What Does Litigation Mean?
According to one simple litigation definition it is a lawsuit or legal action where the court is asked to make a determination on a legal question or matter. Going through the litigation process, however, is a bit more complex.
Stages of a Lawsuit
Litigation law is most commonly practiced when dealing with torts’ civil wrongs that are grounds for a lawsuit. The person filing the lawsuit claims that the actions or negligence of the defendant has caused them harm. In some cases, that harm is also punishable in the criminal system. Criminal convictions do not compensate victims for the harm that was done to them. Civil litigation is necessary to obtain relief from the damages, and set an example that will hopefully prevent similar situations from happening to others.
Demand Letters and Initial Negotiations
When a legal dispute happens, both sides will discuss the issue at hand, and when they determine that the matter cannot be privately negotiated, one or both will retain a litigation attorney. The person who files the initial lawsuit against the other party is called the plaintiff, and their lawyer will normally send out a demand letter that indicates what they must do in order to avoid legal action. The demand made could be a number of things, but often it asks that the person either stops engaging in an activity that is disruptive to the plaintiff in some way, or it will ask for money that will compensate for damages that have been done.
After receiving a demand letter, the party can respond or not respond in several different ways. They might make a counteroffer that involves a lesser amount of money, or a different way to modify their behavior in order to decrease the harmful effect it has on the plaintiff. They may also indicate their own demands. Knowing that a lawsuit can be costly is incentive for many to settle the matter at this stage.
Filing a Lawsuit and Conducting Discovery
If initial negotiations fail, then a formal lawsuit is filed. At this stage, both the plaintiff and defendant will need litigation support. There are many details involved in both filing a lawsuit and responding to one, and if any of those details are overlooked the case becomes compromised. Depending on the nature of the litigation, various statutes of limitations may apply. Mistakes often mean delays, and too many delays will disqualify the suit.
Once the lawsuit is filed, the process of conducting discovery begins. This is where both parties are required to exchange documents and information that are relative to the case. In many cases, the majority of litigation services happen here. At this stage, each litigation lawyer will go through the tedious process of evaluating physical evidence, testimonies, and may formally interview witnesses in order to build a strong case for their client.
Motions, Trial, and Appeal
Once attorneys and clients review all the information gathered in the discovery stage, the defendant has an opportunity to file a motion of a summary judgment. This is where they dispute allegations made by the plaintiff and/or their responsibility to be held responsible for any negative consequences the plaintiff has had to live with. If the judge agrees with the defendant he or she will not be required to pay damages or change their behavior, because they will have won the case, ending the process. However, if the motion is denied the case will be approved to go to trial.
During a trial, both sides will present their case to a judge or a jury. Each side will present evidence and testimony of witnesses or experts that can support their claim. The attorneys will also present an overview of the case from their client’s point of view and will attempt to convince the judge or jury that their client should rule in their favor. Whoever loses the case, will have an opportunity to appeal the decision.
If you have suffered a civil wrong, you deserve an opportunity to have it made right, and if you believe you have been wrongly accused of something, you deserve the same opportunity for justice. At Wright Probate, we handle a variety of litigation cases. Contact us to review your case, and we’ll decide together how to proceed with the next steps.