How Do Lawsuits Work?

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 What Is a Lawsuit?

A lawsuit is a civil case that is brought in a court of law in which a plaintiff presents a claim against a defendant for some harm caused. The plaintiff who is bringing a lawsuit may plead for some type of monetary or equitable remedy. If the plaintiff is successful in the lawsuit, the court will order and enforce the defendant to pay for the damages the plaintiff is entitled to.

What Are Pleadings in a Lawsuit?

A lawsuit beings when the plaintiff brings the suit by filing a complaint with the court. Pleadings are certain formal documents filed with the state court that states the parties’ basic positions: Common pleadings are:

  • Complaint. The most important pleading in a civil case is a formal complaint filed by the plaintiff that states the plaintiffs claims and version of the facts and also specifies the damages the plaintiff is seeking,
  • Answer. This type of pleading is by the defendant who explains why the plaintiff should not prevail. It may also offer additional facts, affirmative defenses, and pleadings of an excuse.
  • Reply. Any party in the case may have to file a reply, which is an answer to new allegations and claims raised in pleadings.
  • Counterclaim. The defendant may file a counterclaim, which asserts that the plaintiff has also injured the defendant in some way, and should also be liable for damages.

What Are Motions in a Lawsuit?

Pre-Trial Motions are not facts that relate to the complaint or any pleadings, but are request by the plaintiff or defendant asking the judge to make a legal ruling. The common types of motions in a lawsuit are:

  • Motion to Discover. A motion by which one party seeks to gain specific type of information from the other party. This can be done through the discovery process.
  • Motion to Dismiss. This motion asks the court to dismiss the lawsuit because the lawsuit doesn’t have a legally sound basis, even if all the facts are proved to be true.
  • Motion for Summary Judgment. This motion asks the court for a judgment on the facts of the case before the case has even gone to trial. If summary judgment is granted, the adverse party cannot re-litigate the same case that was already decided and determined to be final since it would waste the courts time.

What Is the Discovery Process?

The discovery process is where both sides formally exchange necessary information and certain types of evidence that is not considered confidential. Discovery allows each party to know before trial what type of evidence the other party has and may present at trial. One common discovery method is a deposition. A deposition is a out of court statement that is given under oath by a person that is involved in the case. The statements may be used at trial. Depositions are designed to allow each party to know what each witness will say at trial and also allow the parties to obtain testimony of an important witness.

When Happens at Trial in a Lawsuit?

A civil trial begins after each party has gathered all the evidence that was available to them and all the legal documents have been filed with the courts. Cases usually go to trial when the parties could not come to an agreement or settlement outside of court and want a judge or jury to examine the evidence and decide by a preponderance of evidence whether the defendant should be held legally responsible for the damages that plaintiff alleges or plaintiff does not have a sound complaint. During trial both side will present their arguments and defenses and the judge or jury will consider the outcome of the case.

After the arguments, the jury will deliberate and the judge will issue a final judgment, if any, which could include monetary or equitable damages that the defendant would be required to pay. The plaintiff then has the right to collect their judgment.

Are There Any Alternatives to a Trial in a Lawsuit?

Many civil cases do not go to trial and are settled outside of court. Parties like to settle the case before trial because it saves them a lot of money and a lot of time. Settlements usually occur during mediation where a third party mediator who is neutral to the case assist each side to negotiate a settlement deal that would favor both sides.

Other alternatives to trials are called alternative dispute resolution. The court usually orders ADR hearings and the judge refers the parties to an ADR conference where an arbitrator will hear the dispute and render a decision after the ADR hearing. ADR hearings are usually much quicker and cost much less than an actual trial.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Lawsuit?

Civil lawsuits are very time consuming and complex and an experienced attorney who has handled a variety of lawsuits will be very beneficial. Even if the claim doesn’t reach the trial stage, a lawyer is often necessary during negotiations and settlements. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you obtain the property remedy for your losses.

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