If you’re being sued, then you are about to partake in a civil lawsuit. Of course, the first step is to call your attorney. According to Diamond & Diamond Law Firm, if you “have been hurt in an accident, it’s imperative that you identify someone who can help you with your injury claim as promptly as possible.”
If you are just wondering about the basics of civil lawsuits, then this article is for you. In this overview, we will cover the basic components of civil litigation.
The rules and deadlines are different in each case, but these are the general concepts that you need to understand. We will cover who’s who in a lawsuit and discuss the steps that follow being served.
Who’s Who – Plaintiff vs Defendant
Let’s start with the very basics. The person who is suing someone else is called the plaintiff. Typically this is an individual, but it can also be an entity such as a business, school, or other organization. In a personal injury case, this is usually a single person.
A defendant is the person being sued. If someone gets hurt on business property, the chances are that the defendant is going to be that company. If the suit is over a car accident, then the defendant is probably the person suspected of driving the car.
The Plaintiff’s Complaint
The complaint is the first document filed to open the case. The plaintiff will explain three components of the case:
- Jurisdiction: The power of which the court holds to hear the case
- Venue: where the lawsuit can be filed
- Damages: the amount of money for which they are suing.
The plaintiff will decide at that moment if they want a jury trial. The location of the suit will depend on the dollar amount of damages, where the parties live, and the type of claims.
Once the person sues, the defendant has to give a first response by the deadline set. The defendant may either admit or deny the allegations. They will be able to choose from a list of defenses and counter or cross-claims.
Defendants may also choose at this point if they want a jury trial. They may also respond with what is called a motion in lieu of an answer. The judge will then decide whether or not to grant the motion and dismiss the case, or it will continue.
The judge will provide a scheduling order which sets essential deadlines, and parties may exchange information, file motions, or attend the trial.
Discover is the period of the suit where parties request information from each other. The court will set rules about how this can be done. This is also when lawyers will try to find witnesses for the case.
In a deposition, witnesses will be asked questions, and the court reporter will transcribe everything word-for-word. The lawyers will then use those documents as support when they are in litigation.
Motions are how the defendant or plaintiff can ask the judge for relief, such as dismissal or judgment. These always come in the form of a written brief that will explain their argument. When one party files the motion, the other will have the opportunity for a counter-motion.
Evaluation, Mediation, & Settlement
Going to court is expensive, which is why lawyers typically try to mediate informally and reach an early settlement. These settlements happen through a negotiation directly between the lawyers, without a jury or judge. If an agreement is met, it is signed, and parties must comply with the terms.
If no motions have resolved the case and the parties could not reach a settlement, it will go to trial. For the attorneys, going to court requires a lot of preparation. The lawyers will have to present a series of arguments, witnesses, and evidence on behalf of their client.
In a jury trial, the defendant is judged by a jury of their peers. In a bench trial, a judge decides on the ruling alone. Even when the trial has ended, there can be post-trial motions.
When attorneys appeal a case, they send it to be revised by a higher court. This may happen many times for one single case. The higher court is called an appellate court, and the rules are different here than in trial court.
As you can see, litigation is a complicated process. There are many steps involved, and a lawsuit may take a long time. Unless you experienced severe irreconcilable damages, it could be frivolous to bring a case to court. Like we said earlier, the first thing to do is to consult your lawyer.