Statistics show that anywhere between 80 percent and 90 percent (or more!) of lawsuits will settle or be resolved before the case ever reaches trial. By employing an experienced civil litigation attorney to handle your case, you can rest assured knowing that, whether your case settles or goes to trial, it is thoroughly prepared and will be persuasively and professionally presented to the court. When your case reaches the court, you will generally have only one chance to make your case and obtain the compensation or relief you are requesting. Make your case the best it can be with the help of a seasoned civil litigation attorney at Shrouder, Karns & Mager, P.A.
What is Civil Litigation?
Civil litigation refers to the rules, laws, and procedures that govern how a case is initiated, prepared, and presented before a court. Civil litigation is similar but notably distinct from criminal litigation, in which the case is presented by government prosecutors and the accused is sanctioned with imprisonment and/or fines if a guilty verdict is rendered by the court. Instead, an aggrieved or injured person (the “plaintiff” or “petitioner”) files a civil case and demands the court order another person (the “defendant” or “respondent”) to pay compensation or otherwise compensate the plaintiff for his or her injury. Instead of fines and imprisonment, a defendant who loses a civil case can be ordered to pay monetary damages and/or take or refrain from taking certain actions.
What is the Civil Litigation Process?
When you file a civil case (whether it be a divorce action, a personal injury lawsuit, a probate challenge, or other type of case), it will go through certain distinct stages leading up to trial, as follows:
- Filing of the petition: The case officially begins when the plaintiff or petitioner (depending on the type of case) files a legal petition with the court and serves a copy of that petition on the other party or parties. The petition must state enough facts so that it is apparent that, if the facts were true, the plaintiff would be entitled to legal relief.
- Response: Once a defendant has been served with a petition, he or she has an opportunity to respond by filing an answer. The answer generally sets out any defenses the defendant may have as well as any counterclaims the defendant may have against the plaintiff.
- Discovery: Once a petition and answer have been filed, the parties engage in the process of discovery. This involves an exchange of evidence between the parties and can include the performing of scientific tests or depositions of witnesses.
- Pretrial: Once discovery is complete the parties should have a good idea of the arguments each party intends to make as well as the evidence the party will use to support its arguments. If one party is clearly entitled to relief because the law is clear and the facts are not in dispute, the case may be disposed of at this time.
- Trial: The case will then proceed to trial if it has not been disposed of by this time. Most civil cases require the plaintiff to prove his or her case by a preponderance of the evidence (that his or her claims are more likely than not true). Depending on the type of case and desires of the parties, the case may be decided by a judge or by a jury.
What Skills Does a Civil Litigation Attorney Offer?
It is a mistake to think your civil case can be effectively presented without the help of an experienced civil litigation attorney. Litigation rules and laws exist to ensure both parties to a lawsuit are treated fairly and that the defendant in a civil lawsuit is provided with notice of the claims against him or her and that he or she sees the evidence the plaintiff is relying upon. Failing to strictly comply with these rules can result in your case being dismissed and you being held responsible for the other party’s costs. If you are the defendant in a civil case and you fail to comply with your legal responsibilities, the judge may order a default judgment against you. This effectively decides the case against you without even reaching the merits of the case.
Because of their familiarity with the rules and procedures, civil litigation attorneys will ensure neither of these outcomes occurs in your case. From the moment you retain a civil litigation attorney, he or she will go about gathering important evidence and locating and interviewing witnesses to support your claims and legal positions. You and your attorney will discuss trial strategy, which includes deciding what evidence supports your positions the most and how that evidence can best be presented. You will also discuss whether any expert witnesses or scientific tests are needed to increase your chances of success. Your attorney will ensure the other party to the lawsuit complies with its obligations and responsibilities and will know how to bring failures to the court’s attention. If it is possible to have the case decided in your favor without a trial, your civil litigation attorney will know the appropriate legal motions to file and how to argue these motions.
Your civil litigation attorney will also know that virtually any decision made by a judge or jury at trial can be appealed to the next higher court. This is not a new trial; rather, a panel of judges will review the transcripts and evidence of your trial and ensure the law was properly followed. As a result, your civil litigation attorney will craft a trial strategy that takes an appeal into consideration and ensures there is enough evidence to either support a judgment in your favor (if you win at trial) or overturn an erroneous judgment (if you lose at trial). Contact us at (954) 329-0001 to discuss your case in a free consultation.