A pre-litigation asset search can provide you or your client with valuable information to determine if a lawsuit is worth filing or to gain leverage in the course of negotiations prior to filing a lawsuit.
Going through litigation is expensive. There is nothing worse than racking up tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees only to find the person or company you are suing doesn’t have anything of value. In other cases, you may be in the midst of negotiating a settlement prior to filing a lawsuit and want to see how far you can push the negotiations, or if you should cut your losses and settle.
In pre-litigation mode, attorneys don’t have the luxury of having the legal authority to access information about liquid assets such as bank accounts and investment accounts. Attorneys need information quickly, discreetly and most importantly, legally.
What to consider?
Determining whether you should sue a person or a company has two parts – what they may own and what other potential liabilities they may have. Of course there may be a whole host of hidden assets, but here are a few key assets and potential liabilities that can be identified quickly, discreetly and legally in a pre-litigation asset search:
The most significant asset that people own is typically their home, but other assets that can be identified through open sources include motor vehicles, boats and airplanes. Beyond the obvious assets held directly by a person, assets may also be held by a close associate, family trust, family member or shell company. Real property assets may have also been recently transferred to other related parties or held overseas.
In addition to holding individual assets, assets may also be held in a corporate entity. Identifying corporate affiliations through secretary of state filings and other research is an important step in identifying assets held by affiliated companies which may not be held by the subject directly.
Obviously, if the person or company has filed for bankruptcy protection, you will eventually be notified and you can file a claim in the bankruptcy proceeding. What if you haven’t been notified yet? If the person or company has a history of filing for bankruptcy protection, wouldn’t you want to know?
If other civil litigation has already been initiated against the person or company you are about to sue, you may be in a long line of creditors once your lawsuit has finally been settled. It may also be a sign that you should settle fast.
If the person or company has been subject to recent judgments and/or lien filings, this may be a sign that the company is already heading for trouble.
Conducting a pre-litigation asset search can quickly identify assets and potential liabilities that can help you make a more informed decision about whether you should file a lawsuit or if you should cut your losses and settle prior to filing a lawsuit.