Employees who are terminated unlawfully from their positions have legal rights, including the right to compensation. A wrongful termination lawsuit, a legal case that alleges your employer unlawfully discriminated against you in terminating your employment or otherwise violated your legal rights, can help you recover compensation.
Like other civil lawsuits, a wrongful termination case can be won through a settlement or a trial verdict. There are advantages and disadvantages to pursuing either course of action, so it’s important to consult with an employment law attorney to discuss your objectives and choose the most appropriate course of action. Your ability to succeed will come down to certain factors, including the quality of your legal representation and how much evidence you can gather that shows you were unlawfully terminated in violation of your labor rights.
If you are facing the prospect of filing a wrongful termination case, you may wonder if it’s worth pursuing and how likely you will win your case. Consider these statistics for wrongful termination cases and what the numbers mean for employees who have been unlawfully terminated.
The Statistics: Win Rates on Wrongful Termination Cases
So, how often are wrongful termination cases won overall?
Precise statistics showing the win rates on wrongful termination cases each year compared to the overall number of wrongful termination lawsuits are hard to come by. Nevertheless, estimates range from as low as 30% of wrongful termination cases being successful to as high as 90% of cases succeeding.
One recent survey conducted by Nolo found that 64% of readers polled obtained some amount of compensation for their wrongful termination lawsuit when they received a lawyer’s assistance, which included cases resolved by an out-of-court settlement and verdicts received following a successful trial.
In the same survey, readers who did not hire an attorney reported receiving compensation in only about 30 percent of the cases, meaning that for every ten unrepresented workers who claimed they were wrongfully terminated, only three received compensation.
As with the win rate for lawyer-assisted cases, this number reflects workers who received compensation through settlements and those who received a favorable verdict.
Dissecting the Numbers: Overall Win Rates
When you examine these numbers further, it is clear that one method of pursuing compensation is far more successful than the other. Settlements represent the prevailing method whereby wrongful termination lawsuits are resolved.
Of successful wrongful termination lawsuits, as many as nine out of every ten compensation awards tend to result from a settlement agreement.
To put these statistics in perspective, consider 100 wrongfully terminated employees who each retain an attorney and file a wrongful termination claim. According to current win rates, 64 of these employees would likely receive compensation. And for as many as 57 of those successful cases, the compensation would come from a settlement.
These numbers also mean that one case goes to trial for every nine settlements. At trial, that case has about a 10% to 20% chance of succeeding and compensating the worker. In most cases that go to trial, the injured worker does not receive a favorable verdict.
There are several reasons for this, including the unpredictability of judges and juries and the requirement that the worker prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. Hiring a skilled attorney can greatly enhance your likelihood of winning your case.
Interpreting Wins: Not All Victories Are Equal
In a lawsuit, whether you win depends largely on what you consider winning to be and will depend on what you seek to accomplish by bringing your case.
Depending on those goals, you may win your wrongful termination lawsuit by achieving an out-of-court settlement or prevailing at trial. There are differences between these two methods of resolving your claim.
Settlement vs. Trial Win: Understanding the Difference
Many civil lawsuits and claims are settled before trial, and wrongful termination lawsuits are no different. In a settlement, both you and your employer realize that the risks of trial to each of you are too great to leave the resolution up to a judge or jury.
As a result, you and your employer agree to settle the matter out of court for a specific sum of money. A settlement can be considered a win because you are receiving monetary compensation from your employer for your claim.
However, settlements routinely contain clauses stating that your employer is not admitting wrongdoing by settling the case. You will likely be prohibited from disparaging your employer after the settlement by describing your wrongful termination.
Therefore, with a settlement, you can generally only secure compensation. If you are also seeking your employer to admit that they were wrong in firing you, you must take your case to trial and prevail before a judge or jury.
At a trial, you only obtain monetary compensation if you win your case and the judge or jury agrees that you were more likely than not unlawfully fired.
The Financial Implications of Winning a Case
The compensation you can expect through a settlement or verdict can include compensation for lost wages. Compensation for pain and suffering is also possible if you prove that your unlawful termination caused you emotional distress. There may be limits on the amount of damages you can recover.
Punitive damages might also be available if the employer acted especially egregiously or heinously, such as by clearly and irresponsibly flouting well-established employment laws.
Factors Influencing Win Rates
No two wrongful termination lawsuits occur under the same facts. As a result, there can be a significant difference in the outcome even when the same employer is involved in both.
Every case depends on both the quality of legal representation involved in the case and the strength of the evidence showing that wrongful termination has occurred.
The Role of Legal Representation
Wrongful termination lawsuits and the employment laws they involve are complicated. Therefore, having experienced legal representation that has handled these cases before can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.
There is a steep learning curve for lawyers who do not regularly practice on behalf of employees in wrongful termination lawsuits.
A skilled and experienced wrongful termination attorney will have the intimate understanding of the law necessary to successfully achieve a positive outcome in your case.
The Power of Evidence
No matter the skill of your attorney, your wrongful termination case cannot succeed if you do not have evidence to back up your assertion that you were illegally terminated. While witnesses can form part of the evidence of your claim, you will ideally want objective evidence that is difficult to refute. This could include:
- Your employee file and performance reviews
- Emails, text messages, and other communication relating to your termination
- Hiring and terminating practices affecting other employees
- Company policies and how these are disseminated
Some of these crucial pieces of evidence can be lost if too much time passes and measures are not taken to preserve them.
While an employer who intentionally destroys evidence may face consequences for doing so, unintentional or routine purging of email servers or voicemail records can make it difficult for you to prove your wrongful termination case and succeed.
The Power of Preparation: Winning Your Wrongful Termination Case
Wrongful termination cases do not succeed by accident. These are complicated, fact-driven lawsuits that require a great deal of investigation and preparation to succeed.
You must be prepared to support your wrongful termination claim with evidence and witnesses and be ready to respond to potential defenses that your employer may bring.
Once you have suggested through your evidence that your termination was wrongful, your employer will have a chance to respond. Your employer can win the case if they provide evidence that convinces the judge or jury that the termination was lawful. Such evidence might include:
- You missed an unacceptable number of days of work;
- You violated company rules and were terminated in accordance with company policy;
- You committed a criminal act against your employer, and
- Your performance did not meet acceptable standards despite assistance from your employer.
When you are prepared to present your claims and respond to your employer’s potential defenses, you are in the best possible position to negotiate a favorable resolution. Having a thoroughly investigated case places you in a strong position to prevail at trial, if necessary.
When to Seek Legal Assistance
Depending on the evidence available in your case and what you hope to achieve, there may be different ways to win your wrongful termination lawsuit. However, even if your employer fired you for an unlawful reason, proving this assertion is not always easy.
Succeeding in your wrongful termination lawsuit by verdict or settlement will largely depend on the quality and quantity of evidence you have available. Where you act quickly and can preserve emails, performance reviews, and other objective evidence, your chances of a favorable outcome improve. Conversely, cases that lack this and other supporting evidence will be more difficult to resolve successfully.
Having skilled legal counsel available to you throughout your wrongful termination lawsuit is key. Choosing a firm with successful experience litigating and settling these complex employment law matters can make a substantial difference in securing the evidence you need to win.
With decades of experience fighting on behalf of aggrieved workers and employees, the Florida employment law firm of Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. has a strong and proven track record of success. Our tireless legal team will fight aggressively to protect your rights and secure the justice you deserve. Contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our wrongful termination attorneys.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.