Have you been wronged by another person or business and suffered physical or financial loss because of it? If so, it’s likely that you’re wondering how you can recover those losses in order to minimize the negative impact of the wrongdoing.
In these types of situations, filing a civil suit may be the only possible way for you to resolve the issue and get the compensation you are seeking from the other party.
If you have been considering taking the legal route to resolution, read on to find out what you need to know before you step into the court room.
What Is A Civil Lawsuit?
So, what is a civil lawsuit? Simply stated, civil lawsuits are court cases where one party attempts to hold another party responsible for an action they considered to be a wrongdoing.
While both civil and criminal cases involve the court system, these types of cases differ in the following important ways:
• Criminal cases must be initiated by a prosecutor who represents the government, while a civil suit is usually brought by an individual or corporation.
• Success in a criminal case is dependent upon the plaintiff (which is always the government) being able to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt, while civil case litigants must simply show that what they are saying about the defendant is likely the truth.
• In a criminal case, the government seeks to prove someone’s guilt so that they’ll have to repay their debt to society with prison time. In contrast, civil suits usually seek monetary compensation.
As you can probably imagine, there are a plethora of reasons why someone may want to bring a civil lawsuit against another party.
Some of the most common reasons include personal injury (which can involve anything from slander to deadly accidents to medical misdiagnoses) and breach of contract.
How Does Someone Go About Filing A Civil Lawsuit?
Knowing how to file a civil lawsuit is key to your success in litigation. Here are a few steps you’ll need to take to start the process:
• The plaintiff must file a complaint with the court detailing the wrongdoing of the defendant and the compensation they are seeking.
• This complaint must be formally “served” to the defendant to notify them of impending litigation.
• The defendant files their formal answer to the plaintiff’s claims and gives details about their side of the story. At this time, the defendant may also ask for certain information in the complaint to be corrected or file a counter-claim against the plaintiff if need be.
• Once this process is complete, the court defines the issues at hand to be resolved and each legal team begins preparing for the trial.
A Brief Description of the Civil Lawsuit Process
Step 1: Discovery
The discovery process is the time during which each party gathers information and evidence from each other and from other key people.
During this period, you may interview the opposing party, ask them to furnish important documents, or ask them to confirm or deny the veracity of certain information.
This is also the time during which your attorney should be interviewing and selecting key witnesses and filing necessary motions (such as a motion to force the other party to hand over evidence).
Step 2: Trial
As you may have guessed, the trial is where each party will present their case in front of a judge or jury.
After each party furnishes their brief (a document detailing your argument and legal strategy) to the judge, each side will then present opening statements, outline their evidence, and call for testimony from key witnesses.
If a jury is present, they will deliberate and come to an agreement about a verdict once all closing statements have been made.
Step 3: Appeal
After the trial, the law does allow the losing party to appeal the decision. This may force your case into a higher court and require you to represent your evidence in order to check for factual or legal mistakes. If any are found, the verdict can be thrown out or a new trial can be ordered.
Some Important Tips On Civil Litigation
Before you attempt to file a civil lawsuit against someone, here are a few things you need to know:
• A judge will usually suggest that both parties try to negotiate a resolution amongst themselves instead of going to trial. This can be done in 3 ways:
1. Mediation – getting help from a third party who counsels each side to help them reach a common goal.
2. Arbitration – in which a third party arbitrator hears each side and then decides who wins.
3. Settlement – in which each party agrees upon a certain amount of compensation being dispensed in exchange for not having to go to trial.
• Civil litigants need to know that they cannot simply “check out” of the process while their lawyer attempts to win the case. The plaintiff needs to be sure to share their knowledge and expertise and provide all necessary evidence requested by the legal team so that they can properly assess the issue and provide a solid litigation strategy.
The civil lawsuit process can be intimidating, tedious, and exhausting all at the same time.
However, many people find that the satisfaction of knowing that the law has provided a way for them to seek justice when they have been wronged is enough to help them through this difficult procedure as they seek to obtain what is rightfully theirs.