The Gambler, a Kenny Rogers song, gives sound advice for playing a card game of chance: Know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em. But it’s also sound advice for a more serious game of chance: a jury trial in a civil lawsuit.

When you ask an attorney to take your case, the attorney may tell you something you don’t want to hear, especially in cases involving at-fault accidents. It is better to find out sooner rather than later. Be mindful, too, that a trial is going to be on the facts, and not on sharp emotions. Look at the facts as objectively as you can, stripped of emotion (however justified those emotions may be).

In my experience, every able trial attorney who has taken many cases to a jury is going to urge you to settle your case in an appropriate way short of a jury trial and verdict. Jurors are told to follow the law, and they take their duty very seriously. But jurors polled after an unexpected verdict, which isn’t necessarily infrequent, will sometime recount an assumption/guess by jurors at some “fact” that is wildly inaccurate, wrong or based on some personal but irrelevant experience.

Some years ago, the North Carolina Bar Association appointed a committee of attorneys and judges to find state models around the country to see if our courts should require fair mediations before a jury trial. It could encourage an earlier resolution of cases, rather than on the courthouse steps, or after a trial has started. The amount of money saved by the government when fewer cases were tried in the courtroom was significant, so the taxpayers had a stake in how these disputes were resolved, too.


This article was originally written by Mike Wells and published by the Winston-Salem Journal. To read the full article, visit the Winston-Salem Journal online here.