There are many benefits to filing a personal injury lawsuit against a responsible party who harmed you in some way. However, launching a new case isn't always necessary or desirable. Sometimes it's better to join an existing lawsuit to protect your interests. Here are two questions to ask to help you determine if this is the right option for you.
Will the Existing Lawsuit Hurt Your Interests?
The law lets potential parties join ongoing lawsuits, as long as they meet certain requirements, with the primary one being you must have a valid cause to intervene. Specifically, you'll need to show the lawsuit impedes your ability to protect your interests and your interests are not adequately represented by the people involved in the suit, or your claim shares questions of fact or law with the claims in the case.
For instance, the spouse of a person killed in an accident files a wrongful death case against the liable party. However, the parent of the decedent relied on their adult child for financial support, but the decedent's spouse doesn't request any compensation on their behalf. Many states prevent parents from filing separate wrongful death lawsuits when the decedent's spouse is still alive, but those parents could join the spouse's lawsuit to pursue their own damages since the suit doesn't adequately address their complaints.
It can be a bit challenging determining whether a lawsuit protects or violates your rights, so it's a good idea to have an attorney review the case to help you figure out if you're covered or not and proceed from there.
Is There Time to Submit the Request?
Courts impose a time limit on almost all aspects of civil litigation, and submitting a request to intervene in a lawsuit is no different. The amount of time you have to file a motion varies depending on the jurisdiction and case type.
In Georgia, for example, litigants have between 60 and 90 days to file their motions to claim an interest in cases involving distribution or disposal of assets. Other jurisdictions and case types may offer a bit more flexibility, letting you file as soon as you become aware of the problem, which could be months into the case.
However, you cannot sit on your rights. If you know you have the right to intervene in a case and don't do so in a reasonable time frame, your request to join the lawsuit may be denied, so it's essential you act quickly to protect yourself.
For more information about this issue or help with a personal injury lawsuit, contact a personal injury law office.