Civil litigation lawsuits can be highly confusing if you’re not an attorney. The legal jargon is enough to make your head spin sometimes. However, if you’re on either end of a civil action, then you need to know what the process is going to be, and how the suit is likely to move forward.
Civil litigation lawsuits happen every day. Whether you’re the one bringing the action or defending yourself, you’re certainly going to want a good lawyer by your side who can fight for your best interest.
With that in mind, let’s go through how the process works.
What Exactly is a Civil Litigation Lawsuit?
A civil lawsuit:
- Is when one person tries to hold another individual accountable for a wrongful action
- Often ends with monetary compensation if the court agrees with the plaintiff
The real difference between a civil action and a criminal one is that criminal cases seek to punish the guilty. With civil actions, the wronged party wants to get compensation. The process starts with the wronged party bringing a complaint against the one who they perceive is at fault.
Talking to Your Lawyer
Unless you’re well-versed in the law and want to represent yourself, you should almost always consult with a lawyer before proceeding any further, because they can tell you if you have a case or not. You might feel like someone did you wrong, but that does not necessarily mean that a court will feel the same way.
What your lawyer is trying to get from your description of the events is whether or not there’s precedent. If they feel like there are prior legal examples of people getting financial compensation for something like what happened to you, they’re going to take the case and encourage you to move ahead with it.
Pleadings will be next. This is where:
- You will file paperwork in court laying out what the individual did to you
- They will file responding paperwork, called an answer
You and your attorney must then figure out what court you can use that’s appropriate for your case. You need to have what’s called personal jurisdiction with the court you choose.
This means that you must have a proper relationship with the county, state, or federal jurisdiction where you intend the trial to take place.
The Discovery Process
The discovery process will be next. This is where you obtain information of various kinds that strengthens your case. You have to provide the material you’re going to use against them to the defendant’s legal counsel.
This way, they know what’s coming. You’re not allowed to hide evidence against the individual who wronged you or their legal counsel. This way, there should be a level playing field, at least in theory.
Discovery evidence might include witness testimony transcripts or recordings, various documents, physical evidence, etc.
You only proceed with the trial in a civil case if you cannot settle out of court. Settling out of court happens fairly often. If the individual or business entity against which you’re bringing the action sees that you have a solid case against them, their attorney might feel that it’s in their best interest to offer a cash settlement.
Whether you want to take it will be up to you, and your lawyer can help you in this area. If you refuse the settlement offer and go to trial, then you might lose and get nothing. However, if you feel like the sum they’re offering you as recompense does not equal the wrong they did to you, you have every right to go to trial.
The trial will proceed, with both sides trying to prove their case. If you do come out on the winning end, then you’re probably feeling pretty good about yourself, but there is one more step before you can collect your money.
The Appeals Process
At this point, the opposing counsel can file appeals in the form of various motions they present to an appellate court. The appellate court will look for errors that took place during the trial. If there are irregularities, they might overturn the verdict or reduce the amount that the guilty party has to pay.
If you’re able to collect a judgment from a civil case, then perhaps you’ll feel better about what happened. This is a way of getting justice and trying to balance the scales when someone has done wrong.