traffic tickets. Or is it going to be a huge waste of time and effort?

To be clear, this is not to solicit legal advice but to understand whether it would create a conversation topic that may set me apart when looking for internships / jobs / etc, or would it have the opposite effect?

dabigchina

Gold
Posts: 1682
Joined: Mon Jan 13, 2014 2:22 am

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby dabigchina » Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:29 pm

no. at best it gets you something to write about for your personal statement. at worst, you lose your case because you tried to rep yourself and didn't know what you were doing.

nixy

Gold
Posts: 1756
Joined: Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:58 am

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby nixy » Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:07 pm

Not worth it. It could, possibly, give you a little bit of perspective on being a lawyer, in a way that might help you decide what you want to do in future. But it's not going to give you an edge in applications and talking about it as legal experience could come off as weird. Also keep in mind the whole thing about being a lawyer is that you're not representing yourself, you're representing someone else. It's a different experience.

jackdanielsga

New
Posts: 75
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:16 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby jackdanielsga » Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:33 pm

nixy wrote: Also keep in mind the whole thing about being a lawyer is that you're not representing yourself, you're representing someone else. It's a different experience.


Yes exactly, so my thinking was that if i was in the shoes of a regular joe schmoe in court, that might give me an understanding of how would it feel to a non-lawyer, so that I might be able to better relate to the clients in the future. Obviously once I start the school an exercise like this wouldn't be an option.

nixy

Gold
Posts: 1756
Joined: Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:58 am

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby nixy » Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:08 pm

jackdanielsga wrote:
nixy wrote: Also keep in mind the whole thing about being a lawyer is that you're not representing yourself, you're representing someone else. It's a different experience.


Yes exactly, so my thinking was that if i was in the shoes of a regular joe schmoe in court, that might give me an understanding of how would it feel to a non-lawyer, so that I might be able to better relate to the clients in the future. Obviously once I start the school an exercise like this wouldn't be an option.

Eh, I don't think it would be that helpful. (Especially in criminal prosecution b/c you don't really have clients.) If you think the experience would be interesting/helpful for you personally, that's fine, but I don't think it's worth any real cost.

Npret

Gold
Posts: 1986
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby Npret » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:16 am

jackdanielsga wrote:So I'm 90% decided to go to law school this fall, and I'm also 90% decided to focus on criminal prosecution. My background is in the IT infrastructure, I've done for nearly 20 years, so it'd be a huge career change for me.

I also had a car accident right before Christmas and my car got totaled. It's the other party's fault but I'm not entirely happy with the way their liability carrier is handling the settlement negotiations. In GA, the insurance commission is a mess and the law sucks - no direct right of action against the third party insurer due to lack of privity of contract, obviously. Instead I'd have to sue the other driver / owner and serve the insurance carrier as the non-party (if at all).

The amount that we disagree on is relatively small - around $1-2k, both lowball valuation and other fees that they don't want to pay. Obviously not enough to interest any lawyers. So I was thinking about taking it pro se to the magistrate court, possibly as 2 separate cases (injury + property damage) as a way to experience the court system from the plaintiff's position. I am mostly interested in the property damage part as the liability carrier has a very unusual position of flatly refusing to pay the mandatory tag, title, and tax fees that would not be required but for the actions of the tortfeasor, are necessary, and recovery of such necessary expenses are covered by OCGA 51-12-7 in the torts law. It adds up to only a few hundred dollars, but could make for an interesting day in court.

Would this experience of going through a small civil pro se case be valuable in the law school or during job search? I haven't had much courtroom experience otherwise, not even disputing traffic tickets. Or is it going to be a huge waste of time and effort?

To be clear, this is not to solicit legal advice but to understand whether it would create a conversation topic that may set me apart when looking for internships / jobs / etc, or would it have the opposite effect?

This is a terrible idea. Do something else with your life to learn about law.

jackdanielsga

New
Posts: 75
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:16 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby jackdanielsga » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:24 am

Npret wrote:This is a terrible idea. Do something else with your life to learn about law.


Care to elaborate why?

And I *am* doing other things, too - listening to sum&substance, reading e&es, going to the courthouse to read case files.

cavalier1138

Platinum
Posts: 6594
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:01 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby cavalier1138 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:11 am

jackdanielsga wrote:
Npret wrote:This is a terrible idea. Do something else with your life to learn about law.


Care to elaborate why?

And I *am* doing other things, too - listening to sum&substance, reading e&es, going to the courthouse to read case files.


Those are literally all bad ideas. Just find attorneys (particularly in fields you think you're interested in) and talk to them.

jackdanielsga

New
Posts: 75
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:16 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby jackdanielsga » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:17 am

cavalier1138 wrote:
jackdanielsga wrote:
Npret wrote:This is a terrible idea. Do something else with your life to learn about law.


Care to elaborate why?

And I *am* doing other things, too - listening to sum&substance, reading e&es, going to the courthouse to read case files.


Those are literally all bad ideas. Just find attorneys (particularly in fields you think you're interested in) and talk to them.


Again, details would be nice.

And I am connecting to attorneys too. But there aren't many meaningful conversation topics for an 0L to have with an ADA. It's obvious that need to get good grades and intern and clerk. Not much to talk about beyond that until 2L when there will be choice of electives and the feedback from the first internship.

cavalier1138

Platinum
Posts: 6594
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:01 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby cavalier1138 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:49 am

jackdanielsga wrote:
cavalier1138 wrote:
jackdanielsga wrote:
Npret wrote:This is a terrible idea. Do something else with your life to learn about law.


Care to elaborate why?

And I *am* doing other things, too - listening to sum&substance, reading e&es, going to the courthouse to read case files.


Those are literally all bad ideas. Just find attorneys (particularly in fields you think you're interested in) and talk to them.


Again, details would be nice.

And I am connecting to attorneys too. But there aren't many meaningful conversation topics for an 0L to have with an ADA. It's obvious that need to get good grades and intern and clerk. Not much to talk about beyond that until 2L when there will be choice of electives and the feedback from the first internship.


Those are bad ideas because you shouldn't try to learn substantive law before school. At best, you won't have any advantage going in. At worst, you'll have learned concepts incorrectly (or at least incorrectly for that professor). There's literally no benefit to trying to "read ahead," especially because you don't even know what you're supposed to be reading.

Npret

Gold
Posts: 1986
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby Npret » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:02 am

jackdanielsga wrote:
cavalier1138 wrote:
jackdanielsga wrote:
Npret wrote:This is a terrible idea. Do something else with your life to learn about law.


Care to elaborate why?

And I *am* doing other things, too - listening to sum&substance, reading e&es, going to the courthouse to read case files.


Those are literally all bad ideas. Just find attorneys (particularly in fields you think you're interested in) and talk to them.


Again, details would be nice.

And I am connecting to attorneys too. But there aren't many meaningful conversation topics for an 0L to have with an ADA. It's obvious that need to get good grades and intern and clerk. Not much to talk about beyond that until 2L when there will be choice of electives and the feedback from the first internship.


Ask people how they chose law, why they ended up as prosecutors, etc. There is plenty of good advice for you.
Sitting around reading case files isn’t going to get you anywhere. At least sit in the courtroom and watch cases.

nixy

Gold
Posts: 1756
Joined: Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:58 am

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby nixy » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:30 am

Yeah, don’t go to court to read case files/dockets (and I say that as someone who finds case files really interesting). They’re not going to be helpful at this stage - I agree that observing in court will be better.

And *do* talk to ADAs - not (only) about how to *get* the job, but about what it’s like. There is TONS to talk about. What does a typical day look like? What do they like about the job? What do they not like? What do they wish they’d known before they got into that field? What did they find the most helpful thing they’d done before going into that field? What was most surprising? Which judges do they like appearing before best/least and why? What about PDs? How does a change in the DA change the office? How do they work with victims? What are investigations like? Ask the same questions of different people - there isn’t one right answer. There is TONS to learn about now.

jackdanielsga

New
Posts: 75
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:16 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby jackdanielsga » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:39 am

nixy wrote:Yeah, don’t go to court to read case files/dockets (and I say that as someone who finds case files really interesting). They’re not going to be helpful at this stage - I agree that observing in court will be better.

And *do* talk to ADAs - not (only) about how to *get* the job, but about what it’s like. There is TONS to talk about. What does a typical day look like? What do they like about the job? What do they not like? What do they wish they’d known before they got into that field? What did they find the most helpful thing they’d done before going into that field? What was most surprising? Which judges do they like appearing before best/least and why? What about PDs? How does a change in the DA change the office? How do they work with victims? What are investigations like? Ask the same questions of different people - there isn’t one right answer. There is TONS to learn about now.


Thanks!! Great questions I didn't think about.

albanach

Gold
Posts: 1978
Joined: Tue Jul 08, 2008 10:05 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby albanach » Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:24 pm

jackdanielsga wrote:
Care to elaborate why?



1. I don't know the individual facts and circumstances of your case so can't offer legal advice. And if I did, I wouldn't.

2. To answer your question, there's more than a slim chance you might lose. You could go to court and potentially open up your entire settlement. The other side has counsel, well versed in the rules of evidence. Unless you're in small claims court (and even then it's risky against trained and experienced counsel) you could be swept away, unable to make an argument because you don't know the rules.

I sat in court once and watched a guy go pro se against a home insurer after their house burned down. He had a suitcase of documents and photos, none of which he could get admitted because he didn't know the rules. The other side simply raised objections and his entire case went down in flames.

jackdanielsga

New
Posts: 75
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:16 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby jackdanielsga » Tue Feb 26, 2019 12:57 pm

albanach wrote:
jackdanielsga wrote:
Care to elaborate why?



1. I don't know the individual facts and circumstances of your case so can't offer legal advice. And if I did, I wouldn't.

2. To answer your question, there's more than a slim chance you might lose. You could go to court and potentially open up your entire settlement. The other side has counsel, well versed in the rules of evidence. Unless you're in small claims court (and even then it's risky against trained and experienced counsel) you could be swept away, unable to make an argument because you don't know the rules.

I sat in court once and watched a guy go pro se against a home insurer after their house burned down. He had a suitcase of documents and photos, none of which he could get admitted because he didn't know the rules. The other side simply raised objections and his entire case went down in flames.


Yes, small claims - it's called magistrate court in GA. So I doubt that reasonable evidence would be rejected. Next best thing would be, of course, to go and watch the cases where this insurance company would represent the tortfeasor, but because the court's website only allows to search for parties and in liability cases a third party insurer is not a party, it's impossible to actually do the search.

cavalier1138

Platinum
Posts: 6594
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:01 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby cavalier1138 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:46 pm

jackdanielsga wrote:So I doubt that reasonable evidence would be rejected.


Hint: The standards for admitting evidence are generally not a single reasonableness inquiry. This is the kind of thing albanach was referring to.

Pro se experience won't help you in law school. Or life, really.

nixy

Gold
Posts: 1756
Joined: Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:58 am

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby nixy » Tue Feb 26, 2019 2:00 pm

jackdanielsga wrote:
albanach wrote:
jackdanielsga wrote:
Care to elaborate why?



1. I don't know the individual facts and circumstances of your case so can't offer legal advice. And if I did, I wouldn't.

2. To answer your question, there's more than a slim chance you might lose. You could go to court and potentially open up your entire settlement. The other side has counsel, well versed in the rules of evidence. Unless you're in small claims court (and even then it's risky against trained and experienced counsel) you could be swept away, unable to make an argument because you don't know the rules.

I sat in court once and watched a guy go pro se against a home insurer after their house burned down. He had a suitcase of documents and photos, none of which he could get admitted because he didn't know the rules. The other side simply raised objections and his entire case went down in flames.


Yes, small claims - it's called magistrate court in GA. So I doubt that reasonable evidence would be rejected. Next best thing would be, of course, to go and watch the cases where this insurance company would represent the tortfeasor, but because the court's website only allows to search for parties and in liability cases a third party insurer is not a party, it's impossible to actually do the search.

I’m confused. Why would it be the next best thing to watch cases where this insurance company represents the tortfeasor? If it’s to win your own case, I don’t think that would help. If it’s for your legal education, I don’t think having a case with this company makes any difference. You can doubtless find insurance cases to go watch, it doesn’t have to be this particular company.

jackdanielsga

New
Posts: 75
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:16 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby jackdanielsga » Tue Feb 26, 2019 5:25 pm

nixy wrote:I’m confused. Why would it be the next best thing to watch cases where this insurance company represents the tortfeasor? If it’s to win your own case, I don’t think that would help. If it’s for your legal education, I don’t think having a case with this company makes any difference. You can doubtless find insurance cases to go watch, it doesn’t have to be this particular company.



Because this company seems to be one of the bottom-feeders in the state and as far as I can tell they are the only one that flat out refuses to pay the tag, title, and tax on the total loss liability cases. Their position is that as per GA code 120-2-52 FAIR AND EQUITABLE SETTLEMENT OF FIRST PARTY PROPERTY DAMAGE CLAIMS, Rule 120-2-52-.06 Total Loss Vehicle Claims, which, interestingly enough, says that " including all applicable taxes, license fees and other fees incident to the transfer of ownership of a comparable automobile", but applies to first-party claims. Nowhere in that paragraph does it say anything about the third party claims being exempted from these fees, so I have a suspicion that it would be regulated by the torts law (OCGA 51-12-7 Recovery of necessary expenses - In all cases, necessary expenses consequent upon an injury are a legitimate item in the estimate of damages)

For each individual case it's not a huge amount - a few hundred dollars at most - but overall this probably represents a significant cost saving to them. My hypothesis is they are enabled to keep doing that by the dysfunctional insurance commission (I sent in a complaint and the response supported the insurer's position but didn't have any grounding in the law) and the fact that it's generally "not worth it" to pursue them in court. From the few cases I've read where they were a party (an uninsured/ underinsured carrier), their answers are very much boilerplate and with blanket denial of all claims. In those cases they were generally dismissed, however.

So I'm curious to see how their legal position would stand at an actual bench trial.

nixy

Gold
Posts: 1756
Joined: Fri Feb 16, 2018 8:58 am

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby nixy » Tue Feb 26, 2019 5:32 pm

Okay, but that doesn’t have anything to do with you getting into law school or getting a job or gaining legal experience, which is why I was confused. If you want to sue them because you think their practices are bogus, go for it. There just isn’t any utility to it for your law school stuff.

albanach

Gold
Posts: 1978
Joined: Tue Jul 08, 2008 10:05 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby albanach » Tue Feb 26, 2019 6:25 pm

jackdanielsga wrote:So I'm curious to see how their legal position would stand at an actual bench trial.


Which, as others point out, won't help you with law school, and which I pointed out would put some or all of your potential settlement at risk.

As the old saying goes, a lawyer that represents themselves has a fool for a client. For a pro-se 0L, that goes double.

objctnyrhnr

Moderator
Posts: 1042
Joined: Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:44 am

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby objctnyrhnr » Tue Feb 26, 2019 7:32 pm

What’s the statute of limitations for these claims in your state?

I could see this experience being potentially beneficial when you’re a 2L or a 3L (though whether it’s worth the time is a different question).

jackdanielsga

New
Posts: 75
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:16 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby jackdanielsga » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:22 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:What’s the statute of limitations for these claims in your state?

I could see this experience being potentially beneficial when you’re a 2L or a 3L (though whether it’s worth the time is a different question).


It's 2 years. The accident happened on Dec 20 of the last year, and the school starts in August, so the first semester of 2L would be feasible.

GA allows for separate filings for bodily injury and property damage, and the company has separate adjusters, so maybe it's possible to settle part of it and drag my feet with another.

Also the school has an insurance law elective - would it be a good idea to perhaps get in touch with the prof and talk over the concept of third party insurer's liability? Also, could this be a fruitful topic for a law review article?

abl

Silver
Posts: 758
Joined: Mon Jan 19, 2009 8:07 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby abl » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:20 pm

1. If any part of your reason for doing this is to help you gain admission to law school, don't. It's highly unlikely that doing this case would help you, and it's plausible that it would hurt (given the opportunity cost of the time);

2. If part of your reason for doing this is to help you do better in law school, don't. It's highly unlikely that your experience litigating a case pro se through small claims court will in any way impact your law school grades (/ law review write-on / moot court performance /etc);

3. If part of your reason for doing this is to help be a better criminal prosecutor, don't. Whatever information you'll learn from this experience and whatever skills you'll develop are highly unlikely to be beneficial in the least for either obtaining a prosecutor position or in excelling in that position;

4. I don't know enough about this case to offer any legal advice about your chances of success (and wouldn't if I did). That said, I can understand the appeal of seeking justice -- it's why many of us go to / went to law school in the first place. If you're doing this because you think it'd be interesting to see how small claims court (or the GA equivalent) works, and don't mind the fact that it may cost you a real amount of money and time and you may still lose, sure, go for it. I don't mean for this to be discouraging, even: you sound passionate about this, and if you're able to step back and say "you know, even if I lose, I'm just personally curious about how small claims civil justice works or doesn't work," that's not a horrible reason to move forward. There are plenty of companies who should be taken to court more regularly in this exact manner, but aren't because it's onerous, because recovery isn't guaranteed, etc. Just know that the economics of your case and the realities of pro se litigation are such that it's very plausible that the time/cost of litigating this significantly exceeds the risk-adjusted cost of your recovery.*

*Again, though, I cannot speculate about your specific chance of success.

objctnyrhnr

Moderator
Posts: 1042
Joined: Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:44 am

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby objctnyrhnr » Tue Feb 26, 2019 9:27 pm

jackdanielsga wrote:
objctnyrhnr wrote:What’s the statute of limitations for these claims in your state?

I could see this experience being potentially beneficial when you’re a 2L or a 3L (though whether it’s worth the time is a different question).


It's 2 years. The accident happened on Dec 20 of the last year, and the school starts in August, so the first semester of 2L would be feasible.

GA allows for separate filings for bodily injury and property damage, and the company has separate adjusters, so maybe it's possible to settle part of it and drag my feet with another.

Also the school has an insurance law elective - would it be a good idea to perhaps get in touch with the prof and talk over the concept of third party insurer's liability? Also, could this be a fruitful topic for a law review article?


Then I disagree with a small part of what below poster said. I think any opportunity to argue a case in front of somebody is at least marginally beneficial. Give it a big and see if this is something you want to do 2L would be my advice.

jackdanielsga

New
Posts: 75
Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:16 pm

Re: To sue or not to sue?

Postby jackdanielsga » Tue Feb 26, 2019 10:09 pm

abl wrote:1. If any part of your reason for doing this is to help you gain admission to law school, don't. It's highly unlikely that doing this case would help you, and it's plausible that it would hurt (given the opportunity cost of the time);

2. If part of your reason for doing this is to help you do better in law school, don't. It's highly unlikely that your experience litigating a case pro se through small claims court will in any way impact your law school grades (/ law review write-on / moot court performance /etc);

3. If part of your reason for doing this is to help be a better criminal prosecutor, don't. Whatever information you'll learn from this experience and whatever skills you'll develop are highly unlikely to be beneficial in the least for either obtaining a prosecutor position or in excelling in that position;

4. I don't know enough about this case to offer any legal advice about your chances of success (and wouldn't if I did). That said, I can understand the appeal of seeking justice -- it's why many of us go to / went to law school in the first place. If you're doing this because you think it'd be interesting to see how small claims court (or the GA equivalent) works, and don't mind the fact that it may cost you a real amount of money and time and you may still lose, sure, go for it. I don't mean for this to be discouraging, even: you sound passionate about this, and if you're able to step back and say "you know, even if I lose, I'm just personally curious about how small claims civil justice works or doesn't work," that's not a horrible reason to move forward. There are plenty of companies who should be taken to court more regularly in this exact manner, but aren't because it's onerous, because recovery isn't guaranteed, etc. Just know that the economics of your case and the realities of pro se litigation are such that it's very plausible that the time/cost of litigating this significantly exceeds the risk-adjusted cost of your recovery.*

*Again, though, I cannot speculate about your specific chance of success.


Thank you for the detailed response!

1. I'm already admitted so it's not a factor

2. Wouldn't the underlying legal issue (if indeed my point ends up being supported by the court) be worthy of a law review article? I have no idea what's the desired scope / extent of those things, and how valuable of resume boosters would they be.

3. Point taken. I was thinking mostly as a way to make myself stand out from the crowd, in however small way. I suck at selling myself so admittedly grasping at straws here.

4. This very well articulates the underlying thinking. Seeking justice when there's relatively little skin in the game - but still enough to keep things interesting. The time and cost of litigation I see as the cost of learning.



Return to “Ask a Law Student / Graduate?

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests