Why lawyers can help make sure your action doesn’t become time-barred.
I am writing this to hopefully assist those looking at legal issues. Whether you retain the Grand Rapids Law Group or other lawyers, or even if you work on your case yourself, please take this message to heart. It is among the most vital, and most overlooked, aspects of legal practice, and I’ve unfortunately seen a couple of cases severely harmed by not paying attention to time periods for filing matters.
Let me start by saying that even the best lawyers will find it impossible vindicate your rights through the legal process if it is barred due to time periods. You can start by reviewing the Michigan Court Rules, where they are split up primarily based on the court you are looking to review) specify time periods for filing and responding to complaints, motions, answers, and appeals. Depending on the action, the relevant time frames usually involve either 7, 14, 21, 28, or 30 days to file or respond, although this list is not complete.
Even with the help of lawyers, fighting a time-barred claim is an uphill battle.
My supervising attorney at my externship, Frederick Boncher, gave me one piece of advice that seems more valuable with each case I handle; he said to take the Court Rules and read and re-read them, because they are the single most important resource in legal practice. This is true for attorneys and people representing themselves alike. There are a great many matters, like motions for summary disposition, motions to dismiss, and appeals, where it is vital that you follow the court rules. This is where I have seen many people, including myself before I decided to go to law school, and other lawyers, lose their case before they even start. The rules are hard when it comes to time limits, and even lawyers have an uphill battle fighting barred actions. If you don’t file an action in time, there is little chance of it ever getting before the court. If you don’t respond to an action by the opposing side’s lawyers, chances are your case will be dismissed, or they will get a default judgment against you, both of which preclude you from vindicating yourself before the court in most circumstances.
This applies to agency decisions as well. One of the hardest calls I had to make was to a client who had waited too long to file an appeal from an administrative agency decision. While the case was strong, since the 30 day time period for filing for appeal had gone, I had to tell a potential client that there was little chance of a court hearing the appeal, and that payment for lawyers would likely be wasted. I had another client that could have had a strong case under a federal statute, but had to file under a different claim, because the statute of limitations time period had run for the first potential claim.
Michigan lawyers can help make sure you don’t run afoul of filing time limits.
While it is certainly possible to handle a case on your own, I would caution people to think hard about how much they can commit to their case, and whether they feel comfortable in having the requisite substantial and procedural knowledge to pursue their legal matter. Lawyers are trained to understand these often minute details, and to be able to determine their impact on a case so that they can advise you. In many simple cases, it may not be necessary to hire a lawyer. But in many cases, especially where the other side has lawyers representing them, it is in your best interests to at least consult local lawyers to make sure that your case is not hampered by not following these often strict guidelines.