I grew up in Las Vegas, so I am familiar with constantly hearing about betting odds and percentage probability of winning and losing. This is much needed information to consider to decide if the reward is worth the risk of placing that bet.
So, when clients come in and discuss their case, they often want to know what their odds of winning their case. What are the odds of the judge / jury finding in their favor?
I fully understand this thought process of wanting to hear some percentage so a client can appropriately weigh the cost benefit analysis and see if the potential reward is with the risk. No client wants to gamble their time and hard-earned money on attorney’s fees if they think they are not going to win. However, when it comes to a case, and much more a litigation case, it is extremely difficult to determine with certainty because there are too many factors that can affect the outcome. So, what are some of these factors that can affect a case:
- Facts: The facts of your case make a huge difference. One simple fact can change a case, even if you think you did everything right. A quick example is: a landlord who has done everything right, the best landlord ever. The tenant, who has a five-year lease, stopped paying rent for months after only three months. It appears that this is a clear case where the landlord should recover. However, after the tenant moved the landlord did nothing to try to rent the place out, why should he, he had a five-year lease and the tenant should be responsible for all of it right? Not so much. The landlord had a duty to mitigate, meaning, trying to minimize his losses by trying to rent it out again. This is a simple example of one person doing everything right, but that one fact can severely impact their “win”.
- Evidence: Do you have evidence to prove your case? Emails? Text messages? Witnesses? Letters? Contracts? Pictures? Anything? Otherwise, it becomes he said/she said. This scenario leads to a very difficult position where you are leaving your case to a judge/jury to merely pick a side, who will they believe? This is a true gamble.
- Contradicting Evidence: You may say it’s one thing, but if the evidence shows otherwise, things may not look so good. Or, if you are on the flip side, and you have evidence to contradict what the other person is saying, then your odds may improve.
- Law: This is a huge factor. Regardless of whether or not you believe you should win, it is extremely important to know whether the law is on your side. The law is very complex with many nuances, it can severely impact your case.
Hence, when evaluating the facts of a case an attorney can provide a fair analysis and state that a client does in fact have a strong case considering the applicable law against their facts. Meaning, when a case is analyzed, a good attorney cannot simply look at all the great/favorable facts of his/her client, they must also consider any downsides in order to properly analyze and strategize.
This sometimes leads to a follow up question by a client, “so, what are my odds of winning.’’ Such as with many questions in law the answer often is “it depends” …no attorney can guarantee you a result. Even good “winning” cases have downsides to them.
We always give our clients this example: If there are two identical cases, each of them in front of a different judge/jury, it is possible they receive two very different outcomes. How is this possible? There are so many factors that come into play for each case when a matter is brought to trial. One factor is the judge’s/juries’ life experience – different life experiences cause you to weight facts differently. While the law asks the person(s) deciding a case to sidestep their own experiences and just weigh the facts presented and the law, this is not something that is full proof. When someone is deciding a case, it often happens that they analyze the case using the lens of their personal life experiences, which ultimately colors how they ultimately determine a case. This is something an attorney cannot really account for completely when evaluating a case.
We are not trying to be glib but there are a whole host of factors to consider, which is why it is imperative to have experienced attorneys who can properly analyze all these factors, provide you with real expectations and who can present your case in front of the court in the light most favorable to you. Unlike gambling, don’t roll the dice on your case, plan for strategic moves to better your odds. You need a team on your side who knows the rules and how to play.
By: Iris Gomez, Attorney at Contreras Law Firm