Civil law involves disputes between individuals, businesses, government-affiliated groups, or other entities. Civil litigation dispute examples may include monetary disagreements, performance discrepancies, contract interpretations, or relationship troubles. Divorces are an example of civil litigation.
Civil lawsuits typically require a series of steps including pleadings, discovery, trial, and the potential for an appeal. Throughout this process, both parties involved have a right to halt the proceedings before going to trial by voluntarily settling out of court. Most civil litigation cases settle out of court, so they never reach trial. Arbitration is another legal option that may occasionally allow the two parties to avoid going to trial.
Filing a Civil Lawsuit
To begin civil litigation, each party will need to file the initial civil litigation papers. These initial civil litigation files are known as “pleadings.” By filing pleadings, both parties engage in the process of civil litigation to resolve their dispute through the court of law.
The plaintiff will be the first to file his or her pleadings. The plaintiff’s pleadings are commonly referred to as the “complaint” or “claim.” Within the plaintiff’s complaint, he or she will describe the actions of the defendant that caused harm to the plaintiff. In some cases, the plaintiff’s complaint may be more focused on the defendant’s inaction, as opposed to the defendant’s faulty actions. The plaintiff’s complaint will also include the legal grounds that the plaintiff may use to hold the defendant responsible for the harm or damage that was incurred.
After the plaintiff files his or her pleadings, the defendant must file an “answer” in response to the plaintiff’s civil complaint. A specified amount of time will be given for the defendant to file his or her answer. In addition, the defendant may also file counter-claims with his or her answer. The plaintiff may file a reply in response to the defendant’s counter-claims. This process can continue, and it is important to see legal counsel to ensure that all paperwork and proper action is taken within the time scale allowed by the justice system.
Discovery during Civil Litigation
After both parties of a civil lawsuit have filed their complaints, answers, and any replies, the problems set forth for resolution in court have been legally defined. The next step of a civil lawsuit is a process called “discovery.” The process of discovery involves meticulous and thorough case preparation for both parties involved. This is the method that both parties will use to research and collect information that may be relevant to the case. This relevant information may come from either party that is directly involved within the civil lawsuit, or it may come from a third party entirely.
Civil litigation discovery is typically the longest portion of a civil law case. It essentially spans the entire length of time between the pleadings being filed and the actual trial date. The two parties may ask each other about facts or issues concerned in the civil case. Requests for documentation may be filed, and lawyers on both sides will review formally written responses to questions called “interrogatories.” Depositions will be conducted, during which both parties will have the opportunity to interview witnesses related to the civil trial.
Many cases of civil litigation require counsel from expert witnesses to support or negate the claims within the civil lawsuit. Expert witnesses may be used by both the plaintiff and the defendant. There may be multiple experts within the same civil litigation case. They must work closely with the attorneys of both parties for the case to be fully prepared and organized prior to trial.
Prior to the civil trial, both parties involved in the civil lawsuit may request that the court makes a ruling or takes action. Typically, motions will relate to a fact or law that is brought up within the case. On occasion, a motion will simply request further clarification or resolution of procedural disagreements between the two parties. Some motions may attempt to dispose of specific issues before the trial, or to exclude certain documents and evidence from the trial. Finally, some motions may request that the civil litigation case gets thrown out altogether, although this is rare.
Civil Litigation Timeline
The length of a civil lawsuit will vary depending on the issues at hand. The problems that are being disputed by the two parties in a court of law will dictate the amount of discovery that will need to be conducted by one or both parties. This can also be affected by court schedules and courtroom availability. The two parties typically decide the timing of discovery, while trial dates are mandated by the court. Time restraints may vary between state and federal courts of law.
Civil Litigation Lawyers Orlando
Finally, once the discovery period of a civil litigation case is over, the two parties will dispute their issues in a court of law through a civil trial. Both parties will give the presiding judge a document called a “brief” shortly before the trial. In some cases, the civil trial may be conducted as a “bench trial,” where there is no jury involvement. As a result, the judge is the only person who decides the outcome of a bench trial. If there is a jury, both parties will have an opportunity to interview potential jurors before the trial during a selection process that is called “voir dire.”
Throughout the course of the civil trial, each party will call witnesses to the stand. The plaintiff will present evidence and call witnesses first, but both parties will have to opportunities to cross-examine the witnesses. In some civil cases, the plaintiff may still provide “rebuttal evidence” after the defendant is done presenting evidence. Once all evidence and witnesses have been addressed, both parties give their closing arguments. The jury will be instructed according the law that applies to the civil case, and then the jury will deliberate or debate the case until it reaches a decision.
Civil Verdicts and Appeals
Once the jury has reached a decision on a civil litigation case, both parties will be notified of the verdict. Either party will have the opportunity to challenge a jury’s verdict, or to file an appeal if the party is dissatisfied with the outcome. In addition, at this time, the prevailing party may file a motion to request that the opposing party pays all legal fees that were required to handle the dispute in the court of law.
“Civil Procedure – State Laws.” Cornell University Law School. Cornell University. Web. 25 Sep 2013. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/table_civil_procedure>.
United States. Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Civil Cases. United States Courts, Print. <http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/UnderstandingtheFederalCourts/HowCourtsWork/CivilCases.aspx>.