If you’ve suffered as a result of someone else’s actions, you have the right to file a lawsuit against the person to seek justice. Doing so can be challenging, but it’s often the only way to completely recover from what you were put through.
While there are a number of different types of lawsuits, the most common are personal injury. These are considered civil lawsuits and they deal with incidents like auto accidents, medical malpractice, premises liability, product liability, and wrongful death.
Let’s take a look at what the civil lawsuit process looks like.
Steps in a Civil Lawsuit
While every lawsuit is different, there are specific steps every case follows. Because filing an injury claim is complex, it’s a good idea to seek legal representation, as they’ll be able to guide you through the process with as few hiccups as possible.
Pleadings are the first step in a civil lawsuit. The plaintiff starts by filing a complaint, to which the defendant responds with an answer. The complaint details the events that lead to the dispute, accident, or incident, and outlines the ways in which the defendant caused the plaintiff harm. The answer is the defendant’s description of what happened and outlines any inaccuracies that they find in the complaint.
During the pleadings step, an appropriate location for the lawsuit will also be found. Typically, a plaintiff’s lawyer will find a court that fits multiple criteria prior to filing your case. The criteria include the court having personal jurisdiction over the defendant involved, subject matter jurisdiction over the type of case you’re filing, and the appropriate venue.
Once the pleadings process is complete, the discovery can begin. This process is when both parties obtain information to strengthen their arguments. This gives both sides the opportunity to enter into trial with as much information as possible to make their case. Evidence is obtained through the production of documents, depositions of parties and witnesses, examinations of the scene, and questions and answers written under oath.
Before the trial begins, either side has the ability to request the court amend or dismiss part of the case, question legal basis, or ask for clarification.
If the dispute is not resolved after the discovery process has ended, the lawsuit will proceed to trial. At the trial, both parties present their arguments to either a judge or jury. When a jury is not present, it is referred to as a bench party. Once the trial begins, both sides present their opening statements. Then, each party presents their side of what happened using the evidence they collected. Finally, both parties can make a closing statement. In a jury trial, the judge instructs the jury on how to proceed and they deliberate and reach a decision. With a bench trial, the judge deliberates until a verdict is reached.
Appeals do not always happen; however, either party has the right to file an appeal if they do not agree with the results of the trial. If a decision is appealed, the civil lawsuit is then presented to an appellate court. The court looks for errors and releases an opinion, which can either affirm or find error with the original verdict.
With the help of an experienced attorney, you’ll be able to navigate your way through the process of filing a lawsuit. While this process does take time, you’re likely to have a successful outcome if your case is presented in a clear and convincing manner.