It may sound like a mouthful, but in this article we will lay out the framework of what civil litigation is and how it works in simple terms. While confusing at first, you do not have to be an expert in legal jargon to understand what a civil lawsuit is. If you are currently engaged or may become involved in a civil litigation lawsuit, is it especially important for you to understand what it is and how it works.
The definition of a civil litigation, or civil lawsuit, is a legal process which involves a dispute that does not involve any sort of criminal activity. In a criminal lawsuit, a crime has taken place and is prosecuted by the state, whereas in a civil lawsuit the court works to solve a non criminal dispute between the two parties. A civil lawsuit may involve individuals and it can also involve companies and legal entities.
How Does a Civil Lawsuit Work?
To make the legal process of a civil litigation easier to understand it can be broken down into steps. There are four main steps in the civil litigation process with smaller steps within those. Those steps are pleadings, discovery, trial, and appeal. Each of these steps is essential to the due process of the legal system.
The pleadings are exactly what they sound like. Each party involved in the civil lawsuit presents the court with their side of the story. The person who is filing the lawsuit will write a formal complaint and deliver it to the correct jurisdiction. At this point the person who is receiving the lawsuit will have an opportunity to answer or rebuttal. The filing process for civil lawsuits may vary state by state and will vary depending on the kind of civil lawsuit. You will need to determine what is the appropriate jurisdiction to rule over your civil case, which is where it becomes essential to consult with a local professional lawyer with knowledge of the litigation process. For example, some cases will require you to file with a state court, while others can be settled in small claims courts.
During the discovery phase of a civil litigation both parties will begin to gather information to help them make their case. Often with the help of a legal team, the personal making the complaint and the person accused will both try to dig up as much evidence as possible in their favor. This is the phase of civil court where both parties are strengthening their arguments. Discovery can result in information being found from documents, eye witnesses, and many other sources. There may be limits on what is and is not admissible in court, and consulting with an experienced legal team during the step will help you to prevent making blunders when it comes to strengthening your argument through discovery.
The third step in a civil lawsuit, and the one that gets talked about the most, is the trial. The trial is where both parties present their sides to the court and a verdict will be made. Both parties will be hoping that the court will rule in their favor, so the trial can be very dramatic at times depending on the matter at hand. Before the trial begins, those involved will be required to brief the judge on what the lawsuit is about and what arguments they will be presenting.
Most trials for civil lawsuits are called bench trials, meaning that there is only a judge presiding over the trial and no jury. However, sometimes a civil lawsuit will use a jury as that is within their right. You are far more likely to be dealing with a judge than with a jury when it comes to a civil lawsuit. The plaintiff, or the one making the complaint, will have their chance to speak first, and after that the defendant can make their case for why they are not responsible for what they are being accused of. Both sides will have a chance to present information to the courts and call witnesses, which can also be cross-examined by the other party.
After the verdict has been made and the trial is over, a civil litigation may continue to drag on through an appeal system. If one or more of the parties involved in the civil case do not agree with the results, they can go through processes to appeal the order. If the appeal is successful, the results of the first trial will not be valid anymore. During the appeal process, one of the parties will try to make a case for why the trial was not fair. A separate court will review the findings from the trial and determine whether or not the case should be retried, thrown out, or the verdict be upheld.
Speak to an Experienced Civil Litigation Lawyer
If you have any more questions about civil litigation or the steps in order to make your case, contact The Brown Firm today.