Should You Settle Your Case During a Pretrial Conference?
Written by: Kristy Welsh
Last Updated: October 21, 2017
In our website, you can find numerous articles about credit repair, debt settlement, and bankruptcy. But what happens when you open your front door one sunny day to find a process server handing you a lawsuit. As part of our coverage on legal matters, this article covers that point in litigation just before your case is set to go to trial, the Pretrial Conference.
Pre-Trial and Case Management Conference
In some courts these terms basically mean the same thing. California in particular uses the term Case Management Conference.
What is a Pretrial Conference?
A pretrial conference is a scheduled meeting between the Defendant, Plaintiff, and their attorneys, conducted prior to trial. The conference is held before the actual trial judge or a magistrate (a judicial officer who possesses fewer judicial powers than a judge). A pretrial conference may be held prior to trial in both civil and criminal cases.
What is the Purpose of a Pretrial Conference?
The purpose of the pretrial conference is to assure that all parties are prepared to go on to trial, and to discuss the possibility of settling the case prior to going to trial. This conference is ordered by the court and is held in the courtroom to facilitate a face-to-face discussion. If the parties agree that all or a portion of the debt is owed, then those specific issues are not in dispute and can be settled by agreement without going on to trial.
A pretrial conference may be held for the following reasons:
- Settle the case before going to trial.
- Help the court establish control over the case.
- Discourage wasteful pretrial activities.
- Improve the quality of the trial with thorough preparation.
What Do You Bring to a Pretrial Conference?
When you come to a pretrial conference, you should bring the original Summons and Complaint, your Answer, and any other motions or legal documents you received from the court or the Plaintiff's attorney. If you have kept any type of personal log regarding the progression of the case, bring that along with you as well. You will not bring any witnesses to the pretrial conference - the only one attending is going to be you and your attorney.
Most importantly, come to the conference prepared and with a game plan. Think hard and long about what will this lawsuit cost you if you go to trial versus what it will cost you to settle it at the conference. You may have to swallow your pride but in the long run, eating a little crow is better than spending a fortune in a legal battle.
Settle or Not to Settle, That is the Ultimate Question
The majority of those reading this article are probably going it alone, without the help of an attorney. We recommended that you go to the pretrial conference with an open mind and be ready to compromise and possibly settle. You need to be prepared and you need to analyze the Plaintiff's case against you. Do they have a strong case or do they have one based only on a Complaint with no backing documentation such as payment history or a contract. Since you are not paying an attorney at this point, it might be worth your while to see just what the Plaintiff might have against you.
If you are being represented by an attorney, then you will need to weigh the cost of your attorney with what can you settle this case for and end it quickly.
Remember, the sole purpose of a pretrial conference is to settle the case before it goes to court. Judges want to settle as many cases as possible and they will try their hardest to get your case to settle. But, some cases are not settled at the pre-trial conference and a trial will need to be set. This is the last option that should be considered because of time and possible costs to one or both parties. If a case is set for trial, the Judge, at the pre-trial, will set a schedule of events, including dates to comply with discovery, motions, and subpoenas.
Please note: WE ARE NOT ATTORNEYS. If you are being sued, it's always a good idea to hire an attorney or get some legal assistance. If you cannot afford an attorney, a lot of people have handled their cases pro per or without a lawyer. Our articles are meant to provide basic information on handling litigation.