Civil litigation is a distinguished area of law that deals with non-criminal legal disputes. Civil litigation is sought when disputes stem between people, businesses, or other entities, including government. As a result of these disputes, one or both parties involved may seek compensation through money or other required actions.
What does Civil Litigation cover?
There's an expansive list of categories that fall under civil litigation. The following is a list of common areas of civil litigation.
- Breach of Contract
- Collection of Money
- Corporate Litigation
- Property Disputes; Personal, Intellectual, Real Estate
- Shareholder & Partnership Disputes
- Liability Suits
- Breach of Fiduciary Duty
- Construction Claims
- Insurance Coverage
- Recovery of Property
- Medical Malpractice
During trial both parties are represented by a civil litigation lawyer. These civil trials follow standard court procedures; however, pre-litigation discussions can help reach a settlement before a lawsuit is filed, which avoids the time and expense of going to trial. Dealing with two opposing sides can inherently prolong the entire litigation process.
Below is a brief overview of each step in a civil litigation trial:
Meeting with your attorney.
If you're playing the role of the plaintiff in a lawsuit, your attorney will review your side of the information and determine if there is enough evidence to build a strong case. Attorney's representing a defendant assess the case in the same way, but instead analyze how much evidence there is to construct a compelling defense against the lawsuit.
Each attorney for the plaintiff and defendant establish official statements that detail both sides of the allegations. The initial statement is filed by the plaintiff explaining why the defendant should be held responsible for what caused the dispute. The defendant is then responsible to file an answer explaining their side of the story, including any counterclaims or clarification requests for the initial complaint. The plaintiff is then allowed to submit any counterclaims they may have against the defendants answer.
The discovery is the bulk of the entire process which starts once the lawsuit is officially filed. During this period, facts and information are exchanged between the plaintiff and defendant through written questions called interrogatories. In addition to the interrogatories, attorneys may ask for certain documents to be shared and requests for admission. Attorneys will also question witnesses under oath during depositions, which are documented by court reporters for use in the trial.
This marks the beginning of trial preparation for both sides. Attorneys start to refine their strategies put together final touches on their respective cases. These hearings are used to request pretrial motions that deal with certain facts or laws that pertain to the case and develop a sense of what will occur at trial.
Civil litigation trials can be done in three ways. Apart from a typical trial consisting of a judge and jury, there can be a bench trial, in which only a judge is present; or a jury trial, which consists of only a jury. The trial begins with opening statements from both sides, starting with the plaintiff, summarizing the details of the case. From here both sides alternate in presenting evidence and calling upon chosen witnesses to testify. Each side is given the opportunity to cross-examine every witness. After the closing statements are given, the verdict is left to be decided by the judge and/or jury.
After trial, the winning side will request an order given to the losing side which would cover their costs of the trial. The plaintiff or defendant may challenge a judge or jury verdict. A request is submitted for the verdict to be dismissed and given a new trial due to overlooked evidence or law. The losing party may also file for an appeal which requests that the trial proceedings be reviewed by a higher court. Appealed cases are usually only reviewed for legal error. After both parties submit their case briefs and the trial records, the appellate court will either agree with the verdict and deny the appeal, or decide to reverse the verdict or make the order for a new trial.
Coincidentally, most litigation cases tend to reach a settlement before making it to trial. Mediation or arbitration are also used to avoid going to trial. Mediation involves a neutral third party that acts as a mediator between both sides. The mediator assesses each side of the case and informs them of risks and inadequacies. Mediators will urge the opposing sides towards a mutually beneficial settlement; however, they have no legal authority over the final decision. Arbitration is best described as a less formal and shortened trial. Like mediation, a neutral third party is chosen to act as an arbitrator. Both sides are given the opportunity to present evidence and their side of the case to the arbitrator. It is a much quicker process that leaves the final decision up to the arbitrator which cannot be appealed to a court.The attorneys at Hall, Ricketts, Schuller, & Gurbacki are dedicated to the success of our clients. Contact our office online or online at 716-652-0828 for experienced, ethical, understanding and responsive assistance with all your legal needs in the greater Buffalo, NY area.