What you should know about civil litigation

When you find yourself facing a legal issue, the last thing you want to think about is having to go through it alone. It can be an expensive, long and tedious process. You want an attorney in your corner who knows the ins and outs of the law, someone who can help you face the problem head-on. An experienced civil attorney is what you need. Without one, it can lead to unfortunate situations where someone might spend hundreds of dollars battling frivolous litigation, or going up against an attorney who is well versed in law but lacking common sense/logic.

There’s nothing more effective than a good attorney when it comes to protecting your rights. There are many types of cases that fall under the civil litigation umbrella: personal injury, landlord/tenant disputes, divorce and custody, contract and property disputes, torts, complaints against municipalities, workers’ compensation disputes, special education, etc. There are also different types of civil litigation cases and benefits at stake, including monetary compensation to pay for damages as well as paying off debts acquired as a result of the incident. If you’ve been sued for money damages in a civil case, it’s important to understand your rights and responsibilities under the law. That includes understanding the basics of a civil case, and how the right civil attorney can help you determine your best course of action in the process. 

What Is Civil Litigation?

Civil litigation is a process that involves two parties with opposing interests who are seeking some sort of remedy from one another through the court system. A civil suit begins when a person or business (the “plaintiff”) files a complaint with the court claiming to have been harmed by the actions of another person or business (the “defendant”). These parties are seeking money damages or specific performance rather than criminal sanctions. Civil cases can range from simple contract disputes to large class action lawsuits involving thousands of people. In general, civil lawsuits are filed by private citizens to seek compensation for damages caused by another person or business entity. For example, if you’re injured in an accident caused by another person’s negligence (like when someone else hits you with their car), then you might file a personal injury claim against them for damages related to your injuries — like medical bills and lost wages — as well as compensation for any pain and suffering caused by the accident itself. 

Civil cases are often distinguished from criminal cases by the burden of proof. In civil cases, the plaintiff must prove the defendant’s conduct caused their injury or loss. In criminal cases, the defendant has to prove their innocence. Civil cases can be divided into two main categories: tort and contract. A tort is an actionable “wrong” that causes harm to someone else’s person or property — examples include assault, battery, false imprisonment, defamation and slander. For example, if my neighbor cuts down my tree without permission and damages my fence in the process, I could sue for trespass (a tort). On the other hand, a contract is an agreement between two parties whereby one party agrees to do something for another in exchange for some benefit. If my neighbor agrees to mow my lawn every week in exchange for $20 per month from me, this would be a contract between us (“monthly yard maintenance services”). When you have been injured by another person’s actions and/or carelessness, you can sue them for compensation. This can be either through the courts via a lawsuit or via arbitration (which is usually a faster alternative).

The goal of civil litigation is to resolve disputes outside of court through negotiation or mediation before trial begins. If this doesn’t work out, then there will be a scheduled trial date where both parties present their evidence in court before a judge or jury decides who wins their case based on their arguments presented during trial testimony and exhibits entered into evidence by both sides’ attorneys.

How does civil litigation work?

The first step in most civil cases is for one party to apply to the courts for an order that the other party do something – either pay money, not do something, or both. This is called an application, and it is made using a document called a statement of case (or sometimes a ‘particulars of claim’). The other party must then respond within a certain time period (usually 21-28 days from when they receive their copy of the statement of case). The parties may also exchange documents and witness statements at this stage. If so, these will normally be disclosed to each other at this stage and marked as confidential. The entire process of civil litigation typically follows several phases: investigation, pleadings, discovery, and trial. If a party is dissatisfied with a final ruling, you may file an appeal for further redress. While both attorneys will attempt to settle the case before going to court, if a trail is necessary, your attorney will help you navigate the proceedings and attempt to achieve a favorable outcome for you.

First, there is an investigation into the relevant case facts. During the investigation, legal counsel will interview clients, take witness statements, gather and review relevant documents, etc. This step helps gather information for the case moving forward, and also determines if the attorney determines if a plaintiff has adequate evidence to file a lawsuit, or if a defendant has evidence to properly defend a case. Next are pleadings. An attorney will file a variety of pleadings and motions on behalf of his or her clients to prosecute or defend a lawsuit. A plaintiff’s attorney will initiate the lawsuit by filing a complaint that explains in detail the plaintiff’s claims against a defendant. It also sets forth the legal basis for the plaintiff’s claims.

After investigating the allegations in the complaint, a defendant’s attorney will normally draft an answer. The answer sets forth the defendant’s side of the dispute. There may be times before the answer is filed where the defendant’s attorney may ask for clarifications or corrections to the complaint or even ask that the court dismiss part or all of the lawsuit via preliminary objections. When this occurs, the complaint may be revised, or it may be dismissed. The defendant’s attorney may also file a counterclaim against the plaintiff, which alleges how the plaintiff harmed the defendant and should be held liable. 

During the discovery process, the attorneys will exchange and process information related to the case. That information is used to develop a strategy for trial. Information may be gathered from the opposing side through depositions, or requests for documents. They may also retain an expert to collect, process, and analyze physical evidence or to provide a medical opinion to be used as evidence in the case and sometimes testify at trial. If the case is sent to trial, either bench or jury, then the trial will begin with opening statements, during which each attorney outlines his or her case. After the opening remarks, the plaintiff presents evidence to support their claim. Then the defendant presents his or her evidence. Once all evidence has been presented, both attorneys give closing arguments, and – if it is a jury trial – the court instructs the jury on the law that is to be applied to the evidence presented. 

In a jury trial, the jury deliberates and reaches a verdict. In a bench trial, the judge delivers his or her findings with a verdict. Once a ruling has been made, if a party is dissatisfied, the attorney can file an appeal and request that an appellate court review the decision of the trial court or jury.

Why is civil litigation important?

Civil litigation is important because it provides individuals and businesses with the ability to resolve legal disputes in an orderly and peaceful fashion. The civil litigation system is designed to help parties avoid unnecessary conflict wherever possible and settle their disputes as quickly, inexpensively, and amicably as possible. While civil law allows citizens to exercise their rights, it’s important to understand that this process can be very tedious and expensive. Civil litigation can drag on for years and cost thousands of dollars in legal fees to resolve even the simplest case. It is best to hire an experienced lawyer who understands how these cases work so that your rights are protected and the best possible outcome achieved for you.

How do you prepare for civil litigation?

When you’re facing a civil lawsuit, it’s important to know the basics of how to prepare for the case. You need to understand what types of evidence are admissible and which aren’t. You also need to know how to examine witnesses and what evidence can be used against you. Here are some things to consider:

1. Consider hiring an attorney. Even if the lawsuit is not against you personally, you may need to hire an attorney because they can help determine whether or not there is any merit to the case against your business or organization. An attorney will also be able to advise you on how best to proceed with your defense.

2. Do not ignore the lawsuit — even if it is frivolous or without merit, it does not go away until resolved by either settlement or judgment after trial on its merits (if the case reaches that stage). If you don’t respond within a certain timeframe (usually 20 days), then a default judgment may be entered against you by default judgment rule or by stipulation of counsel for failure to plead or otherwise defend within time allowed by law (or for good cause shown).

3. Don’t panic and spend money on what may turn out to be nothing at all; however, don’t ignore it either as ignoring it could result in you losing more money than necessary in the long run. Again, this is why you should seek legal advice first. 

If you have a potential claim or have been sued, an experienced civil litigation attorney can help determine your best course of action. Your lawyer can provide expert advice and guide you through the complicated legal process – from the initial filing of a complaint to trial and appeal if necessary – to help ensure the best outcome.

Understanding civil litigation can help you better understand how our legal system works. Many civil litigation cases never end up in a courtroom because the parties decide settlement is a better option. A civil litigation lawyer can increase your chance of a favorable outcome, and they can also help you reduce legal fees and costs. Reach out to the experienced and highly skilled attorneys at DLG Luce Salazar PLLC today, and approach your civil litigation case with confidence.