If you enjoy legal dramas on TV, chances are you’re watching a criminal case unfold rather than a civil case. The purpose of civil litigation is to solve a legal dispute between two or more parties.
Civil litigation cases are based on non-criminal statutes and are separate from criminal proceedings. Civil cases can be settled out of court or can go to trial where a judge decides the outcome.
Typically, civil cases end with monetary compensation. There are a wide variety of cases that fall under the umbrella of civil litigation.
If you’re ever involved in a situation that leads to civil litigation, it’s important to understand what to expect. Here’s a look at the basics of civil litigation.
Civil Litigation Is not a Criminal Case
The most important fact to know about civil litigation is that it’s a legal proceeding that doesn’t involve criminal charges. It occurs when the parties involved are unable to reach an agreement or settlement without outside intervention.
The standard of proof in a civil law case is lower than in a criminal proceeding. The attorneys must present evidence and produce a more convincing case than the opponents.
Civil lawsuits are common and range from small claims such as minor car accidents to major lawsuits over dangerous medications involving thousands of people.
Types of Civil Cases
There are several types of civil cases. The type of case you pursue depends on the situation you’re in. Common civil cases include:
- Estate litigation or Will Contests
- Divorceand other Family Law matters
- Contract disputes
- Property disputes
- Landlord/tenant disputes
- Commercial Litigation or Business disputes
- Intellectual propertydisputes
- Employment or labor disputes
- Medical malpractice cases
- Personal injury cases
- Class Action Cases
These are only a few of the many types of civil cases. If you’re a candidate for filing a civil lawsuit, your litigation attorney will guide you and help you understand what type of case to pursue.
Steps for a Civil Law Case
Although each civil law case is unique, they all follow a common set of legal steps. If you’re considering filing a lawsuit or are the target of one, the first step is to consult a Jacksonville lawyer.
Your lawyer can help determine whether you have a legitimate case and the best next steps to build your case. If you decide to move forward, the next step is the investigation.
The attorney will gather and analyze the details of your case. They may use the assistance of a private investigator. The evidence your attorney obtains helps them begin to build evidence for your case.
Next, each party will file pleadings. These are initial court documents that explain each side of the story.
The plaintiff’s pleading is called the “complaint.” It states the grievance of the plaintiff and what they want out of the case. This will be officially delivered to the defendant.
After the defendant is “served” the complaint, the defendant can create an “answer” which is their official reply. This typically answers the accusation or asks for further clarification.
Once the court has the pleadings, the discovery process begins. This involves document review, witness interviews, and in-depth research to discover as many facts about the case as possible.
Attorneys often enlist the help of expert witnesses to validate their claims. These experts are often called on to testify if the case goes to court.
The attorney and investigators may visit the scene in question, request documentation, and elicit statements from others involved in the case. The discovery process is complex and time-consuming for a civil litigation lawyer.
When both sides have completed the discovery process, the case goes to pre-trial. During this stage, your attorney and the attorney for the other party start the negotiation process.
Often, attorneys successfully negotiate an agreeable settlement during this phase and avoid going to court. Reaching a settlement can save you time, frustration, and court costs.
During the pre-trial stage, both sides can use motions to ask the court for a ruling or to dismiss part of the case before heading to trial.
Going to Trial
If an agreement cannot be reached in a civil case, the case goes to trial. Depending on the circumstances of the case, there may be a jury involved.
Before a trial begins, the parties must provide their briefs to the judge. The briefs outline the various arguments and evidence of the case.
At trial, each party has the right to make opening statements, present arguments, ask questions, and make closing arguments. The jury and judge provide the final verdict.
Although these are the steps of civil litigation, they’re not required. It’s common for civil litigation cases to be solved outside of court.
Some cases are settled during the trial before a verdict is given. Cases that do not move through the entire process may take months or years to finalize.
The goal of civil litigation is to reach a settlement that’s favorable to both parties. The settlement often results in the losing party giving money to the winning party. It could also involve an action that doesn’t involve money.
Statute of Limitations
Civil litigation cases, especially medical malpractice or injury, have statutes of limitations in place and must be filed within a certain amount of time.
If you don’t meet the timeline, the case will be dismissed. If you’re considering or facing a civil lawsuit, it’s important to act now and seek the help of an expert litigation attorney.
Find the Best Civil Litigation Attorney
Civil litigation can be complex. You want an experienced civil litigation attorney who can guide you throughout the legal process.
If you have a potential civil claim or are facing a lawsuit, it’s important to retain an attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys of Boyer Law Firm would love to talk with you about your case and help you navigate the civil litigation process.
Our Florida law experts are here to assist you. Contact us today for an initial consultation.