When you watch a courtroom drama on TV, it’s usually a criminal case that grabs your attention. However, civil litigation, although less dramatic, is just as significant.
Exploring Civil Litigation
Civil litigation arises when two or more parties find themselves entangled in a legal dispute that revolves around seeking monetary compensation or action, rather than criminal charges. While these cases may sometimes go to trial, they don’t involve actual criminal offenses. Let’s take a closer look at what civil litigation entails.
Common Types of Civil Litigation
Civil litigation encompasses various legal disputes. For instance, when a landlord and a tenant have a disagreement that ends up in court, or when neighbors clash over property issues, it constitutes civil litigation. Other typical examples include:
- Personal injury cases
- Intellectual property disputes
- Medical malpractice cases
- Employment or labor disputes
- Education law disputes
- Lawsuits related to divorce
All these cases share one common thread—they don’t involve any criminal charges. While most of them revolve around financial matters or property, the scope extends beyond that. Sometimes, the parties involved seek action from one another and require the intervention of the courts to enforce it.
Key Stages in a Civil Law Case
Although each civil law case is unique, they generally follow a series of steps. If you intend to pursue civil litigation against someone, it’s crucial to consult with an attorney to understand the process. The attorney will assess the strength of your case and guide you on building it effectively.
Once you decide to proceed, the next step is the investigation. Your attorney, possibly with the assistance of a private investigator, will delve into the details of the case, gather necessary evidence, and construct a solid foundation for your argument.
Next comes the stage of pleadings. Both parties file pleadings, which are initial court documents that outline their respective sides of the story. The plaintiff presents a complaint, detailing the defendant’s alleged wrongdoings and stating what they seek from the case. These pleadings are officially served to the defendant.
Following the complaint, the defendant can respond with an official reply known as an “answer.” The answer addresses the accusations or seeks clarification on certain aspects of the case.
Once both parties have submitted their pleadings, the discovery phase begins. This entails comprehensive legal research, document reviews, witness interviews, and other steps to uncover as many factual details as possible. Attorneys may call in expert witnesses for validation and testimony in court. Additionally, they may inspect the scene in question or request specific documentation and statements from relevant individuals. Discovery is a time-consuming process, demanding substantial attention from the attorney.
After the completion of the discovery phase, the case moves to the pre-trial stage. This is when both attorneys negotiate and attempt to reach a settlement before going to court. If successful, a settlement saves you from the frustrations and expenses of a trial. Additionally, either party can use motions during the pre-trial phase to request rulings or dismiss certain aspects of the case.
If a settlement cannot be reached during pre-trial, the case proceeds to trial. Depending on the circumstances, a trial may or may not involve a jury. Prior to the trial, the plaintiff and the defendant submit their briefs to the judge, outlining their arguments and presenting the evidence they have. During the trial, both parties have the opportunity to make opening statements, present arguments and evidence, and deliver closing arguments. Ultimately, the judge and jury determine the verdict.
It’s worth noting that while these stages and steps are common, they are not obligatory. Many civil litigation cases are resolved outside of court, and some are settled even during the trial, before a verdict is reached. If a case does go through the entire process, it can take months or even years to conclude.
The objective of the civil litigation process is not solely to go to court, but rather to reach a settlement that both parties agree upon. In many civil litigation cases, the settlement involves the winning party receiving monetary compensation from the losing party. However, it can also include other forms of non-monetary action from the losing party. Settlements can occur during negotiations or at the conclusion of a trial. If a case does go to trial, both parties have a limited period to file an appeal if they disagree with the outcome.
Understanding the Statute of Limitations
In many types of civil litigation, particularly those involving injuries or malpractice, there are statutes of limitations in place. These represent time limits within which cases must be filed. While these limits vary depending on the case and the state, it’s crucial to ensure that you file within the prescribed guidelines. Failing to do so may result in the dismissal of a valid case, even if it had merit.
The Role of a Lawyer
In civil litigation, attorneys play a multifaceted role. During the initial consultation, an attorney helps individuals determine the merits of their case or whether they have grounds to defend themselves against accusations. If the case moves forward, attorneys embark on the painstaking process of gathering evidence and interviewing individuals involved in the case. They also assist in preparing all necessary documentation, such as the brief, complaint, or answer. Finally, attorneys represent their clients in court, presenting evidence, questioning witnesses, and delivering opening and closing statements. Choosing a qualified attorney is vital to presenting a strong case supported by clear evidence and achieving a favorable outcome.
If you find yourself facing a civil litigation case, it’s essential to act swiftly. Consult with a skilled attorney as soon as possible to adhere to the statute of limitations and commence the discovery process while evidence remains fresh. Reach out to the team at Garrity Traina today to discuss your needs with a civil litigation expert.