With a civil lawsuit, you want financial compensation due to the action or inaction of another person. For this type of lawsuit, you can either represent yourself or hire a qualified attorney. Following are the primary steps involved in filing a civil lawsuit.
- Demand – The demand is an informal request sent to the other person in anticipation of reaching an out-of-court settlement. Sometimes, that person will respond, while other times, you get nothing back.
- Attorney Letter – If the demand letter accomplishes nothing, your attorney can send the other person a letter, requesting a settlement. As a more serious approach, this can prompt action.
- Prelitigation Settlement Discussions – These discussions take place in person or via phone between you and the other person along with the respective attorneys in trying to reach a settlement.
- Formal Lawsuit – If the above attempts fail, your attorney will file a formal lawsuit with the court.
- Answer – Once the other person gets served court papers about the impending lawsuit, that individual has a set amount of time to respond. If your attorney gets no response, the lawsuit goes into default, meaning you win automatically.
- Discovery – During the discovery phase, both attorneys have access to evidence that eliminates surprises and helps with preparation for trial.
- Motions – Different motions get filed to try to narrow down issues or persuade the other party to take action. Some motions request that the court decide the outcome of the lawsuit without going to trial.
- Pretrial Conference – Before the trial, the judge orders this conference to narrow down issues or encourage a settlement.
- Trial and Judgement – Depending on your case, the verdict gets decided by a jury or the judge. During the trial, both attorneys provide opening statements, share evidence, examine and cross examine witnesses, and give closing arguments. The jury or judge then deliberates as to the fate of your case and the amount of compensation you will be rewarded in the case that you win.
- Post-Trial Motions and Appeals – Post-trial motions give you the opportunity to convince the presiding judge that you should receive more money, there was a legal error, and so on. If you win, the defendant can file an appeal to a higher court, trying to get the verdict reversed or the amount of compensation lowered. If you lose, you can appeal the decision.
With so much involved, it is to your advantage to use the services of an attorney who specializes in civil lawsuits.