Civil litigation is a complex and lengthy process that begins once a civil lawsuit is filed. The stages of civil litigation may confuse prospective clients. Learning about the basics of civil litigation can help you understand more about how your case will proceed from the filing of the complaint through settlement, judgment, and appeal.
Filing the Civil Complaint
A civil complaint is the document that initiates a civil lawsuit. Typically, a complaint is drafted after at least some evidence is accumulated by the plaintiff (the party bringing the lawsuit against the defendant). It may take weeks to draft a complaint, but sometimes they can be written in a few days if enough information is available. In some cases the parties will not exchange information until the discovery phase, and the complaint may need to be amended after the plaintiff learns more information about the case during discovery.
The Discovery Phase
Discovery is the period of time during which the parties exchange written interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for production. The parties also depose parties and witnesses during this period of time. Essentially, the discovery phase is a time in which the parties gather facts and develop their theories of the case. It is a contentious process, and some parties are less likely to turn over information than others.
Sometimes a party is forced to file a motion to compel to have the court order a party to submit information as part of discovery. However, most parties will turn over the information that is required under the law. Each side can invoke privileges such as attorney work product and attorney-client privilege to protect information that should be shared during the discovery phase of a case.
The pre-trial phase of a case is typically the time during which each side will procure expert witnesses, prepare jury instructions, and work on other pre-trial documents. A case can settle any time up until trial, and some cases settle on the night before trial. However, the pre-trial phase is generally a time in which settlement negotiations may occur.
Alternative dispute resolution is also an important part of civil litigation. Settlement negotiation, mediation, and arbitration are all forms of alternative dispute resolution. It is necessary for the parties to participate in alternative dispute resolution to preserve judicial resources and promote the resolution of civil lawsuits.
Trial may either be before a judge or jury, and it is important for you to understand that most trials will last less than two weeks. Some trials may only require one day of submitting evidence and examining witnesses. But the majority of civil lawsuits settle before trial, and it is unlikely that your case will proceed to trial.
Contact Law Office of Mark Harford Today to Schedule a Free Consultation
Contact Mark Harford Law today and schedule a free consultation. We have the experience, knowledge, and skill that can make a difference in any phase of civil litigation. Contact us today to learn more about the legal options available to you.