Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How does a civil lawsuit work?

     A civil lawsuit is where the plaintiff - the party starting the action by filing with the court a written complaint - must prove claims against the defendant or defendants usually by a "preponderance of evidence" (as opposed to "beyond a reasonable doubt" in criminal matters).  Here a preponderance means more evidence than not.  A jury may be requested, otherwise the matter is tried to a judge.  Most cases settle before trial. 

     Discovery is the process that begins soon after, whereby both sides may obtain information from the other - via depositions, written questions (called interrogatories), document requests, requests that matters be admitted or denied, and related procedures.  This process can take many months.  Mediation or another form of "alternative dispute resolution" typically is ordered or agreed to take place soon after to afford the parties a less formal opportunity to resolve the case or claims sooner than later.

     Motions - written requests by the lawyers to the judge to rule on various issues - may be undertaken during the case, including for example to seek pre-trial dismissal of parties or claims, limit evidence, decide legal questions, and the like.  Sometimes hearings - some with testifying witnesses - are held by the court in connection with motions.  Motions typically involve procedural and substantive legal issues that may profoundly impact the case.   

     In the event of trial, the parties are given opportunity to state their case via witnesses and tangible evidence (usually documents), and have the jury or judge decide.  An appeal to a higher court is available.

     As can be seen this all takes time.  It is not unusual for a non-settling civil case to take two or three years to resolve, sometimes longer.  An appeal or appeals can add years.
     Civil lawsuits are serious business.  Experience counts.  Call Sanderson Law, P.C., 303-444-8846, if you need help.

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