If you've never been involved with a civil lawsuit, the process can seem surprising to deal with. With few exceptions, the depiction of civil litigation people have seen on TV and in movies doesn't capture how it works. Let's take a look at the basics of the process so you can get more out of working with a civil litigation lawyer.
Declaring Intent to Sue
At some point, every lawsuit has to officially become a lawsuit. To be clear, jumping straight to suing is a bad idea because judges frown upon people bringing things to court without trying to negotiate a solution on their own. From the viewpoint of the court, parties should show what's called "exhaustion," a legal concept that implies that every other reasonable solution has failed and that moving forward with litigation is the only way to resolve the matter.
It's normal for a civil litigation lawyer to send a demand letter to the named defendant in a case. This letter includes details like who the plaintiff and defendant are, what issues need to be resolved, an explanation of why they think this is a problem, and a remedy for the situation. For example, a company suing another business over failure to deliver an order might demand a refund of the money they paid and any penalties that were included in the contract.
Investigating the Case
Presuming the defendant doesn't agree to the plaintiff's remedy, the court will empower both sides to investigate what happened. This includes two key elements: depositions and discovery.
Depositions are interviews that are conducted under oath and with a court reporter present. The side conducting the deposition has a broad right to fire off questions. The other side may register objections, but the questioning usually continues with the objections to be reviewed later by the judge.
Discovery is a process where both sides have to turn over to the other side any evidence they have related to the matter. In the previous example of an undelivered business order, the plaintiff might seek emails showing the company knew it had failed to deliver the goods per the contract.
Will You Go to Court?
Most cases never go to trial. Depositions and discovery tend to flush out key details, and it's common for a case to be settled, dropped, or dismissed in the middle of the process. If a resolution can't be reached, though, a trial is the final option.