Steps in Filing a Civil Lawsuit

A civil lawsuit also sometimes referred to as civil litigation is a dispute that is handled by the courts of law.  It involves groups of people, individuals, and businesses or other entities.

According to Marc A. Johnston of JOHNSTON LAW FIRM, many clients view a civil lawsuit as a complex and confusing process due to various steps involved when filing one. He, however, counters this misconception by saying civil lawsuits are easy to handle once you are conversant with the steps and the terminologies involved.

Here are the basic steps to help you have a better understanding when filing a civil lawsuit:

  1. Pleadings

Pleadings are the initial steps in a civil lawsuit. These are documents containing allegations from both the plaintiff (person filing the lawsuit) and the defendant (person being alleged of the offense.) Basically, the Plaintiff files a complaint while the defendant files an answer to the complaint.

In the complaint, the plaintiff describes the details of the event that led to the dispute. At the same time, he shows the way in which the defendant caused him harm. It also forms a legal basis for holding the defendant culpable of the alleged offenses. The plaintiff serves the complaint with the summons on the defendant.

An answer is simply a response to the plaintiff’s complaint. It details the defendant’s testimony of the event and outlines the falsehoods or inaccuracies found in the complaint. A defendant may file a counter-claim against the plaintiff if they choose to. This is to show how the plaintiff caused harm to the latter. In such a scenario the plaintiff files a reply to respond to the counterclaim.

  1. Discovery

After both parties complete pleadings, they enter discovery. This step allows both parties to learn about each other’s case and prepare well for the trial avoiding surprises. This prevents parties from hiding information from each other.

This process begins after the filing of all the pleadings and ends shortly before the trial.  This makes it the longest part in a civil lawsuit. Each party acquires information through the demands for depositions of parties, productions of documents and witnesses.

Before the trial begins parties may use motions requesting to amend or dismiss part of the case.

  1. Trial

If the dispute is not resolved during the discovery stage, the lawsuit moves to the trial. Before the trial begins, both parties submit a brief document which contains their individual arguments.  During the trial, they also provide evidence to the judge or jury.

During the trial, both parties are given a platform to present their case. The jury deliberates for a period of time before reaching a verdict.

  1. Appeal

If a party is not contented with the verdict given in the trial, they can appeal the verdict. When appealing, the civil lawsuit is presented to the appellate court. This court reviews the lawsuit and looks for any errors in legality made during previous proceedings.

After the review process, the appellate court releases an opinion which either affirms the verdict made by the trial court or finds an error.  In case of the latter, the appellate court may reverse the verdict and order a new trial.

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