On a regular basis, we see civil lawsuits involving people, businesses, and other entities. But it can be a daunting task to really understand the process of civil litigation. In this blog post, we want to go over the basic steps of civil litigation and what you can expect in your case.
- Pleadings – Civil litigation begins when each party files initial papers that are known as pleadings. This is where the plaintiff describes what the defendant did that caused harm and why it’s important to hold the defendant legally responsible. On the other side, the defendant can offer a counter-claim. Whether it’s saying the plaintiff is actually the one who should be liable or offering a reply, the defendant has several options at this stage. Keep in mind that once the parties have finished up with their pleadings, the issues for court resolution have been defined.
- Discovery – This is where a reliable civil litigation attorney comes into play. Discovery is where the parties gather relevant information to bolster their case. A litigation law firm will look at the research of the law, document review/organization, and even bring in the help of witnesses to add value to claims. It’s important to note that discovery is typically the longest part of a case and begins soon after a lawsuit is filed. The responsibility lies with the parties as far the timing of discovery is concerned.
- Trial – Because of time and expense, those involved in litigation try to avoid going to trial as much as possible. But the reality is that it’s often the last resort. Similar to criminal cases, trial consists of opening statements, evidence, witnesses, rebuttals, and closing arguments. The verdict ultimately rests in the hands of the jury.
- Appeal – Should the plaintiff or defendant not be satisfied with the trial result, they have the right to appeal. With appeals, the case goes to an appellate court that reviews for legal error only. The court reaches a decision in a document called an opinion. Should the appellate court find an error in the trial proceeding, they have the ability to reverse the verdict so a new trial can begin. As you might imagine, such a decision can extend the litigation process months, and in some instances, years.
Alternatives to Civil Litigation
When you speak with one of our civil litigation attorneys, they may recommend the following strategies in place of litigation:
- Settlement – This option can be discussed by any party during litigation and is considered a highly cost-effective alternative to trial. The majority of courts allow a given party to request their assistance during settlement.
- Mediation – Here, a third-party mediator is expected to negotiate a settlement without outside help. The mediator meets privately with each party to discuss strengths and weaknesses, eventually coming up with a solution that’s reasonable for both.
- Arbitration – This is where the plaintiff and defendant present evidence and argue the case to a neutral third party called an arbitrator. Consider that arbitration is abbreviated and much less formal than a trial. Just know that parties who agree to this method cannot appeal the arbitrator’s ruling to a court.
At Cavett, Abbott & Weiss, PLLC, we have several experienced civil litigation attorneys who can help you with your case. Whether you’re facing construction litigation or need the counsel of a real estate litigation lawyer, we will work tirelessly on your behalf.
Call our commercial litigation law firm today.