No one wants to be sued, or even have to sue someone else. However, it might happen to you or someone you love, or you may exhaust all other possibilities for collecting a debt from someone or getting an insurance company to cover a bill or accident that complies with their policy.
Depending on the circumstances, this can be a costly process. If you are sued wrongly or maliciously and lose, you may want to appeal rather than agreeing to the judgement against you. If you sue someone else and they win, you may also want to appeal.
Other than in criminal cases, an appeal is not automatically a right. You have to pursue an appeal, and there are steps to take along the way. What does this process look like, and what does that mean to you? Here are some answers.
When Should You Appeal?
First of all, you should appeal when you are in the right, but you feel that the court system failed somehow, the legal process was mishandled, or new evidence has come to light. Understand that an appeal is not just a chance to restate your case to a different court. You usually file one because you have a legitimate reason to do so.
Before your appeal is even heard before the court, they will usually examine the evidence you send over to make sure your case is worth a second examination. There are time limits on appeals too. You need to file within a certain timeframe with all of your documentation, depending on the jurisdiction you are in.
How do You File an Appeal?
How you file an appeal also depends a lot on jurisdiction. The best approach is to have an appellate attorney who is familiar with the applicable local, state, or federal laws involved with filing an appeal.
Typically, you will need to file certain documents, specifically the things you want to dispute, with the court within a certain time period. The way you can file them will vary. Some courts will accept filings digitally via a secure email server, while others will require that you file in person or through certified mail.
While it is possible to self-appeal, especially in small claims cases, it is not the most desirable method. If you do choose to self-appeal without the help of an attorney, be sure that you study the local statutes carefully. While not using an attorney may seem like it will save money, it may cost you more in the long run.
What do you Need for an Appeal?
As stated above, you will need certain things for an appeal. The first thing you will need is a reason to appeal. While these may also vary by jurisdiction, the first need you will have in every case is a reason.
Understand that you can only appeal the application of the law, the legal proceedings, or if evidence was ignored or new evidence has come to light that proves your case one way or the other. An appeal is not just another shot at your case in a different court. You need to give the judge a reason to overturn the previous decision.
This means you will need all of your documentation, any new evidence you wish to present, and any forms required by the court to file your case. You will also need the records from the previous trial just in case, and the record of any witness testimony, old or new.
What are the Alternatives to an Appeal?
The alternatives to appeal are pretty simple to outline. There are really only two choices. Either you accept the court decision and decide that you can live with it, whether that decision was for you when you are the person filing suit or against you when you are the person being sued. This means that you simply acknowledge that you had your day in court and pay the consequences.
Alternatively, if you have sued someone and lost, you can attempt to collect the debt in some other way. This may be challenging if you have lost the effort to get a judgement against them, but it is theoretically possible.
There is a third alternative, and once you have a judgement in hand, it is still possible. Rather than having to collect on the judgement, you can negotiate with the person you have sued to accept part of the debt in exchange for setting the judgement aside and removing it from their credit.
If you are being sued, you can offer the same scenario. You will save them the time and effort of collecting the debt you legally owe them by paying a percentage on the spot or making payments to them with the condition that they can renew the judgement if you fail to pay.
Sometimes this is much less costly to both parties than filing an appeal.
What are the Costs of an Appeal?
The cost of an appeal can also vary. Depending on if you are suing someone or being sued, you may need to pay your attorney, but in some cases they will take the case on the contingency that they win: if they lose, you pay nothing and if they win you pay them a percentage of what you collect.
The other cost to an appeal is time and effort. There will be a certain amount of your own time and effort you must put in to an appeal and potentially a new trial. Before you undertake an appeal, you need to make sure the resulting settlement will be greater than your costs.
Sometimes, it makes money sense to appeal a judgement in civil court, for or against you. Others, it makes more sense to simply pay the costs and move forward. Whichever way you choose, know the pros and cons, costs, and what you need to move forward in any legal situation you find yourself in.