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Civil litigation is the process in which civil matters are resolved in a court of law. Civil lawsuits arise out of disputes between people, businesses, or other entities, including government entities. Civil lawsuits generally proceed through distinct steps: pleadings, discovery, trial, and possibly an appeal. However, most cases settle before reaching trial. Arbitration is sometimes another alternative to a trial.
Each party in a lawsuit files initial papers, known as "pleadings." The pleadings explain each party's side of the dispute.
Complaint: Civil Litigation begins when the plaintiff files a complaint with the court and formally delivers a copy to the defendant. A complaint is any formal legal document that sets out the facts and legal reasons that the filing party or parties believes are sufficient to support a claim against the party or parties against whom the claim is brought that entitles the plaintiff(s) to a remedy.
Answer: The answer is the defendant’s response to the plaintiff’s complaint. The answer gives the defendant a chance to respond to each claim the plaintiff makes in the complaint.
Discovery: This is the formal process of exchanging information between the parties about the witnesses and evidence they’ll present at trial.
Expert Witnesses: Often a claim or defense requires support from expert witnesses to explain technical information or validate an argument. One or more experts might be needed to testify about the connection between the defendant's conduct and the loss suffered by the plaintiff, or the existence and amount of the plaintiff's damages.
Motions: Before trial, the parties may use motions to ask the court to rule or act. A motion is a written or oral application made to a court or judge to obtain a ruling or order directing that some act be done in favor of the applicant. The applicant is known as the moving party, or the movant.
Timing: The duration of a lawsuit depends on the issues of the case, the amount of discovery to be conducted, and court scheduling and availability. Trial dates are set by the court.
If a case goes to trial, the attorneys present evidence and arguments for each side, and the judge or jury decides the unresolved issues. Once a decision is made, the judge will order that Judgment be entered for the party who wins. The judge may also order that one party pay the other party's attorneys' fees, although such awards are unusual.
Following a trial, if a party is dissatisfied with the result they may appeal. During an appeal, a party asks a higher court to review the trial court proceeding. During an appeal, the parties present their arguments in briefs, which are submitted to the appellate court along with the record of evidence from the trial court. New evidence is not introduced at this level. The appellate court announces its decision in a document called an opinion. If the appellate court finds that there was no error in the trial court proceeding then it will affirm the verdict. However, if there was an error, the appellate court can reverse the verdict or order the trial court to conduct a new trial. An appeal can extend the litigation process by a year or more.