If you’re happy with the outcome of the trial, or at least willing to live with it, there’s no reason to go to the expense and trouble of appealing the decision. However, if you believe that some major errors caused you to lose something important, you may want to consider appealing. This guide will help you decide whether appealing your lawsuit is for you.
Preparing for Appeal
Your attorney has been preparing for the possibility of an appeal throughout the trial, even if it’s not obvious that she’s doing so. When she makes sure all the evidence possible is offered to the court, objects when she thinks a mistake has been made, and makes requests of the court in the form of motions to have something done or not done, she’s making a record, which will be used as the basis for appeal.
You should prepare for the possibility of an appeal early on in the trial process, too. If you know what your options are well before the court hands down the final decision, you won’t be forced into a hasty or badly considered decision. The things you should consider include:
- What is the worst possible decision the court could make?
- How you will handle that worst possible decision financially, assuming you have to live with it.
- How you will handle that worst possible decision as part of your day-to-day life, again assuming you have to live with it.
- How you will pay for an appeal, if you or the other side brings one.
- How you will manage the time the appellate process will take.
Ultimately, your decision to appeal is going to be based on three things:
- Whether you think the appeal is worth your time. Is the likely outcome worth spending more time on this dispute?
- Whether you think the appeal is worth your money. Appeals aren’t free, and you’ve probably spent a lot of money up to this point anyway. Is it worth throwing more money at this issue?
- Whether you can tolerate more legal proceedings. After all that you’ve been through with this dispute, how do you feel about continuing to fight?
One other thing you should do is talk to your attorney. Find out what she thinks. There is an old saying in the law, “Bad facts make for bad law.” That means that if your case has difficulties like tough facts, appealing it might end up not only with your losing the case, but with bad law being made for other people in the future.
Certain appeals are considered test cases, where the facts are just right, so to speak, to perfectly frame an issue for the court. It’s hard to say which cases are those perfect test cases, as it depends on the case and the area of law.
Don’t Waste Time Deciding!
The most important thing to do is make your decision quickly. The court rules give you a limited amount of time to appeal after the case is over. If you have the ready cash and if you have a reasonable sense that something really went wrong in the trial, file the appeal as soon as you can; the last thing you want to do is miss the deadline to file. The worst that will happen if you file the appeal and change your mind later is you lose some more time and money.
Find out from your attorney what the time limits are on filing an appeal. Don’t be surprised if you have something along the lines of 21 days after the final decision of the trial court to file the appeal. The courts’ goal is to keep cases moving along as quickly as possible so that as many cases as possible can be heard. For that reason, the courts aren’t very easygoing about hearing appeals that are filed after the deadline.
Hopefully, your lawsuit will go the way you want it to, and you won’t ever need this guide. But if your case doesn’t go right, you now have the knowledge to make the right decisions about appealing. Good luck!