What Are the Stages of a Lawsuit?
Civil lawsuits are court cases that handle disagreements between people, businesses, or other agencies, such as government agencies, over money or violations of personal rights.
Customarily, the “plaintiff” (an individual who begins the lawsuit) files a complaint against the “defendant” (an individual or business accused of misconduct) based on a breach of contract or an accident. Usually, the plaintiff is looking for “damages” (for instance, getting financial compensation if the accident was not your fault) or for the court to allow/disallow specific acts.
However, what are the stages of a lawsuit? To resolve confusion and provide insight, the following article will explain the process of a lawsuit step by step.
Stages Of A Lawsuit
Stage 1: Consult an Attorney
The initial step of any civil lawsuit is consulting an attorney. The attorney can evaluate the situation and determine whether there is a strong case. The consultations are confidential, which means the attorney cannot discuss the client's case with anybody else outside of their legal team. After choosing a representative, the process of collecting the necessary paperwork for the court begins.
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Stage 2: Pleading/File A Complaint
The second step is for both parties to file papers, referred to as pleadings. After the consultations with the best truck accident lawyer, the plaintiff issues a complaint to the courthouse and provides a duplicate to the defendant.
The complaint specifies the damages or injury, explains how the defendant wronged the plaintiff along with the legal grounds that prove the defendant is liable for the caused injury. The accused party is allowed a certain length of time to submit a response or to file a counterclaim.
Stage 3: Discovery
After both parties have concluded the pleading procedure, the third step (known as discovery) can begin. During this stage, teams work on collecting and exchanging information to build up their case. That is achievable via drawn-up questions, admissions, requested copies of records, as well as depositions.
Depositions are sworn testimonies of witnesses outside of a courtroom. The objective of this stage is to gather as much information as possible before the beginning of the trial. Generally, this is the longest stage of the lawsuit process.
Stage 4: Trial
The trial stage starts with the parties filing a brief that summarizes their claims and the evidence they will present to the court.
During the trial, the representatives first present the outlines of their case in the opening statement. As a rule, the plaintiff has priority when delivering the opening statement.
Afterward, both sides provide evidence. For example, they can summon witnesses or present additional documents in order to support their claims.
When the case is fully introduced, the parties end the trial by giving the closing speeches.
Stage 5: Verdict
Depending on the type of trial, a judge or a jury deliberate the case until they reach their verdict. Some trials, also known as “bench trials,” do not require a jury, and the sole decision on the outcome of a lawsuit falls upon the judge.
If a party does not agree with the given verdict, they can challenge it and request an additional trial. Common reasons for challenging the jury’s decision include the trial court’s legal errors or a jury’s neglect of law or evidence.
Stage 6: Appeal
Following the verdict, a party that is unsatisfied with the outcome of the trial may file an appeal. The parties provide arguments in the form of briefs and send them to the appellate court together with the reports from the hearing. The appellate court most commonly evaluates the case for lawful errors and will not inspect factual evidence.
After careful evaluation, the appellate court discloses its judgment in a record titled “the opinion.” If the court of appeal finds an error, it can overturn the ruling and demand the first-instance court to organize an additional trial.
Alternative Legal Action
Alternatives to legal action generally spare time and money, but they don't always end in a final settlement. In most civil lawsuits, the parties reach some type of agreement prior to the case reaching trial. Also, parties can stop the case process by voluntarily settling at their convenience.
Depending on the case, a lawyer may suggest the following alternatives:
A settlement is an official agreement reached between two parties involved in a lawsuit. It is a cost-effective alternative to trial.
In some situations, the settlement negotiations require an unbiased individual, a mediator. Their task is to privately meet with both parties and discuss the positives and negatives of the case.
Arbitration is a process in which an “arbitrator” (impartial party) can settle a conflict. The parties argue their case and present evidence to the arbitrator. Afterward, the arbitrator settles the dispute.