While most lawsuits in the personal injury sector are filed by victims who are legitimately hurt and need additional legal support, some litigants file pointless or frivolous lawsuits in “bad faith.” It is important to distinguish what may be considered a frivolous lawsuit and a lawsuit filed by an injured victim in real need of support.
What Is a Frivolous Lawsuit?
What’s considered frivolous is open to interpretation by victims, lawyers, and the court system. The wide range of definitions, even in the legal community, makes it difficult to prove that a litigant is filing frivolously or in “bad faith.”
When considering if a lawsuit is frivolous or not, the court must determine if a claim is clearly meant to torment, hinder, or embarrass the defendant. Plaintiffs may not believe their lawsuit will succeed but will file it regardless, simply to create a headache for someone else.
A lawsuit, motion, or appeal must try to deny, contest, or prove a point of contention. Frivolous lawsuits usually have no point. When a lawsuit is shown to be baseless, a judge can opt to dismiss the case.
The Penalties for a Frivolous Lawsuit
If a court feels a case is frivolous, they can dismiss it. However, the ramifications for the person seeking to sue someone may not end there. The judge can order the litigant to pay the defendant’s attorney fees and other costs incurred while preparing for a frivolous case. The person being sued may also countersue for these costs.
Generally, someone concerned over if their claim is frivolous or not shouldn’t worry. If you earnestly believe someone’s negligence caused you harm, there should be no question about the validity of your case. A judge and jury may eventually disagree with you, but that doesn’t mean your lawsuit was groundless.
An experienced personal injury lawyer will also have long case history to draw from and will often sense when a claim has an elevated chance of being viewed as frivolous by a judge. He or she will alert you to the risks of moving forward. It’s unlikely that a good personal injury lawyer would waste his or her time and resources or yours on a questionable case.
Why Lawyers Avoid Frivolous Cases
One misconception is that lawyers have flooded the court system with frivolous cases in order to pad their profits and gain notoriety. In fact, for a legal professional with a good reputation, filing a frivolous lawsuit can be extremely harmful.
If a lawsuit is deemed a “bad faith” case and thrown out by the court, a personal injury attorney endures several undesirable consequences:
- Loss of money and time spent on a case. Lawyers on personal injury cases usually don’t get paid unless they win compensation for their clients. Their pay comes out of any compensation won for the plaintiff. The client doesn’t pay anything until then. Work put in by attorneys and their staff to prepare for a case, coverage of court fees, the hiring of expert witnesses, and other expenses all fall on the attorney. If a case is dismissed, all of those costs go down as losses.
- A judge can reprimand a lawyer who brings a frivolous lawsuit forward. The court may order the lawyer to reimburse the defendant’s losses including costs and their own attorney fees. These are just more financial penalties the lawyer must absorb.
- A lawyer’s reputation is damaged. When a lawyer ends up associated with too many frivolous lawsuits, their standing is affected within the legal community. One damaging case can affect an attorney’s ability to attract more clients. Attorneys risk losing their standing in legal circles and tarnishing their law firm’s image.
How Courts Handle Frivolous Cases
Judges aren’t quick to toss out cases because they believe they are frivolous. They are careful not to infringe on anyone’s rights to file a lawsuit even if a plaintiff is misguided in their views. The court system never wants to take action that might frighten others away from filing their own claims.
However, the courts must also consider if the person or entity being sued will suffer humiliation and a damaged reputation from a highly questionable lawsuit, even if found innocent. Often this degradation is the only true goal of someone filing a frivolous claim.
Judges typically throw out only those cases that clearly demonstrate a grudge against another person or party. A dismissed case can also clearly be based on false conclusions or an illogical argument. The courts also want to discourage unscrupulous lawyers who may take advantage of clients by giving them false hope of a legal victory.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Serving Los Angeles and Southern California
If you are injured but fear a case filed against the at-fault party would be seen a frivolous, bring your question to a legal professional.
Contact and the Law Offices of Steers & Associates for a free, no-obligation consultation of your case. There’s no risk to you and you’ll instantly have an expert appraisal of your case. Insurance companies may tell you your injury is worth very little or nothing at all, but let us help you determine the true value of what you’ve endured and what lies ahead.
Allen Vaysberg practices personal injury law and works tirelessly to defeat the tactics of insurance companies and large corporations who try to deny justice and fair compensation to injured people.