Litigation is the process by which your lawsuit is conducted. Litigators are attorneys who specialize in handling civil cases that are intended to result in a trial before a judge and jury. If you have a potential action, you should contact a Litigation Attorney to ensure that you file your claim within the time allowed. View qualified Litigation Law Firms in your area to find Litigation Lawyers.
The procedure used in civil litigation is similar in all courts, and typically entails the following:
- Petition or complaint
- Motions, resistances, and replies
- Potential settlement negotiations
- Post-trial motions
Petition or Complaint
A civil lawsuit begins with the filing of a petition (complaint) which is accompanied by an original notice. Both are served on each defendant, typically by a process server within 90 days.
All courts have rules that require the parties to give truthful answers and disclose documents if they are asked. Typical requests are:
- Interrogatories – a written list of questions.
- Requests for production – typically requesting copies of documents and other tangible items.
- Depositions – where the attorneys question a witness or a party under oath and the transcript is documented into legal record. Sometimes video depositions are also taped in addition to the written transcript.
Information may be obtained from third-parties with subpoenas.
Motions, Resistances and Replies
Perhaps the most important pre-trial motions are those made by defendants seeking to end the lawsuit or eliminate some claims. These include:
- Motion for summary judgment – requested and granted when there are no remaining factual disputes related to an issue and only legal questions remain for the judge to decide.
- Motion to dismiss – requested and only granted if there is no legal basis for your claims.
For each motion, the other side may file a resistance explaining why the motion should be denied, and the motioning party may file a reply reiterating its reasons for granting the motion.
In many cases, the parties seek to settle the claim. Even if the defendant disputes its liability, it is often less expensive for it to pay a settlement than to continue to pay its attorneys to defend it. For a plaintiff, the prospect of obtaining a large judgment may be outweighed by the risk of a small verdict or no award.
The trial will consist of several stages including:
- Voir dire – choosing the jury
- Opening arguments
- Each party’s case-in-chief – plaintiff goes first
- Closing arguments
- Jury deliberations
The losing party will typically file either:
- Motion to reconsider – either or both the judgment or the verdict
- Motion for new trial – to redo the entire proceeding
- Motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict – asserting that the evidence does not support the award
The party who has lost after the judge has decided all post-trial motions may file an appeal. The other party may cross-appeal. There are particular procedures that must be observed in order to perfect an appeal. (see Appeals).
Product Liability, Consumer Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, Medical Malpractice, Auto Accident, Sexual Harassment